25_1This top-down perspective, mission-based action game will remind you of those classic 2D arcade shooters (Crusader: No Regret, Syndicate Wars, Crimsonland etc.) but with an added layer of complexity which includes more complex gameplay, an actual story, and fantastic graphics. Shadowgrounds is set in the near future at a time when the Earth is riddled with ever-growing pollution, impurities, and overpopulation. The International Space Exploration Union uses the fusion-powered ship Protoplastus on a mission to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life, form new civilizations and all that jazz.

They eventually find that Jupiter’s moon Ganymede may fit the bill. It will not surprise you to find that, during the colonization of Ganymede, it undergoes a terrible alien invasion. To counter the invading monsters, you eventually acquire an arsenal of a variety of upgradeable weaponry. The Laser Rifle, for example, can be upgraded with a pinpoint laser that cuts the aliens in half, and the Railgun that can be upgraded to fire bullets that bounce from the walls, so you can kill several aliens with a single shot. The upgrade system itself is not linear, so you have a lot of freedom to experiment with a lot of combinations, all the while saying, “It’s dead, Jim.â€

You’ll probably like Shadowgrounds for its awesome blend of old and new. The weapons have a singular function, but the way you approach each upgrade infuses the process with some form of strategy and experimentation. The graphics are great despite the game having been weaned on a shoestring budget. And it’s not just bells and whistles – the play of light and shadows, and the way you use your trusty flashlight to illuminate dark corners, makes it play like a survival horror almost. The flashlight has limited battery a la Doom 3, so careful usage is a must.

There’s quite a bit of fun and simple action for one to indulge in here. It breaks little ground besides bringing an old formula into a modern game engine, but Shadowgrounds wins nonetheless thanks to its purebred simplicity. Add an ability to play in multiplayer co-op, and it’s next to impossible to hate the thing.

System Requirements: Pentium IV 1.5 GHz, 512 MB RAM, 1 GB HDD, WinXP

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