by Christopher Coke
reviewed on PC
Level Design (cntd)
Like many other platformers of its kind, the game is split into several worlds consisting of multiple levels. Throughout these levels are dream crystals that one or both sisters can collect. Ostensibly these offer no real purpose, but they do guide you to areas and challenges that would otherwise be missed. This is also where a big piece of the re-playability comes in, as Black Forest Games has expertly hidden these gems beyond where my mere mortal mind could find or fat fingers access. Getting to the end of each level and finding that I had missed upwards of fifty crystals was a shocking but motivating experience that drove me to replay World 1 zones multiple times through.
Throughout the game, the player completes many levels across several different worlds, each culminating in an excellently fitting boss battle. For example, at the end of the first world – the fairy-tale/wasting forest described before – the player encounters Hansel and Gretel. Rather than pit you against two chubby witch-baits, however, Twisted Dreams presents you with a two-headed worm with a taste for flesh instead of candy. These types of battles require excellent timing to complete successfully and often hinge on switching sisters at exactly the right moment to inflict damage.
All is Well That Ends Well...?
For as an enjoyable an experience as it is, Twisted Dreams isn’t without its stumbles. Frustratingly difficult is an apt descriptor at several points in the game where absolute precision is necessary to proceed. The developers have wisely chose to allow instant and infinite respawns, so death is never really punishing, but it isn’t really fun either. In one case, the player is tasked with fireballing through a vertical tunnel and switching sisters midway through to prevent rocketing far off into the world below. While this is certainly possible, it also required holding certain buttons while pressing others at just the right moment, making for a cramp inducing game of hand-Twister. Another minor irritation was any area that involved swimming. While the girls can swim to the surface, they cannot dive, making each underwater sequence feel monotonous and slow.
The narrative is also sorely lacking. The game explains itself in a very brief and non-elaborative cut scene at the start of the game. In essence, it is this: A crystal floated in the window one night and sucked the girls into a portal. Level one! It feels like the developers expected players to come into the game with background knowledge many simply will not have.
Technically, the game is well functioning but I did crash at least once a play session. Most often the screen would simply go black while the sound continued to play, forcing me to close the game via the task manager. At one point, I got stuck in a crash loop that I only skirted by playing through the previous level before the crash. Controller support is built in and my Xbox 360 controller only malfunctioned once, which was easily fixed by restarting the game.
The Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams raised over $186,000 during its Kickstarter campaign. Looking at the quality of the end product, I am tempted to call it a Kickstarter Success Story. The game definitely honors the source material and, presumably, the six thousand fans who donated to see it made. More importantly, it shows that games like this don’t need big publishers or millions of dollars to be a whole lot of fun.
From an excellent art style, to innovative yet retrospective level design, Twisted Dreams is a game worth playing. You will jump like Mario, transform like Trine, and gather diamonds like an enemy-less Lode Runner. And all of this will happen in such a well put together package that smaller, but no less important elements, like sound design and animation and background detail, will fade into the periphery of the larger whole. That in itself is a testament to how well executed all of these moving parts really are. Hiccups and frustrations aside, Black Forest Games’ take on the Giana Sisters deserves your time.
Excellent level design, tight controls, wonderful audio and fun, addicting gameplay.
Can be frustratingly difficult at times, several technical stumbles, unexplained story.