In addition to defeating Assassin's Creed II over break, I also beat one other game. I had previously purchased Shadow Complex
when it was on sale, but didn't have a chance to play it before I went back to Indiana for my break. My brother, however, had also purchased it and so I made use of his copy to play it.
For those who are unaware, Shadow Complex is generally described as a metroidvania
game. In gameplay terms, this ends up meaning that the player character interacts with the world through a two dimensional interface and explores a world which is mainly revealed through the acquisition of new equipment. The game also includes a "leveling" system which gives periodic meaningful powers every 10 levels and minor (as far as I can tell, useless) powers at every level. The character's level is carried over from subsequent playthroughs which gives an incentive to play through it repeatedly. The game also has a somewhat unique addition to the nominal metroidvania framework. Since the game uses the Unreal 3 engine, the universe itself is rendered in rather high-quality 3D. The developers decided to make use of this by allowing the enemies the ability to move in that dimension that your character is unable to. To deal with this, the second analog stick is used to aim your weapon which allows you to point "in" or "out" of the screen to target enemies who inhabit those areas. Though it is sometimes a bit frustrating, it generally works very well.
I enjoyed Shadow Complex quite a bit and decided about half-way through the game that I was going to defeat it. On my first playthrough (on normal difficulty), I collected 100% of the items which has at least one major side benefit for subsequent playthroughs--it unlocks the ability to start the game with the most powerful primary weapon rather than going through the normal weapon upgrade progression. My second playthrough was done on "Insane" difficulty. My reason for choosing the highest difficulty was that it provides a major boost in experience gained and my goal was to reach maximum level as quickly as possible. There is very little lying when it comes to describing the difficulty as insane. Enemies do truly outrageous amounts of damage on that level and can, in a few seconds, turn a full health character into a dead one. This leads to a major shift in the way the game is played. Rather than rushing into a room and punching or shooting everything in sight while bounding around, you must make use of the cover provided in the levels, shoot enemies from adjacent rooms and make use of good bad bugs
like the fact that your health persists across saves, but whether a health pack should still be in a save room do not.
The insane playthrough went faster than the first one, but wasn't a 100% run. The reason for this was due to the fact that, although the entire map becomes visible when you hit level 20, the item locations (and pickup status) which show up at lower difficulties is notably absent on insane. Nevertheless, I eventually managed to beat the game, and since I had gathered so many items (about 98%) and killed so many enemies (because I was leveling), I scored quite highly on the leaderboards. At the time, I ranked in at 1133 of all the players of the game in overall score for a playthrough.
My next run was to be the "minimalist" run. This run was done in order to get an achievement. In order to get it, you must beat the game with less than 13% of the items. There is a further "bonus" checkbox that can be ticked if you beat the game with under 4% of the items. I decided to get both of these in one fell swoop. Because of the large handicap, I decided to play it on the lowest difficulty--casual. After examining the relevant guides and a few false starts, I managed to clear the game with only 3% of the items. Managing this particular feat requires quite a bit of sequence breaking and actually cannot be done without making use of a secret area which is specifically for the purpose of making such a run possible. Since doing a "minimalist" run takes so little time, I actually managed to rank somewhat highly on the "Fastest Playthrough" leaderboard--somewhere around the upper 1500s if I recall correctly.
My final run was to get the last achievement: reach level 50. I was already past 40 by the time I cleared my minimalist run, so I simply started a new game on insane and ran around until I'd reached maximum level.
I should probably say a few things about the game that perhaps might be understood without me stating them explicitly. Firstly, the game is really quite solid. It is rare that I play through a game twice. It is rarer still that I play through a game 3 times. I can name very few games that I've played 4 times since I reached the point where I could get new games easily. As such, if you have an XBox 360, I recommend the game very highly. It is periodically cheap (I think I got it for 800 MS points, nominally $10), but is usually 1200 MS points which is still a fine deal for the price.
Published by XPostcurses