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Shadow Complex review: 2.5D at its finest

Shadow Complex logo
Chair Entertainment

Despite being released in August, Shadow Complex begs revisiting due to its sheer greatness as an arcade title. It is one of the largest downloads available on the Live Arcade, as well as a bit pricey, but that should not detract from just how enjoyable this game is.

Shadow Complex bears striking resemblance to a certain Nintendo game circa 1994. It is a 2.5D game, which means that the environment in which you play is fully three dimensional, but you can only move in two of those dimensions. It is essentially a side-scroller, but with added depth in terms of enemy placement.

The game's plot line parallels the events in the novel Empire by Orson Scott Card. You play as Jason Flemming, a run of the mill good-guy who stumbles on a secret underground militant base in the middle of the woods. Inside, Jason finds a vast army conspiring to overthrow the United States government starting with San Francisco. It is up to you to destroy the base from the inside out and rescue your girlfriend.

Using automatic weapons, special power-ups, and death-defying acrobatic skills, the player explores a massive fortress while fighting mindless drones and mechanized monsters.The game's primary appeal is exploration, and boy is there plenty of exploring to be had.


  • Gorgeous - Cliff Bleszinski of Epic Games worked as the design consultant on Shadow Complex, and it shows. The game's visuals are top notch, and exactly what you would expect from a seasoned designer.
  • Challenging - but not too challenging. With the size of the map, each area posses a varying degree of difficulty from sequenced climbing maneuvers to precision jumps. It poses a challenge for casual and hardcore alike.
  • Fun factor - Incorporating styles from Metroid and Mega Man pay off when you are able to fire your weapon, perform insane stunts, and watch giant explosions all at the same time. For anyone who likes the action genre, look no further.


  • Weak story - The opening is quite interesting, but the entire middle is just filler and the ending is abrupt and leaves you wanting more.
  • Massive map - While having a huge area to explore is great fun, getting from one end of the giant maze to the other can be long and cumbersome, especially if you run into a dead end and have to go all the way back around.

Recently winning the Best Downloadable Game award at the Spike VGA's, Shadow Complex is a fairly simple, yet highly enjoyable game. If you have yet top play it, take a trip into the Xbox Live Arcarde marketplace and grab it now!


Title: Shadow Complex
Platform: Xbox 360 Arcade
Price: 1200 Microsoft Points ($15)
Developed by: Chair Entertainment & Epic Games
Published by: Microsoft Game Studios
Rating: Teen
Released: August 19, 2009