Every once in a while, a great platformer comes along from nowhere and can steal your attention with its outlandish fantasy-world scenery and before long you are engulfed in its universe collecting the collectables, fighting the giant end of level bosses and becoming a master of your own domain. Not to mention swearing like a trooper with every death!
For those old enough to remember the very original ‘The Great Giana Sisters’ when it was released on the Commodore 64 many moons ago, and its striking if not down-and-out right copy of Nintendo’s Super Mario World levels – a re-imagined sequel to this game was released on the Nintendo DS as ‘Giana Sisters: DS’ and the latest release on the Xbox LIVE Arcade, Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams is not only a port of the Windows version released last year, but a sequel to the Nintendo DS game too – it was also a successful KickStarter project.
So, does it still bear any resemblance to Super Mario?
Actually, there is a little hint of Super Mario in the platforming gameplay style, but it’s more focussed on the prominent fantasy dream worlds and two-toned adventure now to make this stand out as a platformer in its own right without relying on the poor-mans-Mario title. It’s not all that challenging; so whilst Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams is a great game visually and how it is presented, the lack of challenging environments and the speed at which you can run through some of the games’ dream worlds might be disappointing for some? As a whole it is worlds apart from Mario now, developers Black Forest Games has re-imagined Giana Sisters to have similar gameplay styles as almost all platformers where the basis is that you control your character, collect items and perform a few abilities to aid progression. The magic here however in this 2.5D outing is that the world is split into two different perspectives where the use of both is a requirement to achieve your main goal. Not a plumber in sight!
As a platformer, it’s a simple plot – as it should be, not a criticism because with Arcade games of this nature it should very much be a game that relies on the fun-factor and a diverse set of environments ranging from the pretty-impressively-cute to the dark and dreary settings, serving up a world that is both bright, with an underlying terror. The story is that two young sisters suddenly find themselves trapped in a magical dream-world with the only means of escape by searching for a huge diamond, and in the journey that follows en-route to the diamond is a land filled with huge owls, dragons, haunted castles, deadly fish and death-defying traps at every turn. The most amazing aspect of the dream world is that you can change the whole scene in a single button press, a seamless transformation between two totally different outlooks on the same environment. Play the one game across two versions of the world you’re placed in – each with their own unique style. Everything in that single seamless transformation changes your world; the backgrounds, the enemies, as well as parts of the environment so that something that might have been impossible to cross in one perspective could now be possible in another perspective.
As a platforming adventure that requires you to visit certain worlds, you have to earn your way into them, so as you might expect – it’s not a simple case of play and carry on because a required amount of smaller diamonds and gems needs to be collected before granting access to other parts of the games dream-world environments. You are freely able to return into any open world to re-try your luck, so although the process of downing enemies and wondering through the land is relatively simple, collecting your gems can be a little tricky. You will find many of them scattered through the levels and in many different colours, even split between each of the world’s perspectives so triggering that button to seamlessly switch worlds at times will allow you access to some gems you cannot collect in your current view of the dream-world.
Due to the complexity of the level design which includes high to reach places, crumbling blocks, moving objects amongst many other tricky scenarios to put your character into a near death situation, you might have to use some of your other abilities to overcome them. Early on in the game you are taught how to Twirl – a process of flying through the air, a dash attack to bounce off walls and enemies, a double jump to reach higher places. The different personas of the character in each of the two different world perspectives mean that when playing ability it will also switch the perspective of the world at the same time. It’s not as complex as it might sound as if you imagine a game with a split-personality where the characters abilities and the world changes between two outlooks, bright and fun dreams, and the Nightmare dreams. How you use and play within both worlds allow you to collect all that you need to progress and unlock other worlds in the game. Even the musical score is switched between the two different perspectives seamlessly. It’s a very original approach and is two totally different views of the one game, it’s brilliant.
The controls are relatively easy, again, as a platformer you don’t need to be over-run with finicky button presses as the aim should be just from going from one location to another with a few challenges along the way. For me, a great platformer is measured by death to understand how complex and challenging it is. Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams has a slight sense of LIMBO about it too, not just a hint of Mario – but the dark, dream worlds and the environments putting pressure on the character to overcome any obstacle. The only real key-ingredient lacking in this game that would take it from a half-decent platformer to a ‘great’ platformer is its lack of challenge. It’s not all that difficult and it feels like it needs more originality. A decent game nonetheless, but when you’ve played many like it over the years – it needs a wow factor! The seamless switching of dream perspectives is not enough. Enough to make you realise how damn good this game looks visually and that the level of detail into the environments is more than impressive enough to wow you- the gameplay at times feels a little lacking and a bit ‘samey’.
Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams, is a good game – it will be enjoyable; it even deserves to be played. It just doesn’t offer enough challenges and enough originality to be deemed completely outstanding. Great to look at, brilliant twisted dreams presented in two entire different worlds. At times funky, bright whilst other times dark and dangerous; includes a great mix of level design and musical score that complement each other really well. It is definitely an above average game and you will not regret spending money on this, but you’ve likely played a lot better in your time too!
ThisisXbox recommend downloading the demo today to play this – you’ll know if this is a worthy purchase for you in the first few moments of gameplay.