Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams is one of the first games to be released after a successful Kickstarter campaign onto the XBLA platform. Does this colourful and energetic platformer have what it takes to stand at the top, or should you be asking the developers for a refund?
Giana Sisters doesn’t offer much in terms of story: one of the sisters gets sucked into another dimension, and her sister jumps in right after her. By jumping through the vortex, you enter a world filled with bad guys to jump on, walls to jump off, and carefully timed puzzles. On paper, it doesn’t offer much more compared to your standard platformer; however, Giana Sisters has a twist – you can switch between the two sisters, who are in two different dimensions. Each dimension has minor differences in level design which will allow you to reach places which would otherwise remain unreachable, and on top of that, each sister has a unique ability that can be used to help you traverse the level.
The mechanic which allows you to switch between sisters with the push of just the right trigger is intuitive, works seamlessly within the game, and can offer some pretty clever puzzles. Unfortunately, I found the platforming and boss fights more frustrating than clever more often than not. The first few levels are much more forgiving; plenty of checkpoints are to be found, and the majority of the puzzles don’t feel overly challenging. This quickly changes as the game progresses. Checkpoints become scarcer, and platforming becomes much less forgiving, often forcing you to repeat long and tedious parts of the level many times until you get it perfectly right. This wouldn’t be a problem if the levels were shorter. Compare Giana Sisters to Super Meat Boy: SMB is very unforgiving, but its fast pace and short levels make it good – you want to try it over and over again until you get it right. Levels in Giana Sisters can last up to 15 or even 20 minutes, and with only a few checkpoints, the game quickly becomes more frustrating than entertaining. This is a real shame, especially since Giana Sisters is such a pretty game. It’s colourful and bright in one dimension and darker in the other. The musical score also deserves a mention, as the different tracks for each dimension really do add to the immersion of the game.
Whilst the controls are fine for a platformer, I always seemed to have a bit of trouble when the game required more precise movement. The characters often feel too floaty and light. This often resulted in me overshooting a jump or falling off an edge and therefore restarting from the last checkpoint.
Giana Sisters is definitely not as refined or polished as it could be. The precision of the control could use some work, and the levels need to be reworked into smaller, bite-size chunks – as well as the difficulty. It’s not that the game itself is difficult (except towards the very end) but it has random spikes which make for a very uneven experience. It starts off easy, then gets a bit more difficult, then very difficult, only to become easy again and so on.
Overall, Giana Sisters is a beautiful platformer with some clever ideas. Unfortunately, it’s more frustrating than entertaining more often than not, and not in a good way. The simple fact is that there are better platformers out there for the same price or less. Unless you’ve already backed the project or are a hardcore platformer fan, I can’t really recommend the game.