“Oh look, another video game remake!”
These days, the video game industry seems to have a thing for taking an old game, squeezing out whatever nostalgia value it has and presenting it back to you wrapped with a pretty bow, clamoring get even more money out of that IP. Still, Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams is not a big budget triple-A title, but an indie side-scroller crowdfunded via Kickstarter.
Okay, I wasn’t even born yet when the original Giana Sisters was released, so I’ll let my awesome research skills take over for some background information. Basically, ‘The Great Giana Sisters’ was released back in 1987 to generally positive reviews and garnered a cult following due to it’s unique charm and soundtrack. It’s success was marred by Nintendo’s claims that it was a Super Mario Bros rip-off and since then, it has had a few spiritual successors. ‘Twisted Dreams’ was successfully Kickstarted on August 2012 and made its way onto Steam via Steam Greenlight in October the same year. Now with that out of the way, let’s get to the actual review.
As with many indie platformers, the game involves relatively simple platforming around a gimmick, which in the case of Twisted Dreams, happens to be the ability for the player to switch at will between ‘Cute’ and ‘Punk’ versions of Giana and their respective worlds. Ironically, Cute Giana resides in a creepy, spooky setting while Punk Giana has a cutesy and innocent setting.
Each alter-ego has her own ability. Controlling Cute Giana will allow the player to float across distances with her spinning ability. Punk Giana has her fireball ability, with which she breaks through destructible walls and bounces off other surfaces.
When you first start the game, you are greeted with a short cutscene, where Giana’s sister, the green-haired Maria, is sucked into a vortex, and you jump in to save her. At about half-way through the first level, Maria gets ingested by some big ass dragon.
OMGEEZ EVIL DRAGON!
This sets up the primary objective of the game: save Maria. In the levels, you need to collect as many crystals as you can for points, and die as little as possible [obviously. Ed.]. Both Gianas can collect blue crystals, Cute Giana can collect yellow crystals, and Punk Giana can collect red crystals. There are slightly over 20 levels in the main story mode, and some extra levels in the ‘Extras’ menu. This makes the game quite lengthy, though the absolute length depends on your play style. Other than this world-switching mechanic, the rest of the game is pretty standard platforming.
Apart from gameplay, the art style and sound design are quite commendable. When switching between Gianas, the surrounding world changes as well, and that is not limited only to the enemies and foreground, the entire environment changes. You can see elements all the way in the background changing whenever you switch characters, and the transitions are done with a subtle ‘bounce’.
In Punk Giana’s cute world, the art style gives off a generic ‘happy sunshine and rainbows’ vibe. Enemies are cute birds, vibrant flora and mushroom cottages abound, all this in contrast to the red-haired, skull-bearing Punk Giana. When switching to Cute Giana, the world looks close to death. The colour palatte becomes more muted and shadowy, the birds turn into imps, and giant bones are scattered throughout, etc. Of course, this also contrasts the innocent, blonde Cute Giana. From the amount that I played, the theme of the levels will change, with the first few stages being the forest-y area, and then changing to a castle area. One peeve I have is that yellow crystals can be hard to differentiate from the background.
Another feat that the developers have achieved is with the music of the game. The music switches seamlessly according to Cute or Punk. When controlling Punk Giana, a rock version of the track plays, and a sweeter version for Cute Giana. So, essentially, there are 2 versions to every track in the game. Both versions fit the game well, the punk version is not too heavy, and the cute version has a retro-feel to it, with loads of keyboard riffs which keep the mood light despite the relatively darker visuals.
Like its sister games of the same genre, Twisted Dreams suffers the same fate of lacking replayability. If you are not an achievement crazy perfectionist, then you will probably settle on a single play through — and that’s it. The game does offer many difficulty settings (like the über Hardcore mode that sends you back to Level 1 after each death), but I’m pretty sure most players won’t want to play through what are essentially the exact same levels with increasing difficulty. There is a multiplayer ‘Dream Rush’ mode, but I have yet to try that out.
So the final verdict is…
It was enjoyable the first time, but I wouldn’t go back for more. Maybe it’s just my incompetence in platformers, but I found the game quite frustrating at times. Though the game introduces new enemies and small variations in game mechanics as the levels progress, I still found myself getting bored and wanting the level to end quickly. The graphics and soundtrack are indeed what makes the game stand out from the over-flowing ocean of indie platformers out there, and Black Forest Games does a great job of keeping what made the original game successful apply to Twisted Dreams.
Game: Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams (http://store.steampowered.com/app/223220/)
Developer: Black Forest Games
Genre: Indie Platformer
Release Date: 22nd Oct 2012