home > review > Shadowgrounds Review
GamesFirst! Online since 1995
ups: great lighting and music, weapon upgrades help keep things fresh, simple and fun gameplay
downs: textures can be lacking, story and monsters are dull and stock

View Image Gallery || Get Prices

Shadowgrounds Review
game: Shadowgrounds
four star
posted by: George Holomshek
publisher: Meridian4
developer: Frozenbyte
view related website
ESRB rating: M (Mature)
date posted: 09:37 PM Thu May 4th, 2006
last revision: 09:34 PM Thu May 4th, 2006

Click to read.Top-down shooters aren\'t exactly difficult to come across, especially when you are looking in the budget section. So what is a developer to do if you want to get your game noticed? One option is to follow the path of Frozenbyte and make a game that is simple, creepy, and gives you tons of stuff to shoot. Say hello to Shadowgrounds, a new top-down shooter set on Jupiter\'s frozen moon of Ganymede, now made habitable thanks to super-cool future technology. It takes one part old-school action, one part high-tech lighting, three parts action, and comes up with a concoction that is reasonably priced and great fun to play.

One thing you may notice is that \"original story\" wasn\'t in that recipe I just listed. We may never have seen a game set on this particular celestial body before, but the plot itself isn\'t exactly groundbreaking. Shadowgrounds puts you in the shoes of ex-security expert, now mechanic Wesley Tyler. While fixing one of the many things on your to-do list, a fuse blows and it is your job to go turn the power back on for your not-so-polite boss. Enter the bugs; lots and lots of them. It is about here that the story can be filtered down to \"shoot a lot\".

And shoot you will. Shadowgrounds throws a relentless assault of bug-like aliens at you right from the beginning. While they start off fairly small and actually flee when you shine your flashlight on them, soon you start facing monsters that are bigger, meaner, and far better armed. One thing most players won\'t help but notice is that a lot of the monsters look inspired, sometimes too inspired, by those famed on the big screen and elsewhere. Not to say that this makes the game any less fun, but more truly original beasts to fight would have been appreciated.

Shooters, especially top-downers can have a nasty habit of getting stale and repetitive relatively quickly. This happens for several reasons; dull level design, boring environments, not enough weapon variety, and others. But Shadowgrounds tries to alleviate at least one of these problems by implementing a weapon upgrade system. Each of your weapons in your already varied arsenal can be upgraded multiple times. In classic videogame fashion, monsters will randomly drop upgrade parts. Wesley can use these parts to upgrade weapons on the spot, likely due to his expert mechanic skills. Each upgrade requires a certain number of upgrade parts depending on how good the weapon and its respective upgrade is. Earlier upgrades are cheaper and usually increase firepower or ammo capacity, but each gun\'s special upgrade is what really makes it worth it. Your pulse rifle, for example, can get a secondary tazer function, and your grenade launcher can be equipped with the ability to fire poisonous gas grenades. Let the good times roll.

The controls for Shadowgrounds are simple and straightforward using the standard fps controls like \"wasd\" for movement, \"r\" for reloading, etc., and the mouse for looking and firing. Beyond that there is little more to the gameplay than aim and shoot. And even picky gamers should be able to make a comfortable setup with the healthy amount of sensitivity and control options.

When it comes to visuals, lighting and shadow effects are king in Shadowgrounds. The lighting effects in this game are fantastic, especially for a budget top-down shooter. Clever use of objects in the environment such as debris and plants to project creepy looking shadows on the walls can keep you on edge as well as make you waste a few bullets shooting at that figure you could swear was a monster running right for you. Another purpose the lighting serves is to distract you from the generally low-texture environments and character models. Shadowgrounds is a pretty dark game, so it is mainly during cutscenes and when certain objects get focused on that they start to look a little dull and blocky. While well lit areas are few and far between, they do have the ability to take the player out of the game until a couple dark corridors can reset the mood.

The voice acting as a whole in Shadowgrounds is well done, though you will hear the occasional line that makes you either cringe or laugh depending on your reaction to poorly delivered lines. The ambient sound effects, however, are great and combined with the creepy lighting will have you constantly turning around and peeking around corners to find out what just made that unsettling crunching sound. The music is also very good and very well implemented. The background music will vary from barely audible, to dramatic orchestrated, to total action depending on the situation. And despite these constant changes, the music rarely, if ever, sounds out of place. Well done and very cinematic, the music constantly augments the mood in the back of your mind but you never really hear it playing unless you listen for it.

Shadowgrounds is really a game that is greater than the sum of its parts. The story and gameplay are standard, and the graphics and textures can be a little blocky at times, but it does more than enough to make up for these. The lighting is outstanding and keeps your eyes on the shadows, the music and sound effects are moody and well done, and the upgrade system works as a nice remedy to keep you from getting bored of your weapon set. Plus, the game comes at a bargain price and easy download. Top-down shooter fans as well as those gamers who are just looking for a good deal would be well advised to give Shadowgrounds a look and at least try out the free demo. Your eyes and ears will be in for a treat.

Click images for larger version

Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger.