‘Shadow Complex Remastered’ Review

Platforms PS4/Xbox One/PC

Developer ChAIR Entertainment  Publisher Epic Games

Genre Action Platformer  Platform Played Xbox One

First released in 2009, Shadow Complex received critical acclaim and was frequently labeled by various outlets as the best Xbox Live Arcade title of the year in addition to being viewed by many as one of the finest titles to ever grace the Xbox Live Arcade storefront. With such success in the previous generation, it is no wonder why a remastered version of the game has been made available across several platforms and for the most part, it holds up and makes the original proud.

The sole difference between the original version and the remastered is the visuals. The game looks and feels how you would expect a current generation title to, which is a huge testament to the original’s game design and the work done to bring the visuals up to the expectations of present day gamers. This is not to say the original was ugly, but when comparing screens side by side, it is obvious which version is outdated. Effects such as water and fire easily present the most striking difference between the versions, as graphics and physics capabilities have greatly improved since 2009. The days of lumpy, opaque explosions are long gone and in their place we see the fluid, translucent flames. Textures of crates, barrels, and various backgrounds are all much sharper now, detailing features which were nonexistent or bland in the original. As the improvements are solely superficial, there are still moments when the character’s movement animations or the way he interacts with ledges will be slightly awkward to watch. These incidents are not commonplace, but when maneuvering through tight spaces such as ventilation ducts, there will be times during your playthrough when you see the majority of the protagonist’s body move through steel as he climbs up or down a duct’s ledge.

Sadly, the lack of any additional content feels like a missed opportunity. The Proving Grounds section of the title tasks players with completing various challenges, and this would have been a perfect mode to flesh out with a wider variety of missions. Adding campaign missions would have felt awkward and unless an epilogue was tacked on to the end, there was really no way of going that route. However, increasing the number of missions in the Proving Grounds would have been a simplistic, yet effective method of providing new content in an attempt to lure in those who have already played the game in its original form. Instead, we see the exact same game with a fresh coat of paint. While there is a varied offering of platforming, including more enemy-focused challenges or several other missions similar to the final challenge would at least have provided gamers with some fresh content.

For those who have never experienced the original Shadow Complex, that last point is completely irrelevant as you have an entirely new title to play through. As mentioned previously, the gameplay still holds up across the years and at no point does it feel clunky or uncomfortable. Becoming stronger with each and every upgrade, then being able to fly through previous segments infinitely faster thanks to new weaponry or gadgets makes hunting the collectibles enjoyable rather than a chore. As you progress through the complex, you will undoubtedly see doors or walls you cannot get through yet, but with every upgrade comes a plethora of collectibles and new paths for you to take if you backtrack enough. Of course, the vast majority of the collectibles are completely optional so if you are not the type to search every nook and cranny of a game’s environment, you will simply have a slightly more challenging playthrough ahead of you. The term “Metroidvania” is thrown around commonly when referring to more open world platformers, but none exemplify the term moreso than Shadow Complex, and thus Shadow Complex Remastered. The game even includes a line on your map which shows how to reach your goal if you happen to get stuck, although this can be toggled on or off at the map screen, offering assistance only to those who request it.

When it comes to action platformers, I find the sign of a well-designed game is completely forgetting the main plot as you scour for collectibles, explore every inch of the map, and take on a variety of foes. This is precisely what my experience with Shadow Complex Remastered has been, putting it in the same class as the Mega Man titles, Banjo Kazooie, Super Metroid, and the Castlevania series. Occasionally you will hear a cry for help from your partner or view a brief cinematic which offers some additional insight as to what is going on in the base you are infiltrating and this helps remind you that there is indeed a reason for all of this killing, but the exploration is certainly the focal point of the title and it executes this in a nearly flawless manner. Whenever a new enemy appears, there is always a brief period of experimentation as you attempt to figure out its weakness, followed by as many explosions as you can possibly direct towards the threat. The gameplay is simple yet changes enough over the course of your playthrough that you will never be bored.

The audience for any remaster or re-release inevitably falls into one of two categories: those who played the original an those who did not. Shadow Complex Remastered is no exception, and while the gameplay is still phenomenal, the difference between this version and the original is nothing more than aesthetics. Without any additional features or content, it may be harder for those who already have the title to justify purchasing it again, even if they loved it when it was first released in 2009. The new graphics are nice, but you will have to decide whether the price of admission is worth it just to play the game again with a face-lift. Fortunately, those who never played the original have been presented with even more opportunity to enjoy it, as the remaster is available across three separate platforms rather than just Xbox Live Arcade. Any gamer who enjoys action platformers and has yet to play Shadow Complex needs to pick up Shadow Complex Remastered since it stands out within the genre as one of the best. If you were never told about the original release, you would likely never suspect that the title was not developed within the last calendar year.

The Good

  • Intuitive control scheme allows game to hide age effectively
  • Plethora of new paths open up after acquiring every upgrade or gadget
  • All gadgets are used consistently throughout the game

The Bad

  • Sole difference from original release is upgraded visuals
  • Fairly short list of challenges in Proving Grounds

The Score: 8.7