Review: Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams - Owltimate Edition
Posted 18 Oct 2018 at 09:57 by Dennis Tummers
Giana Sisters, now that is a franchise you don’t hear about every day. It started back in 1987, when The Great Giana Sisters debuted on a number of platforms including the Commodore 64. A sequel was canned because the original game showed too many similarities to Super Mario Bros., and Nintendo pressed charges. It is therefore interesting that the spiritual successor came in 2009 on a Nintendo platform; Giana Sisters DS.
The game we are talking about today (Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams) started as a kickstarter campaign back in 2012 and over the years released on a different number of platforms, including the WiiU. And now it can be enjoyed on a portable device for the first time.
The plot of Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams revolves around Giana (who has aged a couple of years after her debut) looking for her lost sister Maria, who has been dragged into a dream world and is captured by a nasty dragon named the Gurglewocky. It is up to Giana to enter the dream world and find her sister.
In this dream world, two versions of Giana exist, a “cute” version and a “punk” version. While the game plays as a traditional 2D platformer (set in a beautiful 3D environment), the two sides of Giana play a big role. You can switch from her yellow-haired “cute” side to her red “punk” look. Doing so however changes the world completely. The innocent Giana walks a darker, more dangerous looking world, while bright colours show how confident “punk” Giana feels in her dream world.
This transition between the two sides of the world is what makes Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams unique. Jumping from “punk” to “cute” is fluent, and the transformation of the world is very dynamic and looks the part. Along with it changes the soundtrack; from a guitar-oriented heavier tune to a sweet melody that almost makes your enamel burst from your teeth.
But there’s more. With the change Giana’s moveset changes as well. While she can run, jump and swim in both persona forms, yellow Giana can twirl and hover. Red Giana can dash, through enemies or to reach higher areas. Luckily one move is tied to X and the other to the Y button, instantly transforming you to the desired form. The shoulder buttons trigger the transformation without making a special move.
Then it is up to you to make it through the levels. These are filled with enemies, spikes, rolling objects on their way to crush you and more perils. These change as well when you switch between Giana’s two sides. A path may be blocked in the darker world, but open up in the lighter world and vice versa. Enemies may be more or less difficult to beat.
Along the way you will find lots and lots of crystals, which are the main collectible in the game. They come in blue, red and yellow, and you may already have guessed that the red and yellow ones can only be picked up by the Giana version with the matching hair colour. The levels are fairly linear, meaning move from the start to finish, while sometimes making a detour to collect some extra crystals along the way. So no backtracking, metroidvania or roguelike elements. To be honest it was a relieve to play a traditional platformer like this again for a change!
Giana’s controls are tight, except for some parts where you are trapped in a bubble. There are a fair amount of harder parts in the game which test your platforming skills. Now and then I got a little bit of the same feeling which I had while playing the newest Donkey Kong Country games, and that is a compliment.
There are about 40 levels to be enjoyed divided over 4 worlds, including a bunch of holiday-season themed DLC levels with an owl as your nemesis (hence: Owltimate Edition!) and 5 all-new stages. All main areas end with a boss battle. It is up to you to choose which world you want to play first. This is quite a generous offer, as levels are rather long. Even after completing all levels there is still plenty to do, as you can go for 100% crystal collection, or take your chances in extra modes such as a Hard Mode and a Time Attack mode.
Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams is a very solid platformer, that looks and sounds great. But there is just something missing as it is not grabbing me by the throat. Levels tend to drag on a little bit, and the environments, although looking great, are quite similar in the different worlds. They are either in a forest or in a castle environment. The DLC levels throw a little bit more variety in the mix though.
The changing between the two worlds is also implemented well, but the mechanics are a bit repetitive as well. You are often doing the same things, such as twirling down between spikes, or trying to get higher up by dashing from enemy to enemy. Of course, this game is essentially 6 years old already, and by now a number of games have also implemented the world-changing mechanism (such as Guacamelee and Flipping Death). I think that is were Giana is showing a bit of age, and could use a part 2 that really gets creative with the changing world gimmick.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams - Owltimate Edition is a very good addition to the Switch's traditional platformer library. It plays well, and going back and forth between a punky and a cute Giana works well. Here and there the game is showing some age, and the platforming action and the environments get a bit repetitive over time. These are minor issues however. If you are in the market for a good-looking platformer that steps away from stuff like metroidvania and roguelike elements, but focuses on old school platforming action, then Giana is a good option to consider.
Mechanism of changing worlds is well-implemented
Looks and sounds great
Levels tend to drag on a bit