Saturday, April 19, 2008

GAME: Shadowgrounds

Found this from back in the '05. Likely before Katrina screwed up my day. Just fired it up this week and took it for a test drive.

You don't see too many over-head shooters any more. But Shadowgrounds was extremely well done and quite entertaining. It brought me back to my quarter-popping arcade days when a couple of bucks kept us busy for hours. Back when you had to figure out games on you own. Pre-internet. Pre-Gamespot.

Shadowgrounds is about an ornery mechanic on Ganymede who constantly finds himself taking on the crapiest job on the planet. Sure there are likely soldiers and scientists out there better trained and better qualified to do it, but the responsibility always falls on the common man to save the day. He starts with a simple pistol and a flashlight, initially splattering simple aliens in simple situations. But, image this, the plot thickens. Tougher aliens emerge. More weapons are discovered. And the weapons can be upgraded, to a degree. And, as usual, it all boils down to a man and a firearm slugging it out through a barrage of trigger-happy space scum and leaving only a trail of exotic guts in his wake.

What I liked:
  • The graphics are actually impressive and better than anything I used to play at the arcade. It isn't photorealistic, but the lighting effects were fantastic and I played with the flashlight through the whole game. Would have been interesting if they could have done something clever with the light!
  • The weapons were great! I especially liked the final electric-spewing gun. Endlessly fascinating to fire that thing up and watch tongues of lightning flickers across the screen and enshroud the baddies. The flamethrower also earned big points as well as the secondary firing option on the laser rifle.
  • Jumping was extremely useful in combat. It pulled my fat out of the fire many times.
What I didn't like:
  • There weren't enough upgrade points to REALLY try all the weapons' modifications. If you didn't like something, you couldn't un-do it and use the points elsewhere. Almost everything seemed to be useful, so it was a matter of weighing how much I really wanted a gas grenade vs a sub-nuclear rocket. More points, please!
  • The plot was sorely predictable (until the last cut scene.) Some of the story lines (ie: trip through the mines) were completely fruitless. The sub-titles didn't always match the audio. And at one point the game forced me to play some silly ass timing-related challenge when a scientist flipped a switch and I had to hit a button EXACTLY 10 seconds later. Except 10 seconds to me didn't match 10 seconds to the game. I used Liam's digital stopwatch to time it, but the game never conceded I knew how to count to ten! Finally, after 90 tries, an NPC counted to 10 correctly and flipped the switch for me. Why that scene was in the game is completely beyond me. It did nothing but tick me off and waste time.
  • Outside of dodging, jumping had no value and the environment rarely (if ever) came into play.
  • Small selection of monsters. Very limited variety and by the first third of the game, I had seem everything there was to see, with the exception of bosses.
  • The weapon I used MOST was the basic pistol (with all the upgrades.) It never ran out of ammo, it shot straight, it shot far, and it did fairly decent damage. The other weapons were great, but it was sad to keep reverting back to the pistol for either the range or the unlimited shots.
  • The game TEASED me with powered armor. It should have let me use it, or just removed the suggestion I'd get to use it. The freakin' suits were ON THE WALL, but I couldn't gear up? Maddening.
All things considered, a decent little game. Good for a couple of hours on a rainy weekend when nothing else is available.

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