Monday, March 25, 2013

Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams (360) Review

After a friend showed me a trailer for the PC version of Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams, I was interested in trying it.  Sure, I'm not really good at platformers, but the premise and gameplay looked intriguing.  Once it came to XBLA, I knew it was finally time to give it a whirl.

When the game starts out, the two Giana sisters (Cute and Punk, as they are called in the game) go through a vortex and end up in some other world.  There is no real written story to the game, which very much harkens back to platforming games of old.  The world the sisters enter will change when the sisters do.  Punk Giana has a much more fairytale-looking land, while Cute Giana has a bone-filled land of death.  The best part?  You switch sisters on the fly, and the world changes too.  It's really cool looking, and fun to see how all the scenery and monsters change with it.  To top that off, the music also changes, which is awesome.  Cute Giana has a more mellow tracks and Punk Giana gets heavy metal.  So seeing as each stage has 2 different looks and 2 different musical tracks, you can see why each stage takes a bit longer to load than you might expect.

As cool as that feature is, it is a platforming game, so we have to look at the controls.  The only problems I have are sometimes the jump feels a little floaty.  This makes landing on platforms and monsters a bit difficult at times.  Another thing I have trouble with is Punk Giana's dash.  I sometimes have trouble aiming it where and how I want, but I don't know if this is an issue in the game or with my controller.  Other than those two things, the controls are great.  They are responsive, which is necessary in any platforming game.  Once I figured out that Cute Giana's twirl can function as a double jump, it became easier to land where I wanted to.

There are a total of 23 levels of varying length.  There are 3 bosses, and each one is at the end of the level, not a level in and of itself.  Getting at least 4 stars on the boss stages will unlock that whole world for Hardcore Mode.  That is easier said than done.  In each level there are gems to collect, which can net you up to 3 of the 5 stars possible in a stage.  Thankfully, you don't have to collect every single last gem in a stage to get the 3 stars, so you don't have to obsess over it.  The other 2 stars are for not dying (too much) in a stage.  These are somewhat lenient, but you will likely need to redo some stages another time to get a better score.  You will need to get a good chunk of the stars, since those unlock the boss levels.  You only need about half (thanks loading screen tip!), and so far it hasn't been a problem for me.  If you go slow and look around, you should get enough gems for 2 stars, so just work on the not dying part!

Giana Sisters can get pretty difficult.  Getting hit once will kill you, unless you picked up a shield gem.  This can be problematic on the bosses and parts with enemies grouped close together (or off the screen).  Most times you will fall onto spikes or into acid.  Some parts require very steady movement and precise jumps, and it's not fun to get sent back for a slight mistake.  Some of the crazy frantic platforming reminds me of Legend of the Mystical Ninja back on the SNES (jumping and ducking on moving platforms).  The parts with quick switching are reminiscent of Ikaruga for the Gamecube.  Practice will make perfect in this game, so thankfully there are lots of checkpoints.

If you are after the achievements, be prepared to do each stage at least 4 times.  Once to complete it, once for score attack, once for time attack, and once on hardcore.  Completing it would be the easiest part, as score attack and time attack can be rigid, and require a fair amount of skill to complete for a medal.  As far as I can tell, to get a medal, you have to beat the target time or score.  There's no second place, just first.  It's a bit rigid for my taste, since even some of the earlier stages had me redo them, trying unsuccessfully to beat the score. Getting all the achievements will be for the top players only, since you only get 1 try for each stage in Hardcore.  There's even an Uber Hardcore, which has 1 life for the entire game.  That's just crazy.  Hats off to the few who can pull off such a legendary feat!

All in all, Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams is a good game.  My favorite part is the level and music changing when you swap sisters.  If you are a completionist, there is a lot of content here.  There's a good amount of fun and content even if you aren't, but you probably won't go through the stages in every mode.  It can get pretty crazy just navigating through the levels, but it was fun.  If you enjoyed platformers of yesteryear,  Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams should be right up your alley.

As a bonus, I'll give you some quick tips to make it easier:
1.  Take your time.  Unless you are doing Time Attack, you have as long as you need to get the stage done.  Take the time to look around.  It really helps to see where you are headed so you can plan a bit ahead.  Also, if you are getting jittery from jumping and dodging in the harder parts, pause the game and take a breather.  It might sound silly, but that helped me during a few of the more difficult parts.

2.  You can only dash or twirl before you touch the ground/kill a monster.  Not of each, just 1 period.  So look at which one you will need before just jumping and winging it.

3.  The twirl can function as a double jump.  It took me too long to realize this.  It makes landing on the small platforms so much easier.  Just hold the button down to slow your decent.  Remember you can switch while doing it and still be twirling.

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