In Space, there's a lot of screaming...
Ok, I'll admit it. I like aliens. I mean, not that I'd like to befriend one, but when it comes to videogames, there's no better adversary than a herd of gun-toting, sharp-toothed aliens whose only purpose in life is to bring yours to an end. That's the premise of Meridian4's Shadowgrounds. Developed by newcomer developer Frozenbyte, Shadowgrounds is a top-down, 3rd-person sci-fi adventure that features non-stop action from start to finish. While Shadowgrounds plays much like a typical shooter it does add some atmospheric elements to the genre that make this budget title worth a look for those of you with a twitchy finger.
"Got out of bed, wasn't feeling too good" - "Illegal Alien" (Genesis)
You play as Wesley Tyler - senior interstellar mechanic with MacGyver-like abilities and unlikely hero. The year is 2096 and Tyler finds himself posted on Ganymede, the third moon of Jupiter. When the systems on the base begin to go offline, who else do you think gets called in to make repairs and figure out what's going on? Things go from bad to worse as an alien horde begins to take over and Tyler finds himself left with a few straggling survivors in the facility.
Shadowgrounds' top-down perspective (think Baldur's Gate) is an interesting take on the action genre although it took me a little bit of time to get used to it. I would occasionally get stuck on the corners of objects while in the heat of battle but over time I was able to get my hands around it. The game's top-down approach quickly reminded me of the little-known PlayStation game One from 1997 albeit with far better graphics and a more interesting narrative. While on the topic of graphics, Shadowgrounds doesn't disappoint. Cut-scenes and in-game levels are modeled well with lots of detail. The lighting is really one of the best features of the game - shadows cast by your trusty flashlight over items and nasty creatures in the room add an element of suspense throughout. I jumped in my chair a few times as the vicious monsters lunged out of the darkness. The audio is well done too. Voiceovers are believable, sound effects are appropriate and the music, albeit not really memorable, suits the game well.
The eleven steps of Ganymede...
Tyler has to navigate through eleven levels to escape the aliens. Without revealing too much of the plot, these range from indoor (both man-made and natural) and outdoor environments on Ganymede as well as extending the adventure beyond Jupiter's moon. The levels are all relatively linear in nature but many offer branching paths to your destination. Equipment is crucial to Tyler's success. Not surprisingly, health-packs are well-placed throughout each level but there are also ten weapons you can get your hands on in the course of the game. These include standard fare such as a laser rifle, minigun, shotgun, flame-thrower and rocket launcher but also offer additional variety with a deadly railgun and electric gun.
Each weapon has three upgrades that can be added to it and upgrade parts are collected from aliens who drop them when killed throughout the levels. If you can gather enough of the parts then you can choose how to spend them on the weapons you've acquired. The upgrades greatly increase the abilities of the guns allowing for additional damage, faster recharge/reload times and even adding secondary fire capabilities. For the most-part I didn't find that I needed to use the secondary fire options but nonetheless they are there for the taking if so desired.
No Pros and Cons at this time