At that time, the computer was a mythological item for me, and when we played it seemed to enter a whole new world. For this reason, I used to pay a visit to my neighbours, who owned an old Amiga 500.
I remember I spent several summer mornings on games like Rick Dangerous, Garfield, and of course, The Great Giana Sisters. At that time I was too young to realize it, but the game was a clone of Super Mario Bros. A shameless clone, to put it mildly. Same concept, same gameplay, incredibly similar enemies and levels virtually identical to those of Nintendo's masterpiece. Clearly, the Japanese company reacted to it, and soon the game was withdrawn from the shelves. Yet, it became a sort of cult title for the players of that time, who still nostalgically remember it.
When the guys at Black Forest Games announced they were working on a remake of Giana, I immediately thought there were going to make a title based on a supposed "Golden Age Syndrome". I was expecting a sort of clone of the old title, modified just enough to avoid another lawsuit with Nintendo. I was wrong: Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams is a whole new game. It is a wonderful platformer, to put it short.
The concept is a far cry from the original game. This time, Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams has very little in common with Super Mario Bros. and many more in common with Sonic and, above all, Outland, the 2011 title created by Housemarque.
The character, in fact, can continuously switch between two different statuses, that developers call "Cute" and "Punk". Cute Giana has the ability to twirl and soar in the air. The world in which she moves is characterized by dull colors and eerie landscapes. The music that accompanies her is sweet, quiet, full of echoes. Punk Giana, however, can hit enemies with a quick attack very similar to Sonic's spin attack. Her world is a genuine colour explosion, and the music is all cheerful rock.
The transition between the two different Gianas allows you to overcome different puzzles in the game. For example, there are gates which open in front of Punk Giana, obstacles that disappear in front of the Cute Giana. Or, again, some cliffs can be climbed only through the vaults of the more docile Giana, while the most aggressive one can break through walls with ease. In some cases, it is necessary to transform the girl in the middle of a jump, or during a wild ride on moving platforms.
This brings us to a crucial point of this title. Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams is a hard game. There are no lives: you can die as many times as you want, and you will always be resurrected near a checkpoint. While we died in the early levels once or twice, as early as the third level our deaths have risen exponentially, reaching 47 shameful deaths in the proximity of the final boss of the first world.
In total, there are three worlds divided into 23 levels. Each level requires an average of ten to fifteen minutes to be completed at the first attempt, so the game is characterized by a more than acceptable longevity. After every level, it's possible to replay it in search of collectable crystals, or simply trying to get a good score in Time Attack Mode. Once you have completed the game you unlock two hardcore modes, one without checkpoints and the other - completely insane - that brings the player to the beginning of the first level after each death.
The balance between action and puzzle is almost perfect, and the game gives some great examples of clever level design. Some secret crystals, for example, are hidden in points that requires some talent to be reached, and many times you will find yourself wasting entire hours just to figure out how to get to a place seemingly unattainable. When you succeed, it's really rewarding.
The only thing that does not convince me is the character design. It's fun to see how enemies change every time you transform your heroine: monsters in the form of weird demons become fluffy owls, zombies become knights and flying skulls turn themselves into large sea urchins. However, neither the monsters nor Giana seem particularly original.
With regard to the enemies, it is often enough to jump on their heads (or hit them with a quick attack) to put them out of action. In other cases, the enemies can't be touched. The bosses, however, can be defeated by hitting them three times, in clashes that are very reminiscent Super Mario World's final bosses.
Finally, I would like to say a few words on the soundtrack. The idea of a music that varies with the character's transformation is really good, but the music as a whole seemed a bit repetitive to me. It's not annoying (it's still a composition by Chris Hülsbeck in collaboration with the Swedish heavy metal band Machinae Supremacy), but after two hours you would like to hear some different song than the usual loop.
If you were hoping that Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams was a HD remake of the old Mario's clone, you're going to be disappointed. But if what you want is a good platform with many great ideas and a bit of a challenge, this game is definitely a title to buy. At a price of less than £12.99, it's a real bargain.
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