Monday, August 8, 2011

Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet Review

Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is the latest title from Xbox's Winter of Arcade promotion. This game is a very unique title that puts you in command of a small creature in a space ship who must save his planet from an impending darkness which has taken over all areas of the game. The eerie environment reminds me of last years hit arcade title Limbo, with the brilliant contrasting colour schemes of a black foreground and coloured background to really highlight the action in the game. Saying that, this isn't much of an action game and is more about exploring all the many nooks and crannys in the Shadow Planet as you find items and destroy spectacular bosses on your way to saving the planet. This beautiful game manages to slow down everything and gives you time to appreciate everything that is going on. The stunningly exquisite game style works in a world now cluttered with explosions on screen every 5 seconds.


The direction the developers have chosen to go with the graphics is simply outstanding. You constantly find yourself gazing off into the distance of this alien world as the constant change of scenery is always shrouded by the looming darkness in the foreground. The living, moving, mostly deadly surrounds which create the path for the levels looks brilliant and creating such alien features out of solid black is an excellent move. Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet draws the gamer in, constantly grabbing at them as if it was the darkness trying to suck in any form of life. The simplistic approach even falls onto your flying saucer which is also black to easily distinguish what in the game can affect you and what can't. The winding mazes are interesting and unique, you will never come across even slightly identical areas twice. The creations in this game, especially the massive bosses what dominate the screen in all of their dark glory, are a spectacular to withhold and make Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet one of the special games I've played this year.

The mysterious landscape is coupled with an equally mysterious soundtrack that perfectly delivers the sensation of loneliness. The world isn't one full of life and noise. Apart from the occasional growls of bosses, the world is full of beeps from the spaceship and ambient, almost eerie sound effects. A less is best approach works wonders for the game in delivering a solid atmosphere that doesn't give away what is around the corner. Playing through the game the sense that you are the only one left on the planet really kicks in as you travel for long periods of time with nothing expect your own noise to grace your eardrums. The sound design is amazing and perfectly captures the feel of the graphics.


Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet will be familiar to anyone who has had previous experience with Metroidvania and other games will love the adventurous style of this title. Shadow Planet is a large map that can't all be unlocked at once. The aim is to travel around the huge level finding upgrades for your ship and gear that will unlocked previously blocked areas. Exploration to find these items is the key to the game and the puzzles you have to solve with minimal instructions give you a sense of achievement once you have accomplished them. Apart from the actual environment that needs to be manipulated and sometimes attacked to get past areas, there are boss creatures which will appear at certain areas of the game. These are a lot of fun and really mixes up the gameplay after flying around the map for a while.

There are lots of cool gadgets that you can find for your spaceships including a claw to drag items and a gun to shoot back the many black things that will try to thwart your mission. The strategic approach to the many different objects in the game means that only certain items will defeat a specific object. This mixes the game up and stops you going from start to finish with only a single gadget. The disappointing thing about this game is that it isn't a long game, taking only 4-5 hours to finish the main game and little bit more to visit all the areas of the map that you hadn't previously visited. For a game that was so much fun and offered a lot of intrigue, I was a bit disheartened to see it end so quickly.

There is also a four player multiplayer game called Lantern Run where the aim of it is to carry a lantern as far as possible while avoiding the darkness which is rolling in behind you. The game is done on randomly generated caves and is a fun side scrolling ride that will have you and your friends panicking as the lantern accidentally gets stuck on a rock. This mode doesn't offer too much replayability over the full game however.


Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is a super title that really conveys the feeling of loneliness and provides some quiet moments in gaming which are far too rare for my liking. The adventuring side of the story is a lot of fun and the boss fights are simply crazy at times. For a game based on exploration, the length of the game is a bit too short for my liking, but it makes up for it with the wicked art style that never ceases to amaze me with all its contrasting beauty. If your looking for something a bit out of the ordinary then this is definitely the title to get, just don't expect it to suck up countless hours of your life.

Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 9/10
Gameplay - 8/10
Overall - 8.5/10