By – Steven Smith

Gianna

On the surface, Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams is a basic puzzle platformer. After a mere two minutes of plot, you’re running and jumping through dozens of linear worlds, collecting diamonds and pouncing on the heads of mindless enemies along the way. It seems simple, but within the first hour I realized just how complex the team at Black Forest Games made this classic formula. The game starts with Giana and Maria sitting in bed, when an evil vortex comes along and sucks Maria into the nightmare world and Giana jumps in to save her. The first level is somewhat of a tutorial complete with helpful billboards to show you the controls, not that you really need a lot of help at the start. There are 6 buttons used in the game; Left, Right, Jump, Duck, Special Move and Change World. The first four should be basic for any platformer fan. The last two are where the game really shines.

Giana starts in a nightmarish world which is brown and gloomy and filled with evil looking trees and old battered shacks. Skulls, coffins and gravestones litter the landscape, and in the middle of it all is Cute Giana with her blond hair and bright blue dress to counter the colorless world around her. The music is also quite sweet to match her personality. Even Giana’s special move reflects that this girl does not belong in the environment. She jumps up into the air and twirls, like someone who hasn’t a care in the world. This twirling motion also slows her descent making it very useful for crossing wide chasms.

Giana

When you push the Change World button everything on the screen transforms. The nightmare becomes a bright and colorful dream world. Gnarled and ugly trees morph into lively pines. Demonic imps who block your way are now brightly colored owls. Most important is that Giana also changes, into Punk Giana. With red hair and matching dress, she is as out of place in this beautiful world as Cute Giana was in the nightmare one. The music is the exact same piece only now it is being performed by the Swedish metal group Machinae Supremacy. To go with this new attitude Giana has a different special move. Instead of twirling she transforms into a ball of fire and launches herself a short distance in any direction. This fireball attack is good for killing owls, busting through brick walls and for getting to places that are too high for normal jumping.

Even though this is a 2D platformer, both the characters and the world are fully three dimensional. There was a lot of attention given to the foreground and background elements of the game.  Many times throughout the game I would stop to look at the scenery. Then I would change worlds back and forth just to see the morphing animations. I was however disappointed in some places that I couldn’t leave the path and explore these other areas that I was seeing.  I should warn you that Twisted Dreams is fairly difficult. The first few levels are easy enough to let you get comfortable with the controls and mechanics. After that the difficulty level ramps up. You’ll find doors that are closed in one world but open in the other, as well as platforms and spikes that only exist in one world. This means you’ll have to be aware of all the elements on the screen in both worlds so that you can navigate the level. Then, just when you feel you have all the moves figured out, the game introduces some new mechanic that you will need to master to continue.

Giana

Thankfully Giana has unlimited lives. One hit by an enemy or a spike will kill her. There is a shield you can get that will protect you once, though they seem to be limited to one or two per level. As you progress through each level you will come across checkpoints, and when you die you respawn at the checkpoint rather than the very beginning of the level. Be warned that the game doesn’t save your progress at checkpoints. I made the mistake of quitting part way through a level and when I came back I had to play that level again from the very beginning.

In addition to just making it through the level alive, you’ll also need to collect diamonds found along the way. They come in three colors: yellow, red and blue. Yellow diamonds can only be picked up by Sweet Giana, red are only for Punk Giana, and blue are available to either one. This presents a series of challenges as there are many times when diamonds are placed in an area where it is not very safe to change worlds. There are many secret rooms and passages that can be found which hold caches of diamonds, and in some levels you can find giant diamonds. Collecting these will unlock game art that can be viewed in the game menu.

Giana

At the end of each level the game will give you a score of 1 to 5 stars. The more diamonds you collect and the fewer times you die, the higher your score. There are three boss levels in the game and each is initially locked. When you get to a boss, the game will count your stars and if you have enough it unlocks the level. If you are short on stars then you’ll need to go back to earlier levels and replay them to try to get a better score. Don’t stress too much about having to replay levels over and over again however, you just need an average score of 3 stars or higher.

The main game is played as Adventure mode, and as you progress in the game you also start unlocking some of the bonus modes. The first two available are Time Attack and Score Attack. Time Attack mode lets you speedrun any of the previously completed levels. Don’t stop to collect diamonds or to reach secret areas, just get to the end as quickly as you can. In Score Attack you earn points for collecting diamonds and defeating enemies. There are preset times and scores for you to try and beat in these modes. If you finish the game with at least 4 stars in each of the three boss levels you’ll unlock Hardcore mode. This is exactly the same as Adventure Mode except there are no checkpoints, so when you die you start over from the beginning of the level.

Giana

Finishing every level in Hardcore mode unlocks Uber Hardcore Mode. In this mode when you die you start the whole game over from the very beginning of level 1. Anyone who can complete all 23 levels in Uber Hardcore mode can lay claim to some pretty hefty bragging rights!  From the technical side it is clear that Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams is a PC game that was actually developed for the PC. It natively supports DirectX 9, 10 & 11, and offers screen resolutions for both standard and widescreen monitors. The keyboard controls are fully mappable and this is mostly how I played. If you prefer a gamepad the Xbox controller is supported as the default, although you can use any controller you want.

Is It Worth Your Money?

The only negative I found in the game was how frustratingly difficult it can be at times. Other than that, it is everything a puzzle platformer should be. If all you want is some mindless game to kill time then I would suggest you skip this one. However, if your love for gaming  includes titles like: Commander Keen, Super Mario Brothers, Sonic the Hedgehog or Donkey Kong Country then this game is well worth the $15.

Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams Technical Summary

Time Played – 6 Hours

Widescreen Support – Yes

Resolution Played – 1280 x 1024

FOV Slider – No

5.1 Audio Support – Yes

Control Scheme – Keyboard, Gamepad

DRM – None (If purchased through GOG)

System Specs – Vista, GeForce 9800, Intel Core 2 Duo @ 2.8GHz, 8GB RAM

Game Acquisition Method – Review Copy

Demo – Yes

Availability – Steam, Gamers Gate, GOG

Bugs/Crashes Encountered – None

Saved Game Location – Users\(username)\Documents\Giana Sisters

 

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  • Bilal Waraich

    i dont get why the FOV slider part is even on the list at the end.. since FOV in a 2D platformer is basically a non issue

    • Adam Ames

      FOV is part of our new items for the Technical Summary. Yes, we know some do not matter or not applicable to the game, but for the sake of uniformity. We know most indies do not have 5.1 audio support, but we list that anyway.

  • Philski

    Man I totally looooooove this game! There are a ton of titles out there that try to ape the style of 16 bit classics but not too many of them really capture the magic of what made some of those games so great. This one has that sort of elegant simplicity – Only a handful of abilities but the level design is constantly evolving in really clever ways that push you to combine those abilities and get more effective with them over time. Plus it has that classic addictiveness of trying to find all the secret little passages and gems. Perfectly done throwback stuff!

    • Philski

      AND THE SOUNDTRACK HOW COULD I FORGET THE SOUNDTRACK AAAAAAARGH 21/10 GAME OF FOREVER

    • Steven S

      Just when I thought I had a handle on the special moves and the world switches they introduce the bookshelves, and once I get the hang of those here come the trampolines. It just kept evolving! Now we have the Holloween and Christmas levels and it’s just such a joy to play.

  • Gary McLean

    Steam Holiday sales starts really soon (today, maybe?). Hopefully this game goes on sale.