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Shadowgrounds Review

Shadowgrounds pack shot
Developer:Frozenbyte
Publisher:dtp / Reef Entertainment
Genre:Top down shooter
Platform:PC
Official Site: http://www.shadowgroundsgame.com
Release Date:Month 1, 2006 (UK)
Reviewer:James Witherow (Toma)
 

Shadowgrounds is a fun, frantic top-down shooter that will bring back memories of classic shooters such as Smash TV and Alien Breed. It has a clear style to the game and catchy music that sets the mood.

You play Wesley Tyler, a senior mechanic working at a repair base on a moon called Ganymede. When systems start going offline you are called in to figure out what’s going on. You quickly encounter aliens trying to take over the base and you aid the marines dealing with the attack. It’s easy to see various sci-fi influences throughout this game.

Shadowgrounds is broken up into chapters during which you have various missions to complete. The objectives in general are very straightforward and thanks to waypoints you never get frustrated wondering where and what to do next. Of course there are a variety of aliens that make the objectives challenging. You also only get 5 lives per chapter. When you die you re-spawn roughly where you died. However there are no quick saves to fall back on, once you loose those lives you are back to the start of the chapter. This will get mixed responses from gamers, I found it added an extra incentive to stay alive, making the battles more gripping, although it was frustrating on a couple of occasions.

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The controls take some getting used to in Shadowgrounds. You move the crosshair around the screen with your mouse and he’ll aim that direction. Cursor keys are then used to move. So in that respect it’s quite easy to pick up and play. You push the mouse against the edge of the screen to rotate the view. This can be quite tricky and annoying, especially when you are in the middle of a battle. There is the option of holding the Alt key to make the view rotate as you aim which does help the problem but I can understand why it doesn’t do that by default. The view would be forever spinning around and would probably make me ill quite rapidly!

The graphics are on average very good, some of the environments look impressive. Unfortunately the cut scenes have quite a budget feel about them with low detail and poor animation. It reminds me a little of those cheap horror films that look awful but turn out to be classics. While this game is no classic it did keep me more hooked than a lot of higher budget games. The audio is a similar affair with highs and lows. The guns sound good and the music in particular is very atmospheric and suits the game well. You might be interested to know that Lordi guitarist Amen worked with the Shadowgrounds team on the soundtrack. The voice acting however is particularly poor in contrast, although I wouldn’t say it really lessened my enjoyment of the game

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Multiplayer options are rather limited with no network play at all. You can only play co-op by sharing one computer. One person using the keyboard and mouse, and the rest using gamepads. I wasn't able to test this but I can imagine it being fun. It's a shame that network play wasn't there as an option however.

Summary

While it should be clear by now I enjoyed playing this game, there are a few negatives I must mention. Firstly don’t expect a deep gaming experience, it’s a straightforward arcade shooter. It’s also repetitive, with the general game-play remained the same throughout the game. You’ll encounter each of the alien types numerous times and will soon figure out how to deal with them fairly easily. It would be been nice to have seen Frozenbyte spend more time on the quality of the game and given us some more variety. When bought over steam this game costs $19.95, which for UK gamers is about £11. This makes it easier to accept the games short comings, which is good as otherwise a lot of people would miss out on this fun little shooter.

The bottom line
8.0 / 10

Good stuff

  • Lots of action
  • Feels like an old-school shoot-em-up
  • Impressive graphics in parts
  • Great soundtrack
  • Price

Not so good stuff

  • Budget feel
  • Voice acting
  • Repetitive



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