You know how you realise one day that you’re not part of the ‘young generation’ anymore? If you don’t know this, you’re either still in your 20s, or you’re kidding yourself; akin to 45 year olds thinking they can still legitimately be part of the clubbing scene. Well, it manifests itself in a number of ways, some positive - you’re in theory more financially & emotionally stable, and you generally give a lot less of a toss what people think anymore - and some negative - suddenly you can no longer treat your body like dirt and expect it to gleefully rebound. I think it also influences your taste in games.
I increasingly feel out of whack with the popular opinion of the gaming press and enthusiasts in a way that I never did 10-15 years ago. I hate competitive multiplayer while most players on the web think it’s the most important thing ever. Instead, I like social co-op games that I can play just for fun with others. I generally don’t like long single-player games anymore - anything over 15-20 hours tends to be a bit too much hassle these days unless I can incorporate it into my social / co-op play; Fallout 3 is an exception just because it’s so very good and tugs at my nostalgia strings. I don’t feel a need to complete games anymore - simply to play them until I’ve had enough; sometimes that’s the end, sometimes I bail before that due to boredom (Assassin’s Creed, GTA IV). As an antithesis to the sprawling single-player game, I’ve come to love bite-size gaming. Anything I can play and have fun in 15-30 minutes is ideal for fitting in around other things. XBLA excels at providing sustenance in this area; Geometry Wars 2, Peggle, Rez HD, Trials HD, Pac Man CE, they’re all great hop-in hop-out games.
And so finally to the subject matter (perhaps tendency to ramble is also part of the maturation process) - in terms of what I like in an XBLA game, Shadow Complex annoyed me a bit. It looks nice, and the demo was quite fun to play, except for the fact that they shoved a bunch of cutscenes in there which seemed deliberately designed to waste my time. The acting was hammy, the plot entirely derivative if somewhat confusing (switching from odd special-op double-cross to entirely predictable girlfriend-rescue fodder - complete with ‘I’m sorry, your princess girlfriend is in another castle secret base’), and above all, incredibly bloody annoying to sit through. I should have skipped them, but I watched just in case there was anything useful / interesting in them - there wasn’t, and those are minutes that I’ll never get back. Next time, please put a splash screen up at the start reading “Cutscenes are present only for the purposes of satisfying the designer’s own need for clichéd pulp drama, and any resemblance to something you’ll remotely care about is purely coincidental.”. Thanks.
It seems like Shadow Complex wants to blur the lines between an XBLA game and what some might consider a ‘real’ game, and people seem to be lauding it for that, whilst I just want to shake it until its teeth rattle. Being ‘just’ an arcade game is nothing to be ashamed of - you don’t need extensive plots (especially ones that burn time on the qualitative equivalent of Mills and Boon), you just need a good game. Shadow Complex was fairly good fun - and I have to say not as fun as many other XBLA games I’ve played, just flashier in places - but my opinion was not helped by its annoying attempts to legitimise itself as ‘serious’ game content rather than just embracing what it is - an arcade game.