Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams

Year: 2013
Platform: Xbox 360
Genre: Platform
Review Date: 4/20/13
Rating: ***

An interesting and enjoyable remake of a notorious "Super Mario Bros." clone from 1987. In this, one of the Giana sisters gets sucked into an alternate dimension, and the other one follows her in an attempt to rescue her. It's a simple and straight forward platformer that has you traversing 26 different levels and fighting several boss monsters, similar to the "Sonic The Hedgehog" formula. The main gimmick is that there are two different realities that you can switch between on the fly, and your character alternates between "cute" and "punk" versions of herself. The "cute" sister can perform a twirl, which allows her to float and slow her descent, while the "punk" sister can perform a dashing fireball attack to break through barriers and defeat lesser enemies. The transformation between worlds is quick and fluid, and the music dynamically morphs as well.

The game looks great, with a colorful palette and lavish art direction, but the levels lack variety and all start to look the same rather quickly. There's also very little variation in enemies, as they mostly boil down to red, blue, and green versions of the same creature. Other enemies appear in later levels, which seriously increases the difficulty. Chris Hülsbeck's music score is fantastic, and was the main reason I decided to pick up the game. The controls are simple and responsive, and the whole thing plays out like an old school platformer. While load times between levels are excruciatingly long, retries are instantaneous when you get sent back to a previous checkpoint. That makes the trial-and-error aspect of the game much more bearable.

Despite having infinite lives and liberal checkpoints, the game is HARD. Early levels start out easy enough, allowing you to learn the system and hone your skills, but around the half-way mark, the difficulty ramps up to an unreasonable degree. (particularly with the introduction of ghosts). Boss encounters are infuriating, and I nearly gave up on the game after the first one. Unlocked levels provide some replay value as there are numerous hidden paths and gems to collect, which can be fun until the later levels. Overall, a delightfully entertaining and enjoyable game - for the first few hours, at least.