Genre: Action Developer: Publisher: Classification: G Release Date: 3rd Aug 2011 Platforms:
Login to submit your review score
The Good bits
Good control system - great combination of two elements.
The Bad stuff
Vague tutorial situation.
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet wasn't off to the best start for me. The minimalist art style left me thoroughly confused about everything from the type of game I was playing, to what my actual objectives were.
The game uses obscure iconography to describe everything from objectives to enemy weaknesses - what this means is that typically you won't know what an icon means until after you've spent a few minutes desperately trying to work out what the less obvious shapes are supposed to represent.
After you leave the tutorial level and the game opens up the entire map, things begin to fall into place. ITSP is a mashup of Metroidvania platformers and Twin Stick shooters - and it's a fantastic combination of the two. If those words mean nothing to you, think Geometry Wars for the latter and Metroid/Castlevania (the older ones) for the former.
This means that (after the brief tutorial level) you're given a massive map and licence to run rampant across it - provided you have the keys to unlock all the areas. Most of the time those keys aren't actual keys - they're abilities used to manipulate certain areas of the map - and ITSP is no different.
As a little alien dude charged with saving (or maybe destroying? I never worked it out) an insanely twisted shadow planet you begin the game with just a scanner - the item which unhelpfully shows what things are via vague icons.
Quickly you score a simple gun so you can pew pew pew the hostile inhabitants of the world you're exploring - this is helpful, because everything on the planet is hostile. You're able to find upgrades for this gun - and the armour for your ship - around the map if you explore enough, which definitely pushes you into shadier areas of your surrounds.
When I say shadier, I mean figuratively speaking, of course. On a shadow planet everywhere is shady, and ITSP is no exception. The aesthetics at play here are reminiscent of last year's indie hit Limbo - when I first started playing the game I definitely thought that's what I was in for (but with space ships or something). There's a significant amount of colour in ITSP which wasn't present in Limbo - and the colour used is used well.
Enemies vary in colour depending on your area, but their affect on your ship is always the same - when you take damage your craft starts getting red and spiky, and you consistently have a good sense of how close to death you are.
During the game's boss fights this imbues you with a sense of urgency the further you get into each fight - while retracing old steps to unlock a door you previously couldn't access (because you didn't have the tools) it encourages you to take more risks with how you traverse your environment.
The tools are interestingly composed. The missile launcher, for example, seems pretty run-of-the-mill until you fire it at a small port on the wall - suddenly time slows down, and you have to manoeuvre through a narrow, winding path on your way to blowing up your objective. Another tool is basically a tractor beam - except you can manipulate objects both towards and away from your ship. This winds up forcing you to work out some tricky physics based puzzles while ignoring things like walls.
The game's puzzles are typically pretty easy to nail, but a few of them ramped up the difficulty quite a bit. Some of the less obvious puzzles combined with a game-imposed speed limitation had me pretty annoyed, but it's hard to be annoyed at a game for actually challenging you - especially these days when all too often games will let players simply pass.
The challenge ramps up right at the end - the game map is littered with checkpoints, but with zero boss checkpoints there's a definite element of trial and error about the game. Fortunately it's not out-of-place in this sort of game, so while I found the constant dying frustrating at the time, post game reflection has me wishing more of the game borrowed blatantly from the bullet hell genre.
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet's biggest boon is that tries to do something different, and it does it well. It falters early on with unintuitive tutorial sections - at a time in the game where it needs to be as intuitive as possible - but this forces the player into the deep end, and it's probably not a terrible thing considering how the game plays out. ITSP isn't going to move mountains or change viewpoints, but it is a great title with stacks of atmosphere and some old school style difficulty - it's definitely worth a look.