Publisher: Black Forest Games
Developer: Black Forest Games
The legality of The Great Giana Sisters still eludes me… It was (but no longer is) a Super Mario Brothers clone released in the late 80s for every platform other than NES. Apparently Nintendo never actually sued the creators, Time Warp and Rainbow Arts, instead opting to threaten sue-age if they didn’t pull the game from stores shelves. Of course there’s no such thing as bad publicity and the legal run-in with Nintendo actually helped give the Great Giana Sisters an almost mythical status. A rarity. And because it couldn’t legally be sold, it was pirated like a mofo knowing there would be no consequence from the developer/publisher.
What confuses me is the fact that 20+ years later the franchise made its return with a remake for the Nintendo DS (what?) and now has a full-blown, crowd-funded, and Valve Greenlighted 3D sequel on PC with XLBA and PSN versions inbound as well. To be fair, I don’t mind that it’s here (I actually appreciate it), just that it seems odd that a franchise with such a sordid past is now launching on almost every contemporary platform. Does anyone else find it peculiar?
Anyway, let me start by saying if you’re looking for a platformer to play, Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams should definitely be on your list. I’m not going to suggest it’s Donkey Kong Country or New Super Mario Bros. awesome (it’s a fair bit shorter), but it’s pretty damn close and offers its own take on an often forgotten genre. I feel like no one bothers to compete with Nintendo’s top-dogs, yet Twisted Sister is proof that decent games can still come from such a mature and polished game-type.
The set-up, like SMB is fairly straightforward; the sisters are minding their own business one night when they’re pulled through a portable into an unknown universe. Upon arrival one of the sisters is eaten/stolen by a giant bowser-like dragon and it’s up to the remaining sister to find her.
Like most platformers, it’s beauty is in its simplicity — going through a level, jumping on platforms, and collecting as many diamonds (or coins, or rings, etc.) as possible. Twisted Dreams adds to this by effectively using a very clever Ikaruga-style switch system that allows the player to choose between “Dark/Punk” and “Light/Cute” world and player designs. Switching between the dark and light designs is obviously required to traverse to the end of every stage. Not only are certain diamonds only available in the Light or Dark worlds, but obstacles often rely on the switching to make them passable. Ironically, the “Punk” version of the player resides in the cutesy/light world design, while the “Cute” character inhabits the dark world design.
Speaking of diamonds, in my opinion, the game is geared more towards collection than speed-runs (although, when you get really good at it, speed runs tend to be an inevitability.) The reason you can’t rip through to the end of the stage is that a certain amount of diamonds are required to unlock the boss stage at the end of every level, hence why diamond collection takes precedence over making it to the end quickly. If you race through without collecting enough diamonds, you’ll be forced to go back and play through the entire levels in search of the more elusive gems. Not only that, but dying, which tends to happen more often on speed-runs, also causes gem-loss… In other words, focus on collection your first playthrough, and worry about speed on your second playthrough.
Along with using the differences of the Light and Dark worlds to get through obstacles and collect certain diamonds, each version of the player is given a different jump method needed to perform certain tasks. The Cute-jump causes the player to hover like tornado to cross large gaps while the Punk-jump causes the player to turn into a fireball that has the ability to bounce off walls allowing you to z-jump up columns. Again, it gives more depth without adding clutter to the experience… It’s a nice nuance to differentiate itself.
You can’t talk about Giana Sisters without at least mentioning the midi-inspired music composed by Chris Hulsbeck (who also did the original) in collaboration with Machinae Supremacy and Fabien Del Priore. When you’re playing the Punk, a sweet guitar shreds in the background… You know, to set the mood. Tack on sweet looking 3D graphics (it’s a 2D platformer in a 3D world) that seamlessly switches from a hellish dark world to a candy-coated light world, and the game’s presentation is very appealing.
So there you have it: a sequel 25 years in the making that was crowd funded and released digitally for $15. Well played, Black Forest (no pun intended).