Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams Review

Giana SistersGiana Sisters: Twisted Dreams (Available on PC, PlayStation 3, Wii U, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Platformer
Publisher: Black Forest Games
Developer: Black Forest Games
PC Version Release Date: October 23rd, 2012
Xbox 360 Version Release Date: March 20, 2013
PlayStation 3 Version Release Date: June 18th, 2013
Wii U Version Release Date: September 5th, 2013

The Giana Sisters series is known, albeit unfairly, as being a Super Mario Bros. ripoff. The original Commodore 64 version definitely deserves that claim, but the Nintendo DS sequel was a fantastic and original offering that never got the attention it deserved because of the series’ reputation. Unfortunately for Spellbound Entertainment, they went bankrupt shortly after the release of said game. Black Forest Games, a studio made entirely of ex-Spellbound employees, decided to buy the rights to the Giana franchise and Kickstarted a game game called Project Giana, which would eventually become Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams. The game first saw release on the PC late last year; a 360 version hit earlier this year, followed by the PS3 version in June and earlier this month on the Wii U. The Wii U version is the one we were sent a review code for, so it’s the one I’m going to zero in on, although all versions of the game are fundamentally the same. Does Twisted Dreams improve upon its excellent DS prequel?

The Great:

There’s no doubt that the visual presentation is Twisted Dream’s most remarkable trait. Being able to switch from a beautiful and colorful world to a dark, punk, and gritty environment instantly with just the press of a button is mighty impressive. Black Forest Games have created a living, breathing world so fascinating, don’t be surprised if you find yourself stopping to look at the backgrounds instead of continuing with the adventure. Gameplay takes the form of 2D side-scrolling platforming you’ve come to expect, although the environments are 3D. It all comes together in a stunningly delicious package that makes you want to progress just to see what the next new area will look like.

Giana Sisters2The Good:

+ Light/Dark world gameplay adds a unique twist to the platforming genre. You have to constantly switch between these two worlds in order to solve puzzles, defeat enemies, and continue platforming. For example, some ledges might only be accessible with Punk Giana, whereas others aren’t. As such you find yourself switching between worlds while jumping, running, and more. You need extremely quick reflexes as you often only have a few milliseconds to react.

+ Twirling lets you navigate with a bit more precision, but also leaves you vulnerable. Dashing destroys everything in its path, but is harder to control. You need to master both of these techniques if you hope to beat the game, and only one can be used by each of the sisters, so you need to be aware of what you’re doing at all times.

+ Infinite lives and frequent checkpoints mean you’re free to experiment, and often the game expects you to do just that.

+ Boss battles are extremely challenging, but very original. They’re certainly a highlight, and the final boss will be remembered for quite some time once you finally beat him.

+ If you like hard games, Hardcore and Uber Hardcore will utterly destroy you. Levels typically last around ten minutes, and Hardcore challenges you to beat them without a single checkpoint, but wait, there’s more. To truly master Twisted Dreams, you must complete the entire game without dying once in order to best Uber Hardcore mode. Good luck with that!

Giana Sisters3The So-So:

+/- Extremely hard. This is something you should be aware before purchasing. If you’re easily frustrated, Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams may be too much for you to bear as the game’s brutal! Even with infinite lives, checkpoints, and experimentation, this game will bring you to new levels of frustration you never knew existed.

Giana Sisters4The Bad:

– Repetition. There’s not much variety with enemy designs, and the different world mechanic gets old fast. During later levels, world swapping is mandatory literally every three seconds. This means you’re switching worlds so often it can be difficult to see what’s going on, and can be hard on the eyes. Repetition doesn’t just bring down the gameplay either, it also pops up with the game’s limited audio. There are only two music tracks that play throughout the entire game, one for the light world and one for the dark world. By the time you reach the later sections of the game, you might find yourself playing the game on mute.

– The Wii U version features off-screen play, but doesn’t have any sound whatsoever. While that might not be a problem for the soundtrack, it’s off-putting not to have any sound at all. It’s a bug Black Forest Games are aware of and have promised to fix via an upcoming patch.

– Load times are extremely long, regardless of which version you play. Be prepared to wait in-between levels for up to a minute or longer.

– In order to advance, you’re required to have a certain number of gems. That basically means you’re going to have to replay levels over and over again until you find every last gem. This became such an annoyance, I switched the difficulty to Easy, as the gem requirement vanishes on that difficulty. Giana Sisters DS did a much better job than Twisted Dreams by offering shorter levels with only a few collectibles to find. Here, there’s blue, yellow and red crystals to collect and some can only be found in a specific world. It’s tedious, and quite frankly not fun, especially considering the difficulty level and the overall length of the stages. To its merit, collected crystals remain after death.

Giana Sisters5The Lowdown

Twisted Dreams is a solid platformer that gambled everything on it’s light/dark mechanic. Unfortunately, it’s just not enough to create a truly memorable experience. It does have its moments, and is by no means a bad game. I just expected more after playing the excellent Giana Sisters DS. For $15, there’s a lot of content. It took me six hours to complete my first play-through, and there were plenty of extras I missed. If you enjoy the gameplay, you could be at this one for a while. I’d suggest looking at screenshots, and watching a videos, such as my video review, to see if this game is for you.

Final Score: 6.9/10

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