Good things comes in small packages. For gamers, that saying has become truer over the past three years. With so many quality independent and budget-priced games raising the bar for the industry, its easy to find new titles that will deliver in the fun factor without breaking the bank for PC and console gamers.
Recently, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet made its way to the PC through the Games for Windows Live system. Developed by Shadow Planet Productions, ITSP mends the stylings of Metroidvania platformers with twin stick shooters.
Without a doubt, players will initially be captivated by ITSP’s absolutely stunning visual design created by artist Michel Gagne. Leaning heavily on black silhouettes and perfectly rendered vector images, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is like playing a digital graphic artist’s sci-fi portfolio.
In terms of controls, the game was initially designed for use with the Xbox 360 controller, which of course works well on the PC. However, the entire game has been remapped to work flawlessly with the mouse and keyboard, and truth be told, it was our preferred method of input because of the use of hotkeys to swap amongst your ship’s many gadgets, and the mouse’s accuracy when firing quickly in multiple directions. Either way to choose to play the game, it responds instantly to your inputs, and we can never say that we never died in frustration due to a clumsy control scheme.
Gameplay consists of exploring new areas, defeating mini bosses, unlocking special equipment and items which of course open up new areas to explore. It is the tried and true exploratory style of video game made popular by Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, but on a smaller scale and without the restriction of gravity. Secret areas can be uncovered to beef up your defenses and firepower, and to discover artifacts that flash back through the planet’s history to uncover how it became … insanely twisted by shadows.
Your ship can be upgraded to carry an object scanner, remote control missiles, blasters, lazers, a gravity pump, shields, a claw, a buzz saw, and a few other odds and ends that make you a veritable inverted Inspector Gadget hat.
The environmental puzzles of ITSP are right on the money, making use of almost every tool on your Swiss Army Ship and sometimes introducing a few rather interesting game mechanics like turning the entire game world on its side. They’ll leave you scratching the old noodle from time to time, but none feel insurmountable, giving you that addictive “hey! I accomplished something!” feeling.
But there are two sides to every coin. Shadow Planet’s puzzles are wonderful but when you aren’t solving puzzles, you are shooting. And the shooting is mediocre. That’s not to say that the shooting is BAD. It’s just that it doesn’t live up to the higher standards set by the puzzles. So if you go into the experience expecting Shadow Planet to be Geometry Wars on planet Zebes, think again.
And secondly, we couldn’t help but feel that the soundtrack fell a little short of the mark. What tracks are present are simply wonderful, but a large opportunity was missed by not giving each environment within Shadow Planet its own theme. Visually, the areas are themed perfectly to give each section a personality of its own, but it would have been fantastic to have the soundtrack further enhance that experience.
The single player campaign will rack you in around six hours depending on how many of the game’s secrets you want to uncover and when you’re done, you can switch over to the multiplayer, but be warned. Our attempts to find another multiplayer game was completely fruitless, so don’t purchase the game for PC expecting an active online community. However, you can play 4-player multiplayer locally, so hopefully that will satisfy the needs of gamers who want to get in some good couch time with friends.
But these foibles aside, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is a wonderful game we can recommend for its bargain price. The puzzles, environment and art style are all fantastic. 2D Metroidvania style gameplay is harder to find on PC, so if you’ve got the itch, ITSP will probably scratch it.
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- Name: Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet
- Available on: PC, Xbox 360
- Price: $14.99
- Developed by: Shadow Planet Productions (Fuelcell Games/Gagne International)
- Published by: Microsoft Studios
- Release date: August 3, 2011 (XBLA) / April 17, 2012 (PC)
- Elder-Geek Score: 4 out of 5 / Worth Buying/Trying