Shadowgrounds Review (PC)

If you thought a shooter with a birds eye view sounded kind of crappy, then previously you probably wouldn't have been too far wrong. Shadowgrounds however, manages to team up underdeveloped technology and lacking graphics with great game design and strategic use of lighting and sound elements to create something that far from sucks.

The news is definitely not good... Blood is so hard to get off iron gratings too...

At first the birds eye/ top down view, along with the mouse orientation control makes this game a bit of a turn off. Persevere past the first five minutes though, and you'll find something worthwhile.

The game is set in a post apocalyptic world, on a planet terraformed to look and feel like earth, which is always a cheap way to explain why the alien world looks so very much like our own familiar planet. One can only hope that Jupiter's moon will remain in its current human free state in reality, because if this game is any indication, I don't think we will like the look of things when we do get there. Especially the being eaten by ferocious aliens part. That's a total downer.

Essentially your role is to navigate through passages and find out what happened to all these slaughtered people. It shouldn't take too long to make a connection between their savaged corpses and the maurading beasties which attempt to tear you limb from limb though.

So you run around the place and kill things, picking up ammo and health at various points, as in almost all action games. Where the Shadowgrounds difference comes in is that much of the place is dark. This is due to an electrical fault due to the whole alien invasion thing. This device had the potential to be ridiculously annoying, but thanks to your radar, you know when an alien is close, even if the screen is pitch black apart from the small circle of light your flashlight illuminates.

But you have to love the later pick ups... A refreshing bath of fire works too...

The alien onslaught has, of course, created chaos, and its up to you to blast your way to freedom and save poor unfortunates trapped by the alien beasties along the way. There are some nice touches to the game design, with you picking up upgrades from slaughtered aliens to make your death dealing gun more effective.

When you're blasting away merrily however, you need to keep a few things in mind. Where is the exit, can you remember where you came from, and most importantly, how much ammo do you have left?

Shadowgrounds gives you around 5 respawns if you do get slaughtered, but they are not of much use if you have no ammo. It is entirely possible to get to the end of a level and be stuck at the boss character dying repetitively because the ammo you do have is not enough, and you wasted much of it earlier by firing too many bullets into lifeless corpses.

If you're looking for something that will give you a decent thrill for little money, this is a good bet. The sound track is well integrated, and if you play this in a darkened room, there is plenty of capacity for those seat jerking moments when an unexpected sound has you looking around making sure no-one else saw your full body fear induced spasm.

The other thing Shadowgrounds does rather well is character development and storyline. It's almost surprising how they have managed to weave personality in without screeds of text, or interminable conversations which make you want to drool with boredom. The story is neatly woven in with the game, with relevant factors being revealed at appropriate times, as well as some back story you may or may not give a damn about.

You will fight them on iron gratings above land, and above water... And they only get bigger and badder... Bonne Chance...

If I had to describe in one word the high point of this game, it would be Atmosphere. This game has it by the mega tonne. Though this is not high budget or high tech, the developers have used the elements at their disposal to their best effect, and the result is something undeniably fun to play. You get sucked in by the artful use of graphics, sound and story, and spat out the other end, shaking slightly from the intense gun play, and the fact that you really only just made it out alive.

Top Game Moment: Hunting and maiming all those who saw me jump at one of the sound effects and knock over half a liter of soda. Appearances must be maintained.

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