Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet: Shadow Hunters Review

At long last, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet (ITSP for short) has been graced with another hot batch of beautifully engineered puzzle solving and fast-paced action in the form of new downloadable content for XBLA. For just 400 Microsoft points you can download Shadow Hunters, a new co-op mode for up to 4 players, with online capabilities and limitless gameplay. Let the good times roll.

Developer: Shadow Planet Productions (Fuelcell Games/Gagne International)
Microsoft Studios
Platform(s): Xbox 360 (Xbox LIVE Arcade)
Players: Co-Op Multiplayer
Genre: Multi-directional Shooter
Release Date: October 12th 2011
Release Price: 400 Microsoft Points

Shadow Hunters offers a new co-op style gameplay similar to that of Lantern Run, a game mode that comes with the initial purchase of ITSP. The game mode is for 1-4 players, and is compatible for local or online play, giving the player opportunity to work co-operatively with others regardless of how many friends that person has.

The objective of Shadow Hunters is to clear the infectious black entity that were eradicated from your home planet. Players will have to traverse from asteroids around the galaxy that have also fallen prey to the twisted poison that continues to spread. This requires the players to drag a bomb from one part of the meteoric rock, to the ‘centre’ of the infection in order to remove its existence from the asteroid. The game mechanics play in an almost identical way to that of Lantern Run. The player can equip 3 of the 9 weapons available to aid them and must escort a bomb to a specific location through as many asteroids (or ‘rounds’) as possible. Exposing the bomb to attacks from enemies will cause it to accumulate damage, increasing the rate in which the bomb explodes prematurely, resulting in losing the game.

Shadow Hunters can be great fun when playing with 4 friends, there is a greater level of strategy needed in order to successfully complete each asteroid and you can take great satisfaction in fighting your way through the tunnels, whilst losing your teammates to the hands of the enemies, only to finally make it to end and destroy the Dark plague. My initial impression was not a great one; Shadow Hunters is much too similar in ways to Lantern Run, a game that came free alongside the main campaign. So why do Shadow Planet Productions and Microsoft expect us to pay 400 MS points for this privilege? Lets investigate Watson…

When I heard about a new co-op DLC for ITSP, I became very excited. Playing through the campaign was brilliant and I thought that there could be so many possibilities for co-op that could offer similar gameplay. Shadow Hunters takes some of the core concepts of the campaign challenges, couples it with the fast paced thrill of lantern run to create this new style of gameplay, something you can clearly see has had an awful lot of thought put into it.

The asteroids are randomized, giving an infinite amount of levels to conquer; each of which feature the usual weapon, ship and bonus upgrades that were present in the other game modes. New mini bosses, environmental obstacles and more delicious artwork further enhance the ITSP experience. So realistically, you’re getting a lot for your money’s worth, so much more ITSP for a small price, all you need to do is find a few friends to help you out.

But here comes my main concern, whether it be problems with my perfectly fine connection, or my early purchase, I found NO ONE ONLINE. Ever. Where is everyone in Shadow Planet? I’ve paid for the DLC, and there’s no one to play with! Again I apologise for this statement, things may change in the future, or perhaps it’s just me. I found that the only way i could enjoy the game in its entirety was to invite people over in order to experience the co-op mode, as playing single player just rendered me unconscious. I found Shadow Hunters very difficult and stressful to play solo, the bomb was constantly at risk and I found it a great challenge to fully explore the asteroid and still have time to get the bomb to its desired location. I also found it confusing to concentrate on dodging the enemies whilst also protecting my bomb. Maybe I’ve found a game I’m just terrible at, or the difficultly level was created with the expectation that multiple players will be cooperating to complete the levels.

There is so much potential for ITSP to become even more of a success, but I mean moreso in terms of co-op gameplay. I want a full length co-op campaign mode and sadly Shadow Hunters fails to deliver. With the lack of online capabilities and short gameplay, Shadow Hunters is frustratingly difficult for all 4 people to remain interested enough to persist through the game for the sake of a high score.

Hard-core fans of ITSP will love the new expansion, as it adds a new dimension to gameplay and offers a new challenge for players. If you loved the Co-operative gameplay of Lantern Run and have people within arm’s length who would be willing to play it with you, then by all means purchase the DLC because it is definitely worthwhile. For reasons other than this, I find it difficult to rate the game’s expansion any higher given it appeals predominantly to the hardcore co-op audience, that is, local. Bring us more sweet campaign!

4.0 – Below Average. Decent but sadly delivers one too many design faults; disappointing and a missed opportunity. There may have been some genuine good but it is quickly lost behind the bad.