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.
Sisters: Twisted Dreams is the product of an indie Kickstarter that aimed to
resurrect an old Commodore 64 ripoff of Super Mario Bros., The Great Giana
Sisters. While the Kickstarter was successfully funded and fans of the obscure
series may be happy with the final result, some design problems make Twisted
Dreams hard to recommend.
Forest Games' desire to stay true to its Commodore 64 inspiration is admirable,
but results in more annoyances than nostalgia (especially if you've never heard
of The Great Giana Sisters). One of the less-than-desirable throwbacks is the
virtually nonexistent story; the minimal opening cutscene is so cryptic that I
needed to read an online description to figure out what the hell was going on.
Another nod to the past is a soundtrack featuring songs from the original game
– but they are resurrected as god-awful Swedish heavy metal tunes and replayed
Forest Games put its own spin on the series with the ability to switch between
"Cute Giana" and "Punk Giana" on the fly, which is easily the most impressive
aspect of Twisted Dreams. This ability is more than just a character swap; the environments,
enemies, and music all change depending on which character is in control. The
fact that each environment effectively had to be made twice shows the
dedication the developer has to the source material, though the darker and less
colorful palate of the goth worlds that Cute Giana travels through made me
default to Punk Giana's bright and fluffy environment unless a specific
obstacle required me to switch back.
between characters also grants you different powers. Cute Giana's twirling
double jump helps compensate for some loose controls that make it easy to
over-jump platforms. Punk Giana's dash move is less helpful. It allows you to
shoot across the screen as a fireball, taking out enemies and destructible
blocks in your path. However, the direction you travel is inconsistent, making
it hard to tell whether you're going to snap to an enemy or ricochet off to a
cheap death. Other mechanics, such as finicky wall-jumping, also fail to live
up to the high standards set by modern platformers.
These minor control issues are compounded by the
fact that every obstacle results in a one-hit kill – another unwanted throwback
to '80s game design. Besides offering pitch-perfect controls, retro platformers
like Super Meat Boy and Spelunky make their relentlessly difficult levels fun
by keeping them short and minimizing timed sequences that force you to wait for
things like moving platforms or obstacles. Twisted Dreams' gigantic, sprawling
levels make no such concessions. They require copious exploration to complete,
and the countless ensuing deaths you endure on the way to the exit weigh
against you in your post-level rating. Twisted Dreams contains mostly generous
checkpoints, but I still ran into plenty of situations where they were spaced
frustratingly far apart, and Black Forest Games doesn't pull any punches in its
demanding level design.
when things are running smoothly, you spend all your time in Twisted Dreams scouring
levels for gems, often collecting well over 500 gems per stage. Collecting them
isn't just a matter of completionism; they factor into your star rating at the
end of each level. Fail to acquire enough stars on each stage and you won't
unlock the boss fight at the end of the world, dooming you to repeat levels in
search of more gems.
make matters worse, every level is a massive labyrinth of branching paths, some
of which can't be revisited. There is no map, which means you can't tell which
fork in the road circles back around and which leads on towards the exit. On
one level, I spent well over 30 minutes scouring my surroundings, but couldn't
get back to an earlier unexplored path and ended up with a two-star rating. I suppose
that creates replay value, but not the kind I'm looking for in an already-difficult
Dreams culminates in a final boss fight that is so maddeningly difficult it had
me laughing and cursing at the same time, and overcoming it delivers no payoff.
Neither do the additional modes or the harder difficulty settings (that not
even a masochist would enjoy).
appreciate the clever abilities and creative level design on display in Twisted
Dreams, but the one-hit deaths are unforgiving and frustrating given how long
each level is and how imprecise some of the core mechanics are. Even when Twisted
Dreams is firing on all cylinders, levels inevitably devolve into a tedious
hunt for gems. Some platformer fans may enjoy Twisted Dream's unabashed
adherence to '80s game design, but even as a fan of old-school platformers, my
enjoyment was hampered by some significant shortcomings.
Email the author Jeff Marchiafava, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.