Being a part of the Xbox Summer of Arcade back in 2011, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet made its way to the PC over half a year later. Developed by two different studios, Fuelcell Games and Gagne International, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet brought together a team of programmers and artists. The head of Gagne International, Michel Gagne, had worked on animation in the past; involved in movies such as The Iron Giant and The Land Before time, before collaborating with Fuelcell Games to create Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. The expectations of this game were very high, but the result is a mediocre Metroidvania style game with exceptional looking hand drawn graphics.
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet begins with an alien world being taken over by a black mysterious substance. After a quick tutorial sequence, you are accidently jettisoned to your planet’s sun that has also been overtaken by the same black substance. The rest of the game is spent exploring and picking up new items and using them to access new areas. Some of the items you acquire include a scanner, laser gun, and missiles. The scanner is used to analyze an object and tell you which item can be used to proceed. There are shield and weapon upgrades to collect for your ship that aren’t required for finishing the game, but do make it easier. Eighteen artifacts are also there for players who like to collect things and offer a little more insight into the story.
Early on, the game was very linear and I expected that to change after a few opening sequences, but was disappointed that it never happened. The map is structured in such a way that forces you to go in only one direction. You might argue that a game like Metroid does this too, but the design of those environments makes you feel like you are exploring and not just going from point to point.
You control a small alien spaceship for the entire game after a brief look at the alien entering the ship at the game’s start. The ship’s controls are fairly simple, use the wasd keys to control the direction of your ship and use the mouse to control where to aim your weapons or other items. Quick-swapping of your items is available via number hotkeys you create or right-clicking the mouse. I also tried a wired 360 controller and found it easier to control my ship, but harder to aim accurately. Either option is viable however. Your map is very helpful, as environments are filled in as you explore them. After scanning an obstacle, the map will keep a record of what item you need to access the new area, which is very helpful if you want to acquire all of the upgrades and artifacts.
The first half of the game was enjoyable, with challenging boss fights and diverse environments. While the environments continued to change, my enjoyment of them changed to frustration as I tried to solve a mechanical area that looked very samey. I was very happy with the checkpoint system, though. In the last third of the game, I was glad that a checkpoint had saved my partial process on the next area and wasn’t forced to do it all again. Trying to use your claw arm to solve puzzles was frustrating as well. The game’s physics seemed a little off when using the claw to drag objects and trying to fit them in very precise places. Using your claw and dragging objects is also used for both of the game’s mediocre multiplayer modes. Escape destruction from a giant squid or try dragging a bomb as far as you can before your ship is destroyed.
I enjoyed some of my six hour play through of Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. The game’s beautiful art and epic title screen soundtrack is what made it the most enjoyable. Unfortunately, the gameplay was lacking and failed to be very satisfying as the game went along. If you’re bored on a soggy Saturday afternoon and looking for a Metroidvania style of game, then check it out. As for the rest of you, there are better games in this genre that are worth your time.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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