Shadowgrounds

Shadowgrounds

Shadowgrounds

Alien Breed revisited?

The simplest games are sometimes the hardest to review. Taken at face value there's very little to Shadowgrounds and it does almost nothing that has not been done better elsewhere. Run around, shoot stuff, have half-arsed plot about aliens on Ganymede explained to you via uninspiring cut-scenes. It's not even a new idea - everything here has been around a good ten years. That kind of summary could land almost any game with a crappy score and a textual kicking, but nevertheless I found myself rattling through Shadowgrounds' birds-eye-view shooter levels with a smile. I expected to dismiss it as a waste of time, but instead I've been zapped by a retro ray and landed somewhere between fond memories of the 16-bit era and love of things that go bang in 2006.

Shadowgrounds is a modernised clone of Alien Breed, Team 17's hugely popular top-down shooter from the early Nineties. It ripped off an Aliens storyline and pitted you, and possibly a mate, against an off-world base chock full of sinister aliens. As in Alien Breed you run through the levels of Shadowgrounds, shooting bugs and monsters, flipping switches and skipping merrily from one shadowy checkpoint to the next. It's a pure shooter with a love of gloomy real-time lighting, like Doom 3 with an isometric camera.

What kept me interested, though, is that Shadowgrounds is a shooter with genuine pace and atmosphere. Poor lighting is simply expected of these games, but here it's regularly used to dramatic effect. Even the dark groaning ambient soundtrack is pretty good, even if it does occasionally default to pumping electro-metal for a hint of drama.

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