The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Don’t listen to those egghead astrophysicists who tell you that the
cosmos is full of wondrous marvels. One thing I learned from video games
years ago is that space is only filled with hideous creatures, perilous
worlds, and weapon upgrades. Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet reinforces
these lessons constantly as it follows the formula for exploration
popularized by Metroid and carried on by the likes of Castlevania and
Guiding a tiny spacecraft through nightmarish
passages, you gain new tools, blast through hostile alien life, and
uncover a sprawling map. I loved observing the bizarre areas and
enemies, and the confrontations with the huge bosses are intense and
entertaining. The team at Fuel Cell nails these fundamentals, and the
fascinating art direction keeps the adventure stylish from beginning to
end. Don’t be fooled by the fact that this is a downloadable title;
beating the game will take at least a few hours, and even more if you’re
driven to uncover the entire map.
While the game gets the basics
right, it stumbles on delivering a satisfying sense of progression. The
weapons – like the buzzsaw and telekinetic beam – are unconventional and
interesting, but most of these accessories function primarily as keys
to open particular doors. You need missiles to open gates blocking parts
of the map, lightning to open others, and so forth. They also have
combat applications, but most of the weapons feel like pegs designed to
fit into specific holes. Even if your ship is packed with weapons, they
don’t make you feel powerful because they don’t stack or work together –
you always use them independently.
This segregation of weaponry
wouldn’t be a problem if they improved along the way. Apart from your
shields and main gun, however, none of your abilities can be upgraded.
Your buzzsaw never gets stronger, or bigger, or longer, and you won’t
find any mobility powers that improve your ability to navigate the
environment. This also means that shield and gun upgrades are the only
worthwhile trinkets to seek out on the map, though you can go out of
your way to collect a bunch of concept art highlighting the striking
Outside of the campaign, you can also try the four-player Lantern Run mode, where your group tries to outrun a monster while carting around a glowing object. While it's a cool concept for co-op, the real fun lies in tackling the single-player mission.
I don’t mean to imply that Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet
isn’t fun or well-made, but it isn't as full-bodied an experience as
exploring Zebes or Dracula’s castle. I wanted more goals to pursue, and
more ways to showcase my growing power. In the absence of another great
game in the vein of Super Metroid or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night,
ITSP deftly scratches the itch that many gamers have for this breed of
2D exploration and combat. It’s worth playing for any fan of the genre,
but it isn’t the brightest star in the sky.
Email the author Joe Juba, or follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Game Informer.