Shadow Complex

aka: Empire: Alpha Complex

Description official descriptions

Shadow Complex follows the main character Jason Fleming and his girlfriend Claire in their fight against an organization called the Restoration. After the two went out into the mountains to explore a cave, Claire gets kidnapped by some mysterious men and Jason infiltrates their complex built into the caves to rescue her and ultimately stop the Restoration in what they are doing.

The game plays similar to the Metroid series. While the graphics are 3D, the entire game is a 2D platformer with an emphasis on exploration. The player can acquire various weapons throughout the game, each of them can be used to reveal new paths within the cave. For example, green rocks, hatches or doors need to be blown up with grenades, while orange ones require the use of guns, purple ones have circuitry that needs to be disabled with foam and red ones need to be fired at with missiles. There are hidden rooms within the world, which can sometimes only be reached once the player has the appropriate weapon. This means the game involves a lot of back tracking, for example to gain new bonus items, like increased health or grenade capacity.

In later parts of the game Jason gets access to new movement abilities through parts of a special suit. They allow him to double and triple jump, get a jet pack boost or use a hook to cling to walls and ceilings. He is also able to run at hyper speed, breaking special walls and find gear that allows him to breathe underwater for an unlimited amount of time. The main quest is split up into separate missions and these are shown as a blue path on the map. A flashlight reveals hidden paths that can be explored by highlighting them in the corresponding weapon code colour. Killing enemies and progressing further in the game levels up Jason, giving him increased stats.

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Credits (Xbox 360 version)

138 People (101 developers, 37 thanks) · View all

Creative Director
Technical Director
Senior Artists
Senior Programmers
Studio Director
Design Consultant
Production Manager
Senior Game Test Manager
Lead Tester
Executive Producer
[ full credits ]



Average score: 87% (based on 72 ratings)


Average score: 3.1 out of 5 (based on 18 ratings with 2 reviews)

Great game for fans Super Metroid, Castlevania, or Shooters

The Good
Like the games it draws most of its influence from ( Super Metroid, Castlevania : Symphony of the nights ) Shadow Complex features One large world map in which you need to explore. In order to access new areas you must find new items to help you out. There are lots of extra items you can find also to help you out although they are not required to finish the game. It is very addictive to search for 100% of the items. If you manage to collect everything you will become quite powerful and godlike. It is also fun to try and finish the game quickly and beat others times on the Xbox 360 leaderboards. Using the Unreal 3 engine the graphics are great. The controls also are very responsive and the aiming feels natural.

The Bad
The story felt a little bit like it was taken from a G.I. Joe cartoon.

The Bottom Line
I would recommend this game to everyone. There are 4 difficulty modes that will allow anyone to have a good time with this from the casual crowd to the hardcore gamers. Exploring and collecting items is a blast and will have you hooked for hours. For its price this game offers excellent value. After finishing this game, right away I started a new game to see how quickly I could finish.

Xbox 360 · by Matthew Melbourne (18) · 2009

America's answer to Metroidvania

The Good
+ Xbox 360 exclusive. There aren't too many X360 exclusive games out there, other than the obvious (Halo 3, Gears of War 2), so it's always good to see one.

  • Nintendo hasn't released any new 2D Metroids for their non-handheld consoles. Konami hasn't released any new 2D Castlevania games either. Ever since the 2000s, the traditional 2D Metroidvania genre has been abandoned (except on the handheld systems). It's good to see someone trying to revive it.

  • The most impressive thing about Shadow Complex is its name. Two of the most badass words in the English vocabulary. Some might even think that it has a "complex" meaning! At least they could come up with a cool name (many games can't. Proof: Call of Duty: Black Ops III).

  • There isn't one item that is particularly hard to find. Most items can be seen just from the map. A few items can be difficult to get (you have to figure out how to reach the room, or break a certain obstacle), but none of it is unfair.

  • Sequence breaking is in full force here. You can deliberately go in a different direction than your onscreen marker indicates. You can try the speed run, 4% (insurgent) run, 13% (minimalist) run, 100% run, Insane difficulty run, abandon your girlfriend run -- they're all available in the game. You can spend weeks figuring out the different sequence breaking options, if you're into that sort of thing.

  • Graphics are cool, with a unique 2.5D presentation that's different from previous Metroidvania titles. 2.5D means that the controls are in 2D -- you only move left/right -- but the enemies and environment appear in 3D. Because of this, enemies can stand on a platform that you will never be able to reach. You can still shoot at them though.

    The Bad
    As a big fan of both the Metroid and Castlevania series, I've been on the look out for any new current-gen Metroidvania games that come out. Shadow Complex is one of the most famous and best-selling titles in that genre in the last ten years, and unfortunately it is a textbook example of the imitator being far inferior to the original.

If I were to ask you, what are the main differences between American and Japanese video games, what would your answer be? Here's mine: American games have better graphics, more explosive action scenes, and feel more like a Hollywood blockbuster. Japanese games have a more artistic and lo-fi touch to it, much like a classic cult film.

If you understand the differences I just described, you have a pretty good idea why Shadow Complex doesn't work the way Super Metroid or Symphony of the Night did.

In Super Metroid, sequence breaking is "accidentally" discovered. The various glitches and the little level design touches feel natural. They never intended you to beat the bosses in reverse order. The fan community discovered it on their own.

But in Shadow Complex, you're looking at the X360 achievement screen and say to yourself, "okay, so I gotta beat this game in this order to get this trophy, and beat it again in that order to get another trophy". The whole thing feels artificial and forced. So they pretty much had to keep sequence breaking in mind when they designed the thing. It has become an entirely mechanical process, without any artistic and "human" elements that the Japanese games had. (After all, sequence breaking existed in Super Metroid because of human error -- glitches.)

The level design is a complete mess. The entire game world looks the same. In Super Metroid you have Crateria, Brinstar, Maridia etc., and each one of them has a fresh and unique look. Shadow Complex doesn't have that. It just doesn't. You don't feel excited AT ALL when you enter a new area, because it looks just like the last room you were in.

The level design is just plain bad. You're always running in a narrow corridor. You acquire the triple jump ability late in the game, but there's not much to do with it, because the rooms all feel so small and confined, there aren't many places you can triple jump to. The ceilings will stop you. What happened to the huge rooms with breakable ceilings(blocks) in Super Metroid?

In a completely laughable attempt at changing the Metroidvania formula, Shadow Complex autosaves your progress. That doesn't sound so bad, but it really is, and I'll explain this in detail. Every time you walk near a save room, boom, it's saved. It doesn't matter whether you want to save or not. Maybe you were just trying to figure out a new sequence breaking path, if this path doesn't work, you may want to go back and try another one. But no, the game forces you to save. Once you trigger the autosave, you can't load the previous save. You can't have more than one save file. You can't even start a new game. The only option in the main menu is "Continue". The designers really failed to grasp the core appeal of the old classics, Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, because save rooms were a huge deal in those games: you enter a save room, you manually press a button to save, and it feels like a ritual.

Okay, so we understand this is an American game, we can forgive the autosaving and such, but at least we can expect some cool guns or explosives, like the Needler in the Halo series?

Sorry, the answer is, again, no. NONE of the weapons in Shadow Complex is interesting or fun to use. You have a pistol, that soon becomes a sub-machine gun, and then becomes an assault rifle. Unsurprisingly, the next gun is always more powerful than the last, so that you don't have to choose the gun at all, it's already chosen for you.

You have grenades and missiles, and another weapon called "Foam", which is just a different type of grenade with a mild Ice Beam side-effect. Shadow Complex has the most clichéd weapon arsenal that you can imagine. The excitement of exploring the game world and finding new weapons is diminished by the fact that every weapon in this game can be seen in another shooter, in a more stylish way, and there's nothing unique or memorable here.

Your gun always has unlimited ammo. Your grenades and missiles will eventually stack to the point that you will never run out of them. Also, unless you are going for the minimal items trophy, you probably won't run out of health either. The joy of looking for ammunition and supplies in other American shooters is, again, non-existent in Shadow Complex.

If we can ignore the gunplay and just focus on the Metroidvania platforming, maybe we can see some goodness in this game? I doubt it. Here's the problem: The controls are kinda loose. Well, the controls are not too awkward, you generally can perform the moves you want to perform, and reach the place you want to go. But from time to time you feel that the moves don't work, even though you have definitely pressed the right buttons. To be fair, Super Metroid's controls took a few days to get used to as well, but once you get used to it, it's an absolute beast, with Samus behaving just the way you want her to.

The Bottom Line
Shadow Complex looks like Super Metroid and Castlevania on the surface, but fails to embody the core elements that made the classics fun to play.

Xbox 360 · by Pagen HD (145) · 2016


1001 Video Games

Shadow Complex appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.


The game's story runs parallel to the events in SF writer Orson Scott Card's novel Empire. It serves as a companion to the sequel to the novel, Hidden Empire.

This spawned the question on a number of forums and opinion websites whether the game should be boycotted, because Card is known as a fierce political campaigner against gay rights. Some wondered if certain gamers would find it morally right to pay for game where a part of the profits is likely to go to someone defending such a stance they may not agree with. A detailed analysis of the situation can be found through Opinion: The Complex Question in the related links section.


The first month of the game's development was spent having all nine core team members at developer Chair Entertainment play the classics it takes inspiration from -- Metroid and Castlevania, specifically -- extensively, in order to build the best possible understanding of the kind of game they were trying to make before they began development.


The game was downloaded 200,000 times during its debut seven days on sale, making it the XBLA's most downloaded single player title at that time.

Trial Version

The trial version of the game originally contained a bug that allowed players to continue after defeating the end boss of the demo, providing access to the full game without paying. It was however impossible to save the game while continuing or to get any achievements. Postings about the exploit and videos detailing how to perform it were quickly pulled through an intervention of Epic Games.


  • 1UP
    • 2009 - Best Downloadable Game
  • 4Players
    • 2009 – Best Xbox Live Arcade Game of the Year
    • 2009 – #2 Best Action-Adventure of the Year
  • Cheat Code Central
    • 2009 - Best Downloadable Game
  • G4
    • 2009 - Best Downloadable Game
  • Game Informer
    • 2009 - Best Downloadable Game
  • GamePro
    • 2009 - Best Downloadable Game
  • GameSpy
    • 2009 - Downloadable Game of the Year
  • IGN
    • 2009 - Overall Best Downloadable Console Game
    • 2009 - Overall Best Downloadable Console Game (Readers' Choice)
    • 2009 - Best Xbox Live Arcade Game
    • 2009 - Best Xbox Live Arcade Game (Readers' Choice)
  • Spike TV
    • 2009 - Best Downloadable Game

Information also contributed by 雷堂嬢太朗 -raido.jotaro-and Big John WV

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Related Sites +

  • Opinion: The Complex Question
    article about the controversy concerning <moby developer="Orson Scott Card">Orson Scott Card's</moby> involvement with the game, on Gamasutra (21st August 2009)
  • X360A achievement guide
    X360A's achievement guide for Shadow Complex.

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by robotriot.

Additional contributors: Sciere, Caelestis, Patrick Bregger, Starbuck the Third, FatherJack.

Game added August 23rd, 2009. Last modified September 16th, 2023.