Review: Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams (PS3)

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Title: Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams
Format: PlayStation Network Download (1.7 GB)
Release Date: June 18, 2013
Publisher: Black Forest Games
Developer: Black Forest Games
Price: $14.99
ESRB Rating: E
Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams is also available on Xbox Live Arcade and PC.
The PlayStation Network version was used for this review.

Gameplay:
The game opens with two girls playing on a bed. One is sucked into a dimensional rift….or something…and the other jumps in after her. Then the game begins, a platformer with two parallel dimensions. I assume from the opening that one is one sister and the other is the other sister, right? Cause if not then the story is very confused from the beginning.

The developer can not assume anyone has played the game before. I have never heard of Giana or her sister ever. I have been gaming on home consoles for 15 years and played in arcades all through the 80s and 90s. Apparently this character existed but I missed her entirely. Modes are Adventure, Score Attack, Time Attack, Hardcore,and über Hardcore. Twirling automatically switches to the cute dimension. From beneath a platform one can jump directly UP to the platform above. Jumping directly on top of an enemy defeats them but that’s traditional play. The levels begin with the DARKSIDE and the first level is quite simple as tutorials go. I could go on and on in detail but that would be tiresome…suffice to say that the tutorial ramps up. How’s that for the laziest spoiler freeness ever? Eventually you reach the point where you can go between dimensions to avoid or thwart obstacles.

What’s interesting is that the girls seem to be in each others respective dimensions. The pretty girl in the pretty dress is in the DARK WORLD while the HARDCORE girl is in Prettyland. The gathering of jewels is rote. They are jewel-y. Gather them. Early on there seem to be moments when it matters not which dimension you choose to inhabit. The changes are purely artistic. It is into the game just a little more that the dimension-changing-while-twirling becomes interesting.

Frankly I thought the dimension shifting was fun, if gimmicky. The problems and my personal frustrations emerge when I have to shift while twirling a character and the dimension shifts when I did not want it to. It makes me feel like I am not in control of my gem-collecting. Or sister-saving? I am told there is a story. I am told that. I was also told many things about  JD Salinger’s A Perfect Day For Bananafish. I don’t believe them either.

The gameplay and, for me, convoluted mechanics ramp up to such a degree that at about level four I was confused, frustrated and helpless. There are nineteen levels I can’t even touch. But more about that in my conclusion.

Visuals:
I think the game looks great. It is miles and miles beyond what Black Forest Games did for their work on the port of ArcaniA: The Complete Tale from PC to PS3. Both dimensions are gorgeous and the animations are on par with the best downloadable titles on PSN.

Audio:
Much I think has been made of the music switching between the two dimensions. While it IS technologically impressive that the versions of the music change from one version to the other instantly with the gamer’s touch, the differences between the two versions is actually unimpressive. I am certain much care and effort went into scoring the two versions but they are just too close musically to care about during gameplay. Maybe if one had vocals and the other didn’t, maybe if one was orchestral and operatic and the other was death metal it would work better and bring more attention to its accomplishment. But not this. It just does not go far enough.

Is this a fair critique? Only as far as Black Forest Games goes to talk it up. But if a developer goes to the point of naming bands and artists involved in scoring the game and talks about the intent to make the scores very different yet all we get is a score that sounds like a TV show theme from the 70s on one hand and then the same theme from a TV show in the early 90s on the other…they are open for either confirmation or criticism on that point. They simply did not go far enough musically to deliver.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single player only.

Conclusion:
It’s a fair criticism of this critique to ask, “Why is the reviewer talking about the music?! Doesn’t he have enough GAME to talk about?”

There is plenty of game and game mechanics and game control and game dynamics to discuss. Unfortunately, dear reader, this game ramps up the difficulty so quickly and to such a degree that I was unable and incapable of finishing it. Is this a failure of me as a gamer or of the developers in delivering a playable game?

I consider myself a capable, average gamer. I like to come home from work and relax and unwind when a platformer/puzzler is my game of choice. I have been known to resort to Peggle. But I can see myself settling in to a good time playing Giana Sister: Twisted Dreams if it was playable for me as well as the supermaniacs posting 12 minute speed runs of this game on YouTube. I know they are there because the game’s producer,the talented and helpful Vladimir Ignatov, sent me the link!

I also know this game was funded in large part by Giana enthusiasts on a crowd-funding site. To those folks I say, “Please! Ignore my stupefaction and idiocy and if for some reason you have yet to buy the game, BUY IT ALREADY!”

If, however, you are more like I am then do not lose hope! Black Forest Games is running a beta for easy mode as you read this. Soon a patch will appear making it possible for us lame-o gamers to play without turning red or hitting ourselves with hammers.

Score:
7.0

Written by Keith Dunn-Fernández

Keith Dunn-Fernández

An actor/director and more lucratively an Administrative Assistant at a small paper company in NYC, Keith loves his games. And he loves to write. And he is a bit of a sarcasmo.

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