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Something Smells Gamey: Shadow Complex

I don't know if you noticed, but you can download things pretty fast nowadays. That includes games! In fact, I downloaded a game on XBox Live this very week, while you losers probably left the house to purchase some lame physical product. Now I know what it must have felt like to be that one kid with the Sega Channel back in the day (the original downloadable console experience for Genesis). Man, it's awesome. I am going to rule ya'll for the rest of your pathetic little lives.

The game I squeak of (pun sponsored by Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakquel) is Shadow Complex. For those in the know, it's a Metroidvania-style platformer. Some next-gen additions (leveling, immersive leaderboards) enhance the experience, but the overall fun still stems from jumping around and shooting things, as it so often does. The map is a well-designed grid that's requires players to take a fairly guided path at the beginning of the game, but opens up with the acquisition of new skills to allow massive shortcuts by the end. Everything gameplay-wise is solid, but you don't need to be told that. Shadow Complex was the fastest-selling XBox Live Arcade game of all time when released in August, and I'm sure you all canceled your end-of-summer barbecues to partake.

Perhaps most interesting about this game was the criticism it attracted for being affiliated with author Orson Scott Card. The man is a staunch opponent of all things gay, and a small petition against Shadow Complex developed online. I don't know how successful this opposition ultimately was, although I assume these boycotters stuck to their non-downloaded guns more vehemently than Modern Warfare 2 boycotters. Being a bit of a modern pop literature ignoramus, I wonder whether Card has enough of a following that attaching his name to the project actually resulted in net positive buys.

From what I experienced, it shouldn't have.

Let's be honest: I hate gay people, because I bought this game. Now let's be honest again: There is virtually no plot to Shadow Complex. The protagonist stumbles upon a criminal organization planning to take over the United States, blah blah blah. There's a witty line here or there, sure, but these were written by novelist Peter David. Card ostensibly provided the universe surrounding the game, which seems a lot like every other universe Tom Clancy wannabes have created over the last few decades, which seems a lot like the real world plus conspiracy theories and explosions.

I'm not one to ho-hum a fun, mindless adventure, and I put forward my belief that Jurassic Park is a legitimately good movie as evidence. But let's be honest one more time, people. This is not a genre brimming with invaluable ideas. Your local schoolkids could probably come up with ideas as enjoyable as the ones entertainment execs cough up big bucks for; those freckled youngsters just can't use big enough words to describe their imagination.

I'm no patron of young adult fiction, but I'd be willing to bet that the books rudely sharing Twilight's shelf space more often contribute contemplative content than whatever it is Card offers. Homophobe or not, if you're going to bog your story down with pseudo-future tech and insignificant espionage, you're in danger of offering less than a simple conversation between a high school girl and her wolf boyfriend.

All that said, Card's backdrop is perfectly fine for a game that plays so well it needs no plot. I especially liked the woodland setting for Shadow Complex's underground evil base. It's purty. I just don't know if you need to contract with a famous name in order to arrive at such a scene. Case in point: At the very start of the game, the vice president gets assassinated somewhere offscreen. Yawn. I don't see how this is a conflict. VP is a virtually powerless position in the real world, and I've learned that the hard way in my role as Vice President of the Brookfield "Men Against Boys" (M.A.B.) chapter.

Still, I have faith in our cause. Men Against Boys fights to prevent area children from commandeering the immaturity and wide-eyed splendor at all things pyrrhic which rightfully belongs to we adults. Our motto: "You don't have to grow up, unless you're a kid. If that's the case, then get the f*** out."

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  1. Blogger qualler | 6:07 PM |  

    Now I get your reference to Modern Warfare 2 protesters. Good one! Is that game good? Next game purchase - MW2 or Uncharted2? Or Heavy Rain? Or all three?

  2. Blogger DoktorPeace | 12:27 AM |  

    I'd say def get Uncharted 2. I'm playing through the new CoD now, and I like it, but if you're not going to play multiplayer (which most of the general "your friends," including me, play on XBox), that may be better for a rental.

    Definitely wait on the reviews for Heavy Rain. I played through their last game, Indigo Prophecy, this year, and as great as the first half of that game is, the second half is an unmitigated disaster. I'm really excited about Heavy Rain's potential, and I'll still probably buy it at some point, but it's a wild card at this point.

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