This aint your daddy's 2.5D

I spent most of the weekend playing Shadow Complex an Xbox Live Arcade or XBLA title written by developer Chair based on some fiction by Orson Scott Card of Enders Game Fame.

It's an Unreal Engine title but presented as a 2d side scroller. It's one of the new wave of so called 2.5D gamesie they are actually full 3D graphics but they only allow movement in a 2D plane, like LittleBigPlanet and Trine and Splosion Man and Bionic Commando Rearmed and so on. This isn't what 2.5d used to mean back in the ray casting days it was 2d with the illusion of 3d like doom and wolfenstien and a load of other products of professional nutter and rocket enthusiast John Carmack.

So the game posits some random bloke and his girlfriend stumbling across a secret base in the mountains full of blokes planning on overthrowing the government using mechs or rockets or lasers or some combination there of (the game is never that specific). Said girlfriend is promptly kidnapped and main guy suddenly reveals secret military prowess and sets off to rescue her.

The gameplay is then spread over this secret base as a series of rooms you have a series of guns as the game progresses and unlimited ammo but limited clip size and various upgrades like grenades and the wonderful foam gun that encases enemies in packing foam.

You also have a flash light that can be used to illuminate secret areas various panels that glow different colours under the flash light indicating they are susceptible to various weapons. These secrets either progress the game or have upgrades like more health more grenades and so on. There is a fair amount of back tracking across the compound as you get various new abilities new paths open up.

You also gain experience by killing enemies either with your gun or environmental objects (explosive barrels and the like) or with a very satisfying melee attack. As you level up you get better aim better stats and so on.

The aiming of the gun is taken care of by the right stick with movement on left and as such it's mostly as you would expect with the exception of levels where enemies are in the background or foreground ie out of the 2d plane you occupy. Here it gets a bit confusing where you should aim and you tend to have to waggle the aim around till the laser indicating your aim lands on the people at depth. It's not very intuitive and breaks the flow of the game a little. Every now and again there are turrets that flick the action into first person mode for a while which is pretty fun.

All in all though it's a very well put together game with maybe a evening or twos play to complete it normally maybe a few more if you're one of those mad bastards that has to collect every upgrade and get every achievement. Graphics are very good for this sort of title it's got a good sound track and not bad voice overs and the gameplay and series of upgrades you get keeps you going and some of them are hilarious (like the friction dampeners that allow you to run at super speed up walls across water and generally through guards). It's well worth the 1200 Microsoft points and there is a demo for those wanting to see how it works without paying up front.

After I finished off Shadow Complex I saw 2 films District 9 and Inglorious Basterds.

District 9 was interesting I'm not sure that it is as original as they make out nearly everything it does has been done quite a few times before just not as a whole, still it's good to see a big budget film not based in the US. It's a pretty good fun film with some great special effects and a intriguing story it's well worth a look see for some intelligent scifi with some good action.

Inglorious Basterds was a little slow to start but progressed pretty well. The titular basterds actually are only a small part of the story showing up at points. Historical accuracy is not this films strong point but it has the feel of a war film. Brad Pitt is great as the nutty leader of the outfit and is especially funny towards the end. The guy who really steals the show is the bloke playing the SS Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) he is funny charming ruthless and engaging and he plays the role as far from the steroetypical style as possible. There are a few cameos in there Mike Myers turns up as well as some familiar faces from some of Tarantinos other works. Tarantino pulls some odd thing for identifying British people at one point suggesting that how you would indicate 3 with fingers is different between Britain and Germany maybe it is for military types but it struck me and odd. Anyway takes a while to get going but worth a go.