Can a new take on an old Commodore 64 title garnish much life? Come find out.
If you didn't know already, Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams is a remake of an old Commodore 64 title that featured the same sis's in a more old-school Mario style of play. Developer Black Forest Games has decided to resurrect the old girl(s) with new style, personalities and ways of moving around. Add the element of collecting gems and you have yourself a deeper game than the original could have ever expected to be.
Deeper doesn't necessarily mean better, though.
Before we get into the negatives, let's talk positives. The level design by Black Forest Games is breathtaking. Large environments that team with life and colorful backdrops that show the amount of dedication they put into this makes this game visually appealing. This wasn't simply a remake of an old game with just a few bells and whistles; this was a train horn of a whistle. The environments are very deep, as you have active elements in the foreground and background that, while not directly affecting you, add more flavor to the level design mix. For example, when you're nearing the end of the first act, you are deep in caves where large crystals grow out of the ground. Each set of crystal shines dangerously in the very well shaded and lit areas. It's pretty nice stuff for an indie game.
In addition to the visuals, they change instantly when you switch back from good sister to punk sister. So, you have more of a cutesy element to the punk sister, while the environment turns psychotic and mean with the cute sister. It's just as I put it and it reminds you that you're playing a game with 'Twisted Dreams' in the title. The instant change just simply isn't a stop and swap motion, as the flowers with the punk sister will regress into the ground and be replaced by dead, dreadful elements when you switch to the cute sister. Again, visually it's a breathtaking game that had a lot of time put into how it looked and felt.
Having said that, there is a purpose for you to switch between sisters. The cute sister has delicate abilities that will get you through certain obstacles in the game. Her main power is a twirling ballerina jump that allows her to float gently down through the air. This helps when you need to maneuver a descent through a cave containing deadly sharp crystals. The opposite side of that is the punk sister has kind of an explosive charge that allows her to bounce off walls and through enemies. These movements are important because the levels in Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams call for one of the sisters to use her powers to get through certain places. It also is useful when only one sister can access certain parts of levels that are deemed for her dream. So, when you see a ghosted out platform that you can't jump on then you have to switch over to the other sister (sometimes in mid jump) to get that platform to appear. It's clever level design, and it gives purpose for each sister, but it's not perfect.
The imperfections in Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams lies within the daunting level design that you participate in that affects your progress. While you won't have an issue at the beginning of the game, you'll soon find plenty of 'what the f***' moments as you progress towards the end of the first act. For example, towards the end of the tour in the caves, you're asked to avoid moving crystals while jumping on moving platforms that are heading towards another set of crystals waiting to impale you. This is on top of avoiding enemies and trying to find the right platform to jump onto. There is just so much chaos going on that you'll certainly curse yourself over and over again for not making it through the area. I know I did a fair share of cussing at this game.
What Black Forest Games does to try and alleviate the frustration is give you checkpoints and give you infinite amount of lives (at least in the first run through). The checkpoints are fine, but the infinite lives sometimes remind you that you need an infinite amount of lives to survive the game. No one wants that type of reminder over and over again. Towards the end of the first act, my main goal was just to find a checkpoint. I didn't care too much about gems or trying to be a completionist, I just wanted to get through the game.
Sadly, it's extremely vital that you collect the gems, as the more gems you collect then the better star rating you receive at the end of each level. The better gems/stars and the more unlockables (such as boss levels) you gain to progress through the game. So, in short, you need the gems to get through to the boss levels. Without them you will be forced to go back through your levels. It's kind of like a sick game of Angry Birds.
Anyway, the game becomes so damn difficult that it is nearly unplayable at times. For example, the first boss fight, with a giant two-headed worm, will leave you having to play the level over and over again. You basically have to avoid the worm while trying to impale it with a horizontally (under the ground) moving spike machine. That's your only offense towards this thing, other than avoiding it. It's so incredibly difficult for a first boss.
I do give this game credit for paying homage to the original (and early PC games in general), as it does have a sense of purpose through collection. It's a pretty platformer that doesn't try to be anything more than it originally was in the past. On the flip side to that token, it needed to be a bit more friendlier with level design and difficulty. Difficulty should be gauged on a gradual scale that prepares you for upcoming obstacles and bad guys. Giana Sisters just throws you literally into a difficult situation without much preparation, which gives birth to frustration. Because of that alone, it's tough to fully recommend this title because of the impending frustration that gamers will run into with it. On top of that point, there are also two additional difficult levels that you have to unlock by beating the first game. I couldn't imagine this game being any harder, but apparently it does get that way for some rare gamers who can achieve the goals it asks for them to meet. I certainly didn't get close to unlocking those levels, but even if I did I'm not sure I would partake in them.
To the summary…