Game: The Great Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams
Developer: Black Forest Games
Available on: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows PC
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
With crowd-funding site Kickstarter allowing consumers to put their money where their mouths are, it’s no surprise that developers are more than happy to bring back long-forgotten IPs.
The Great Giana Sisters is certainly a long-forgotten IP, infamous for being a carbon copy Super Mario clone for home computers such as the Commodore 64 and Amiga. As you can imagine, Nintendo’s lawyers got on the case, ensuring that remaining copies on store shelves were removed from circulation, making the original game a valuable rarity in the wild.
Ironically, a follow-up appeared on the Nintendo DS in 2009, as a more original platformer. Now, thanks to Kickstarter, the Giana Sisters are back with a quality slice of retro platforming that proves that crowd-funding can be a successful endeavour in terms of creating quality products.
In this all-new game, you play as one of the Giana Sisters, Giana – or, more specifically you play as her two split personalities, “Punk Giana” and “Cute Giana”. These alternate versions of the hero can be switched between at the touch of a button, and doing so causes the entire level (including enemies) to change in theme. The player must use both of these personas and the ever changing world to rescue Maria, Giana’s twin.
What follows is the sort of platform action that would have been quite at home in the 16-bit heyday of SNES and Mega Drive platformers, and that’s a damn good thing. It mixes the rampant “collect everything” aspect and unique character abilities of the Donkey Kong Country series with some great puzzles and a sprinkling of Sonic-esque dashing.
All of this action takes place in a series of environments that wouldn’t look out of place in an 80’s Jim Henson fantasy movie, with oodles of colour and well-animated cartoon enemies. Changing Giana’s persona causes the world to morph from a twee fantasy land to a hellish evil world in mere seconds, a great-looking element that is quite ambitious for such a low-budget game. Sadly, there isn’t enough variety in the game’s levels, with many of them looking almost identical.
Twisted Dream’s Dark Crystal/Labyrinth aesthetics are extended to the game’s soundtrack, which once again changes with whatever persona you are using. As Cute Giana, the soundtrack adopts a dark synth approach to the game’s theme, while as you can imagine from the name, Punk Giana’s soundtrack brings in the distorted guitars. Much like the game’s graphics, there aren’t enough tracks, but the tracks that are here are genuinely great and do a fantastic job of immersing you in this fantasy world.
But don’t let the game’s looks and sounds fool you into thinking it’s for kids, because this game is tough – retro tough. The game can throw so many different elements at you that, along with the different enemies and environmental hazards, it feels like you’re constantly plate-spinning Giana’s abilities.
The game requires you to collect as many gems as possible to earn a star ranking at the end of the level, with these stars helping you unlock each world’s boss level. With each level being surprisingly large (maybe even too large at times), there is massive scope for exploration as you try and find every gem (plus larger gems that unlock concept art). Twisted Dreams also does a relatively good job of adding new elements to the game as you progress, such as new puzzles and new ways to use the abilities that are available to you.
You will die an incredible number of times, but on the game’s normal Adventure Mode, you’ll have infinite lives and regular checkpoints to fall back on. But there will be times when you get absolutely stuck for ages, especially during boss fights, which will be a stumbling block for many players – in fact, there are plenty of moments in the game that border on unfair. The difficulty wouldn’t such a problem if the levels were shorter, but as it stands the game can be very frustrating.
But those who do have the patience are likely to finish Giana Sisters in about six or seven hours. Doing so unlocks a Hardcore mode, wherein checkpoints are removed entirely. Completing Hardcore then unlocks Uber Hardcore, a mode where, if you die, you start all the way back from the first level of the game. Needless to say, this game has a whole lot of replay value if you want to be challenged, and I haven’t even mentioned additional Time Attack and Score Attack modes. But honestly, because the game’s levels are so long, playing through the standard Adventure Mode will be enough for you to get your money’s worth.
VERDICT: It is incredibly easy to dismiss this game as being a generic, cutesy platformer, but that perception couldn’t be further from the truth. What we have here is a fun title that is only let down by merciless difficulty and levels that are too long and too similar to each other. This is truly proof that crowd-funding can result in a quality finished product, and well worth a look of you’re pining for some early 90’s platforming.