Review: Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams

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I’m no game historian so don’t expect me to get into the details of this one. It’s not really relevant anyway, because there’s more than enough daylight between the modern Giana Sisters and other platformers to have them stand on their own. For one thing, you might be hard-pressed to find another platformer this busy and colorful outside of the Trine series. And for another, you might be hard-pressed to get through all of this one’s long and winding and occasionally cruel levels. Still, for as long as you can hang with it, you’ll be treated to some solid action.

All you’re getting for story here is that the titular sisters get whisked away to some dream realm, one ends up nabbed by a bigass dragon, and the other’s got to get her back. That’s going to involve a LOT of platforming through strange and threatening lands, collecting a LOT of multicolored gems, and dodging a LOT of traps. Your lone sister actually has the power to flip between versions of herself, the cutesy blonde one with a floaty Mario twirl move and the punky redhead with a Sonic-style spin attack. Flipping versions also flips the world, opening or closing some paths, phasing in or out hazards, and causing all sorts of other chaos.

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The theme of Giana Sisters, really, is a LOT of everything. Maybe more than you would want, too, because these levels are huge and sprawling and feel like they take forever to finish. All you need to do to get through a level is reach the end but there might be a dozen or more checkpoints between you and there, each one marking a brief respite between devious traps. You’ll face long sequences of jumps over spike pits, rides on perilous platforms, precarious bounces off enemies, and so on. These are all standard fare for platformers but get taken to almost comical extremes in how far they get stretched out.

The element that keeps the formula fresh is the flipping mechanic, which is used to great effect throughout the game. You’ll soon be expected to flip worlds to open new paths, make platforms solid, phase out spikes, and more, all in the midst of these platforming challenges. You can flip worlds with a button press but your special movement powers flip things as well; if you’re the twirly girl and you use the spin attack, that flips you to the other form and flips the world as well. As you might imagine this adds to the complexity as you have to keep track of which world you want to be in when you use your key movement powers, but I found it quite a bit of fun once I adjusted my thinking to it.

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Levels are still going to take forever to finish, and that’s without hunting for the hundreds of gems and other collectibles scattered throughout them. The average level has around 300-400 gems to collect, and the final stage of each world (which is significantly longer than the usual lengthy levels) can have well over 700. You’ll actually need a fair number of these to earn stars that unlock later levels, and gems also come in different colors that can only be collected when flipped to the right form. On top of that are giant crystals hidden away in the most secret of areas which unlock concept art and other bonuses, and those will require significant exploration and puzzling to score.

If you’re down for marathon levels and collectathons, Giana Sisters will more than fit the bill. The base game is plenty challenging (especially the bosses, since you can only take two hits), and there’s half a dozen even harder modes to unlock from there. It’s a game with a lot of technical appeal but honestly not much depth or heart to it, so don’t go in expecting characters to get attached to or any sort of satisfying story. This is a solid game for the hardcore or speedrunning crowds, but even your average platform fans will find a few hours of enjoyment here.

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