Twenty-four years later, Black Forest Games has released a completely renovated title that players could easily mistake for something completely different. Does this Giana Sisters title stand out from the rest or is it just another clone?
The swap-out system works by allowing players to switch between two different versions of the older Giana sister, whose first name is also Giana… it’s a Mario Bros. thing. While in Giana’s default light mode, for lack of a better word, players will see the world as a beautiful sunny place with bright colors and somewhat cuter enemies. Giana’s dark mode will take things and spin them on their heads, causing the scenery to change drastically into something from the imagination of Tim Burton. Flowers will wilt, grass will die, enemies will have a more menacing look and darkness takes over.
While the swap-out gives players a refreshing look at otherwise repetitive levels, the system is actually designed for two specific things. First it will alter the environment, either causing pathways to appear or walls to disappear, which is essential to move past certain obstacles in the game. Secondly swapping out is essential for players looking to collect as many crystals as possible. There are three different colors of crystals in the game; the blue crystals are neutral and can be obtained by either version of Giana, while the yellow can only be obtained in light mode and red in dark mode.
StoryThe story of Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams is about as basic as it comes. The younger sister, whose name is Maria, has been sucked into the dream world and it’s up to Giana to rescue her. Platformers are not exactly known for their complex stories so it’s strong enough to hold up in this genre but would most definitely get a bottom level score in any other. The story doesn’t really evolve as the game progresses and features a bad after taste upon it’s completion but the game is for players looking for the thrill of running and jumping through an obstacle course of platforms.
When it comes to platforming titles, it’s absolutely essential to have a quality control scheme. Button configurations are not usually a problem as few of them are usually used outside of the directional pad and an action button but character response is something that a lot of platformers lack. Giana Sisters does a fairly good job at making the controls tight and responsive.
On top of regular commands, Giana has the ability to do certain moves based on what mode she’s currently in. These range from dashing and bouncing off walls and enemies to spinning into the air with a slow descent, similar to that of Princess Peach in her rare playable appearances in Mario titles.
The main thing is that the controls are well created. Giana doesn’t dash around at light speed or jerk too hard when pushed in a different direction. These are the types of things that make landing on that tiny platform above a pitfall impossible on lesser titles and really play a vital role in later puzzles where changing forms rapidly through other movements is required to succeed.
If there’s one thing that really sells the game once you pick up the controller it’s the beautifully designed visuals. Featuring a lush, exotic forest setting, Giana sisters delivers a lot of the classic beauty that seems to be absent from a lot of today’s dark and gritty titles. That being said, there also exists a darker version of the world spawned from Giana’s evil mode that gives a completely opposite contrast to the original world. Changing from one mode to the other allows players to view every level in two completely separate ways.
Despite this visually stimulating experience, the overall gameplay can become frustrating at times, especially during later levels when more complex obstacle courses contain enough part to blur the line between what’s in the background and foreground. This is another issue that a lot of platformers face. Giana Sister’s most impressive feature is also the reason for one of the biggest issues the game faces.
When it really boils down to it, Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams is a quality take on a series no one thought would ever seen the light of day again. Impressive visuals and a solid control scheme, combined with the unique swap-out system are dulled, albeit only partially, by a repetitive level scheme and a few overly confusing background/foreground issues.
A copy of the game was provided to Gaming Illustrated for the purpose of this review.