You may just be old enough to remember The Great Giana Sisters, a 1987 platformer that attracted controversy and legal threats for its similiarities to Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. Hurriedly withdrawn from shelves, it earned cult status as an expensive collector's item. Now Giana and Maria have made an unlikely comeback courtesy of a successful Kickstarter campaign, and thankfully Twisted Dreams has more than enough ideas of its own to avoid any lawsuits this time around.
It wastes little time getting down to business. Its story setup simply involves Maria being swallowed by a swirling vortex with sister Giana leaping in after her. You'll run, jump, bounce on enemies and collect gems as in the original, but Twisted Dreams' hook is its switching mechanic, which allows you to morph between Giana's cute and punk personas at the squeeze of a trigger. Both guises have different abilities - cute Giana can pirouette in mid-air to slow her descent, while punk Giana is a bundle of ferocious energy, bouncing between pinball bumpers and charging into enemies.
Neatly, you can switch personas while an ability is still triggered, and that idea is cleverly exploited by a series of smart environmental puzzles. Many of these have to be tackled at speed, and some of these hazard-filled labyrinths represent serious tests of dexterity - and, to a lesser extent, memory. In other words, don't expect to make it through in one piece first time.
To make the character-swapping more interesting, the world instantly changes from a lush, summery setting to a decaying underworld in dark, autumnal shades, the enemies transforming from plump owls to fanged flying imps. Brilliantly, the music shifts, too - guitar riffs kick in whenever punk Giana is onscreen, a delightfully anarchic contrast to the bright, flowery surroundings.
It's a quite beautiful game in places, but so visually busy that it's easy to lose track of hazards or to quickly parse which surfaces are solid and which are mere background detail. It's less of an issue in the early stages, but as the difficulty ramps up and the gaps between checkpoints widen dramatically, you'll end up having to repeat some lengthy sections several times.
In fact, stage length is a problem that affects other game modes - we'd be more likely to speedrun the levels in Time Attack if they were half the size. The upshot of this bloat is that while most of the game's ideas are original, it overuses some of them to the point of tedium. You may also wish to invest in a spare controller before facing the final boss, which was one frustration too far for us.
That said, developer Black Forest Games has made its meagre budget go a very long way. This is a pretty, inventive platformer that demonstrates both a clear affection for the original and a willingness to try something new. It might not come close to unseating the genre's best, but if you're up for a challenge, then this is a minor gem.
Buy here for 1200 MP. By Chris Schilling.
A beautiful, clever but rather frustrating platformer
- Attractive worlds and excellent animation
- Inventive character-swapping puzzles
- It's plenty challenging...
- ...though not always for the right reasons
- Unnecessary difficulty spikes