Like a chipped artefact, Shadow Guardian is a worthwhile find even if it's not in pristine condition.
The gun-slinging, tomb-raiding, treasure-hunting gameplay is filled with thrills and peppered with surprises, from a swim to an undersea temple to a harrowing escape from militiamen in the jungles of Indonesia.
It's an entertaining mix of action and exploration with a bit of light puzzle-solving thrown in to keep you on your toes. Yet, cumbersome action causes Shadow Guardian to be less enjoyable than expected.
The makings of a true action-adventure hero are in Jason Call, an unlucky captive of the maniacal Novik who rifles through Jason's memories searching for clues to a legendary artefact.
Each of the game's seven chapters plays out as one of Jason's memories - his escape from Indonesia, a trip to an Egyptian temple, a dive in the Red Sea, and other exploits that make the eyes widen and adrenaline flow.
Great level design has you scampering through temple ruins, shimmying across ledges, jumping over bottomless pits, and bypassing life-threatening booby traps. There's a wondrous sense of discovery as you move from room to room, scouting out a path to each temple's inner sanctum.
Exploration, which goes hand-in-hand with platforming, is by far the game's strength and it's to be played for this reason alone.
Solid controls ensure you always have a grip on Jason's actions, whether it's climbing up a column or leaping over spikes. Much of the platforming is done contextually with buttons that pop up when needed - a system that works well.
Kingdom of the crystal knuckleheads
Combat is not as polished, unfortunately. Rather than lacking any critical mechanics or possessing any glaring flaw, the action generally just feels less responsive than you might hope.
For instance, you can take cover behind certain objects by tapping a contextual button that appears on the screen -better still, you can roll between adjacent points of cover. While this is a great option, it's doesn't always work as expected - you might have to move around a bit before the cover button pops up or you snap to the wrong side of a over point.
Shootouts are similarly unrefined. There's a nice range of weapons and you're able to issue awesome-looking melee attacks when close to enemies, but it doesn't feel tight. You end up wrestling with the crosshairs too much to get a good shot and it just never comes together in a fluid way.
Smile for the camera
Regardless, the adventure is a compelling one and exploring sprawling ruins more than offsets the unpolished action.
A cinematic style - dramatic camera angles, detailed graphics, and convincing animations - helps draw you into the game, too, heightening the excitement of entering a temple for the first time or highlighting successful completion of a puzzle. The graphics are good, with lots of detailed character models, large environments, and special effects.
Ultimately, Shadow Guardian finds fortune and glory with entertaining exploration, even if its action leaves something to be desired.
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