After successful Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight campaigns, Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams made its way to the PC. However, with a pathetic graphics card, and a demo that struggled to run, I decided to sit this one out until it came to consoles. Now it’s here to finally justify whether it was worth the wait.
As the title suggests, Giana Sisters follows the story of two sisters. Giana must rescue her sister, Maria, who was captured by a dragon. Setting out in a world of dreams, she can take two forms. These forms permeate not only gameplay, but visuals. The blond-haired “Cute” Giana has the ability to twirl like a helicopter, while the crimson-haired “Punk” Giana can propel herself like a rocket. Contrastingly, Cute Giana’s world favors a spooky form, while Punk Giana’s is more natural and vibrant. The music also instantaneously transforms. Cute Giana’s favors melodic tunes, whereas Punk Giana’s craves a more metal-infused influence.
With the ability to shift phases at any time, the entire experience changes. Initially, this is very enjoyable. The two mechanics can be combined to form some challenging platforming, and the scenery is pretty on the eyes. You’ll spend time admiring the way the world transforms as leafy trees and flowers wither and die. However, it doesn’t take long for that level of enjoyment to diminish.
Billed as an old school platformer, it meanders in that vein to a fault. Those two main gameplay mechanics are introduced right off the bat. From there, the games twenty or so levels do a serviceable job of challenging you, but the mechanics themselves never evolve. Nor are any new mechanics added. This could have been overlooked had the level design and environments kept me intrigued, but even they got a bit boring. There were a couple standout moments, like the levels that toyed with the duality of fire and ice, or the one that took a clockwork inspiration, but other than that, the forest and castle motifs far overstayed their welcome. As a huge platformer fan, my enjoyment and will to play is often more-so governed by the creative nature of the presentation than the actual gameplay, so this lack of variation was a bit disappointing.
Difficulty spikes also often reared their ugly head. On a few occasions, checkpoints were my greatest enemy. I’d make it past a difficult section, only to die on a easy part and find myself back at the start. This was often the result of nebulous platforming and hazards. On some occasions it was difficult to tell which dimension a platform was in. Other times, hazards which provided minor visual cues would be missed entirely. This trial and error created quite a bit of tedium. With fairly lengthy levels, I found myself often burnt out. One night – with work looming in the morning – I found myself stuck on the final boss. After what was probably nearly an hour of struggling with him – in addition to the already thirty minutes of making it through the level to him – at my wit’s end, I had to admit defeat. The next day I had to trudge back through the level, and deal with that asshole of a dragon again until I finally got lucky enough to persevere. Even then, I didn’t feel that great; I just felt relieved. I was freed from my burden. With time trial modes and an even tougher difficulty with no checkpoints, I don’t see why anyone would subject themselves to that much torture.
The game also has some pretty glaring technical issues. The amount of screen tearing is distractingly atrocious, especially toward the end. It’s a shame, as it really undermines what could have been a decent experience. While I can’t speak for the performance on other platforms, adding these inexcusable issues to an already large amount of questionable design choices makes it hard for me to love this game as much as I would have hoped.
That’s not to say it’s a bad game by any means. If you’re intrigued by the visuals or the premise, there is fun to be had. While I craved more variation with the visuals, they underlying art direction was nice. The few mechanics were sound. And even though I despised some of the bosses, they were interesting. Just know that what you see is what you get.
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- Visuals and art direction are nice.
- Phase shifting aids both gameplay and presentation.
- Mechanics never evolve.
- Environments often feel too similar.
- Difficulty spikes, especially boss battles, can be frustrating.
- Screen tearing runs rampant.