For my third game during #PlatforMonth, I decided to pick up a platformer starring the gaming world's second favorite pair of super-powered Italian siblings, the Giana Sisters. While this series may have started off as a very blatant ripoff of Super Mario Bros, it has since grown into a distinct franchise with its own unique personality and mechanics. The fourth game in the series, Twisted Dreams, was the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2012.
Giana Sisters Twisted Dreams is a 2.5D platformer with a linear level structure. The game's signature mechanic is that you can switch your character between two forms, "Punk" and "Cute". Changing between these forms changes your character's abilities and also the behavior of objects in the environment.
- This game gets a lot of mileage out of its central switching mechanic. Switching between the two forms occurs instantaneously, seamlessly, and changes your move set, the visual aesthetic of the level, the background music, and the behavior of platforms and enemies. It somehow all feels very natural quickly and I found that it remained an enjoyable mechanic throughout the entire campaign.
- Twisted Dreams has a kickin' soundtrack. In Punk form, the music has rock instrumentation with electric guitars and in Cute form, the music takes on a more electronic synthy sound. Both sounded pretty good, but I found that when the situation didn't require a specific form, I would stay in the Punk form to listen to the shredding guitar.
- With how much the switching mechanic changes things, I thought navigating the levels and picking the right form could get confusing. Thankfully the game signals to you when it's time to change forms via color-coded gems that you collect throughout each level. This comes in handy with some of the very technical jumps that could require several mid-air transformations!
- Punk form's special move is an air dash and Cute form can twirl to glide through the air. Using both of these moves in tandem with each other works very smoothly once you get used to it.
- Being a challenging 2D platformer, I was very thankful that Twisted Dreams is very generous with checkpoints.
- This game is tough, but not in a way that ever feels discouraging (with the possible exception of the final boss). The game often asks you to pull off some very tricky maneuvers but the game gives you tools you need to succeed and doing so feels very satisfying.
- Twisted Dreams gives you a rating of 1 to 3 stars at the end of each level. Earning a certain number of stars is needed to unlock the later levels of the game. However, the scoring system that determines your star rating is very opaque. I had to look up how it worked in order to earn the last few stars I needed to unlock the final level.
- Like many modern 2D platformers, the game can be quite busy visually. I lost several lives due by missing a platform or crashing into spikes in areas where it was difficult to discern whether an object was in the foreground or background.
- The campaign is split into three "worlds" but there is no cohesive visual theme to separate one from the other. Levels tended to switch randomly from a forest, castle, cave, or beach settings regardless of which "world" they were in.
Other than a few minor issues that occasionally slowed me down, I blasted through Giana Sisters Twisted Dreams and had a great time doing it. I give this game a strong recommendation to fans of platformers like Rayman, Donkey Kong Country, or Mighty Switch Force.
Completion Time: 10 hours
This review was written as part of the Chic Pixel community's #PlatforMonth event. For more info about their events, check out this page: Community Game-Along
For the majority of my time playing through Giana Sisters Twisted Dreams, I was convinced that I was alternating between a "punk" sister and a "cute" sister (i.e. two different characters). It turns out that you're only playing as one sister who changes her appearance; the other titular Giana sister is the character you are trying to rescue from the villain.