Shadow Complex is a game that wants to be speedrun.
After the game was released people compared it fondly to the 2D Metroid games. They are formally similar in many ways. However, what it seems most people didn’t realize is that some who still play the Metroid games don’t do it out of nostalgia. Instead they treat them as glorious obstacle courses waiting to be perfected.
What most people remember about the Metroid games are their mystery, but Shadow Complex has no mystery. Instead, whenever the player enters a room with an item, it’s labeled on their map. This makes finding ‘hidden’ items trivial, just a matter of looking in the right corner. On top of this the player is always directed to their next goal on their map with a bright, blue line.
Combine its idiot-proof map with the fact that most of the major upgrades change the way your avatar moves and Shadow Complex becomes a game about constantly readjusting your relationship with space.
Each time you visit an area with a new power you must recalibrate your expectations and strategies. That tall room that you can slowly fill with water by shooting out the pipes can actually be quickly scaled with your new double jump. Grappling above a hallway of lasers seems silly when you realize the momentum from your hyper speed run can carry you across.
For the most part the game rewards creativity in movement with environments that welcome artful traversal.
There are ways in which Shadow Complex does not want to be speedrun, including painfully slow boss fights, copious cut-scenes, and sometimes iffy collision detection. For the most part however the game is a wonderful obstacle course, with enough possibilities that you feel like you’re learning something new about the game with each run.