By: Casey Curran
I always remember Giana Sisters as that game that ripped off Super Mario Bros, so I thought it was fitting that while other has-been mascots like Rayman and Sonic were able to easily get the funds to get a modern day take on their games from their past originality, Giana Sisters had to raise the money via Kickstarter.
Luckily, that venture was successful and we ended up with the delightful 2.5D side-scroller. The game sets you as Giana, a schizophrenic girl alternating between her bubbly blonde and feisty redhead personas to save her sister. For simplicity’s sake, from here on I’ll refer to the blonde as Peach and the redhead as Shepard.
First off, Super Meat Boy rules are in effect here. You can choose between a controller and the keyboard and the controller will always win. So if you don’t have one for your PC, either get one to play this or wait for the console releases. While this game is not as tight as SMB, it still controls very well. Each girl has her own special power to let you get through obstacles.
Peach controls perfectly, her special power gives a twirl that allows her to descend slower and feels just right. Shepard gives a few problems. First off, her special power is a fireball dash in any direction, which with a 360 controller can present a few problems nailing the direction. Since this attack is based on ricocheting off walls at the right angle, this presents some issues. There is also a bit of a delay between releasing the button for this and her ceasing the attack, making it very hard to get the hang of. There are also some springs only she can jump on, which are very hard to get a boosted jump on. It feels like the game only lets you use those when it feels like it. These springs are not too common, so it’s not that big of a deal.
I separated graphics from sound for this review because frankly, I don’t want anything to mitigate my emphasis of how gorgeous this game is. Artistically, it’s very similar to Trine with a vibrant, colorful world. What really puts it over the edge is how switching between Peach and Shepard switches their worlds. Each is contrasted by their background: Peach in a dark, fiery world and Shepard in a happy, bubbly world. Seeing how the world changes so clearly but quickly was such a joy to see that I would often just stand at a safe spot and switch so I could take everything in and notice some of the subtle details. It’s so good that I’m considering getting this game when it hits PSN/XBLA as well, just so I can see it on my HDTV.
There are only two things getting in the way of me giving these graphics a perfect score. The first are the castle levels. These still look very good, but after the last few levels spoiled me with completely different looking worlds made in a similar way, the castle was still just grey bricks. There was no radical shift, just a slightly redder looking kind when switching to Peach. The other is that the foreground would often get in the way, leading to a death because I could not see the enemy hiding behind it. This didn’t happen too often, but it was enough that it was more than just nitpicking. Still, this is a great looking game.
The sound effects are nowhere near as charming or full of personality as the ones found in Rayman Origins, but they get the job done. There’s nothing annoying or dull, so there’s that. Music is fun to listen at, but it’s not even close to as memorable as Sonic or Donkey Kong Country’s best efforts. The one saving grace for the soundtrack is that each world has its own distinct, yet similar music. Whenever you switch worlds the music also seamlessly changes from one to the other. I have to give the game’s composers a lot of praise for writing songs they could do that with.
The level design is similar to a much harder take on the Kirby series. You have the main levels but also a few areas full of collectable gems. Obtaining these often requires you to go through harder platforming challenges than you would to simply reach the end of the level. These are not mandatory, but they will help you unlock things so you feel compelled to get as many as you can. I am very happy they went with this kind of level design as it lets the player decide how hard to make it organically. The levels also take advantage of the mechanic, as I was switching between the two in creative ways, much like Outland.
My biggest complaint is that the game can be downright cheap at some points. There are many points where I died, not because I did not react, but because the range of an enemy or hazard was not clear and I ended up dying from the air around them. There were also parts that needed you not to rely on reflexes but memorization. Thankfully, the game has a good checkpoint system and infinite continues, so these only really get out of control during boss battles; which thankfully, are few and far between. One last thing is that levels take a little too long at times, where it feels like they would have been better suited splitting one level into two or three.
It’s nice to know that even when we are oversaturated with 2D platformers, a game like Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams can still come along and remind me why this is my favorite genre. It’s not quite on par with Rayman Origins or Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, but it is well worth your time and money.