Unlike the original Commodore 64 title – The Great Giana Sisters – which blatantly ripped off Super Mario Bros. (and was subsequently pulled from shelves), Giant Sisters: Twisted Dreams is a unique and satisfying modernized platforming adventure. A Kickstarter success, Black Forest Games has succeeded in reimagining the series, as players play as a coming of age Giana trying to escape from her own dreams and rescue her sister Maria from a giant dragon.
No longer requiring a special item to transform herself and her dreams, players are able to switch between the “cute” and “punk” persona of Giana with a press of a button. The environment for “cute” Giana features a nightmarish dreamscape complete with spikes, demons and graveyards, while “punk” Giana must make her way across a bright and cheerful dream world complete with sunflowers and candy canes. Twirling and gliding through the air, “cute” Giana can reach otherwise unreachable locations. “Punk” Giana utilizes a fireball-style dash attack to not only take care of cute fluffy defenseless birds, but also allows her to bounce off walls à la Rya Hayabusa.
The extensive levels require plenty of exploring with multiple branching paths and hidden secrets to uncover. Throughout the levels, you are tasked with collecting hundreds (and hundreds) of colored gems that come in three flavors: yellow for “cute” Giana to pick up, red for “punk” Giana and blue which can be collected by either personality. Expect to replay levels numerous times in order to collect every last gem. Dying is usually not a major concern as checkpoints are genuinely well placed, but certain sections are more frustrating than others. Thankfully, the inclusion of unlimited lives help to ease the entire process.
At the end of the stage, you will be given a star rating depending on the amount of gems collected and how many deaths occurred in the level. Collect enough stars and you’ll unlock one of the frustrating boss battles. The difficulty ramps up after the first couple of levels, requiring players to combine skills from both personas, such as slowly twirling across a large gap and switching to the “punk” persona to nearly avoid a batch of thorns and explode through some brick walls. The premise wouldn’t have worked as well as it does if it wasn’t for the tight responsive controls allowing Giana to easily traverse around the dream world and switch between the two personas at will.
Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams feels like a classic platforming title, but with a modernized twist. Multiple branching paths in each level and literally hundreds of gems are waiting for you to collect. The one-hit deaths can be the source of frustration due to the trial and error approach to the levels, but the frequent checkpoints help. Transitioning between the different versions of the dream world is silky smooth and is visually quite impressive. Even the music transitions beautifully depending on the iteration of the dream world. There are more levels than tracks, so expect to be hearing the same music multiple times. Whether or not you enjoy soft rock, the music fits the game perfectly.Note: Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams was reviewed on Xbox 360. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.