Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams

Developer: Black Forest Games
Publisher: Black Forest Games
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360

Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams is a retro-style platformer developed by Black Forest Games for PC, PSN and XBLA. The successor to Great Giana Sisters for the Commodore 64, and more recently Giana Sisters DS, the protagonists are now in their teenage years.

One of the sisters, Maria, is abducted to the Dream World by a mysterious portal, so Giana follows her into the alternate world to save her. As Giana is traveling through her dreams, she is able to transform her personality and therefore her surroundings. There are two personas available for Giana: “cute” (blonde hair, blue eyes, spins around like a ballerina to attack) and “punk” (red hair, pink eyes, has an awesome flame-dash attack).

It’s possible to transform from one to the other at any point, as it allows access to certain areas of each level. For instance, some gates will only open to “cute” Giana, and it’s necessary to use the punk’s dash attack to scramble up walls. It feels really awesome when you manage to seamlessly integrate a transition; say by attacking a bunch of enemies with the punk then switching mid-air to the other persona to glide over to the next platform.

Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams looks great. Each world is interesting to look at, the hand-painted backgrounds are incredibly detailed and the enemies are varied. I really like the way the setting visibly alters as your persona changes; the cute persona calls for more menacing surroundings, perhaps due to her vulnerability, and the world becomes much sweeter with the transformation to punk. I love how the world transforms before your eyes, with tree branches gnarling and twisting into menacing-looking oddities and a once-nasty dragon morphing into a fluffy owl. 

Audio-wise it’s great, with catchy (albeit repetitive) tunes coursing through each different level. Also, with the change from cute to punk the music gets a bit of a rock edge, with a few electric guitars thrown in to the original melody. The original soundtrack was composed by Chris Hülsbeck, and then was converted by Swedish metal band Machinae Supremacy.

In terms of gameplay, Twisted Dreams feels very much like classic platform titles we were used to back in the 80s and 90s. It’s not easy, being filled with elaborate puzzles requiring precise and fluid transitions from punk to cutie, with the added bonus of one-hit-kills from enemies and pitfalls. It’s one of those games that makes you scream at the screen, and throw your controller to one side obnoxiously, before succumbing to the addiction and continuing to play until you’ve mastered it. Once you’re good though, you feel like some kind of god.

Sadly the whole experience becomes rather repetitive after a while. Progressing through the levels you get a sense of deja vu as well as the intended nostalgia, with the different worlds looking a little too familiar. There are currently 23 levels included in the game, with DLC to come in the near future. While there is the potential for replay-value, with each level hiding near-impossible secret locations to discover, sometimes it feels so difficult you just want to get the hell out of there.

Overall, it’s an impressive game; especially considering it was funded by the public, with Black Forest Games using Kickstarter to raise $190,000 to develop and publish the title ($40,000 more than their intended goal). Priced very reasonably at $14.99, Twisted Dreams provides a nostalgic platformer, which blends classic gameplay styles with next-gen polish and graphics. It may be throwing-my-laptop-at-the-wall infuriating at times, but it’s a pleasant change from the generic FPS blockbusters that grace our consoles year after year.

Rating: 4/5