You’d be – you guessed it – insane to miss this one
Sometimes a long-winded name can put a bit of a dampener on a perfectly enjoyable video game. Then there are other times, such as with Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, when a long and winding name completely reels you in before you even know what the game is about. I mean, look at those four words smashed together – is there anything there that doesn’t make you want to Google is as soon as possible?
For this reason, you may well be reading the words Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet without any idea of what to expect from this Fuelcell Games production. Take a Metroidvania exploration style, throw in a dark, silhouetted, gorgeous visual style, and give the player a UFO to bomb around in; that’s what you’re getting. And yes, it’s as enjoyable as it sounds, if a little short.
You are an alien UFO pilot who is casually minding his own business, when a nasty, tentacle thing comes out of the sky, engulfs the sun, and causes your planet to grow dark and evil. With a selection of different tools, you need to find the source of the evil and destroy it, once again bringing your planet the peace it craves.
From the get-go, those visuals go POW and then give you the right-hook while you’re trying to recuperate. The game looks stunning, from the real-time graphics to the neatly-prepared cutscenes, and a fantastic soundtrack completes the mood with music that booms as you take damage or come a cropper on one of the game’s many boss battles.
Anyone who has played a Metroid game, or a Castlevania game, or any game based on those two franchises, will know exactly what to do the moment they hit the tab button. An overmap is displayed showing areas you haven’t yet explored, and you’ll immediately want to head off in those directions. It’s incredibly simply to jump back and forth between the map, making the go very simple indeed.
However some areas will be blocked off, and using your scanning tools, you’ll discover that you first need to go and find a different tool to open the path. There are around a dozen different tools, and only once you’ve found them all will you be able to completely explore the whole world. This makes exploration so much more exciting, as restricted paths provide oodles of mystery.
What really makes the game special is the scenario variety on show. You’ll rarely find a pathway that is simply an A-to-B with no obstacles – one moment you’re being battered by giant worm-like creatures the next there is wind blowing you back and reeds you need to grab onto. The boss battles are incredible spectacles too, and need to be seen to be believed.
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet was originally an Xbox 360 game, and so there will no doubt be people who are wary of whether the controls have carried over properly. The answer is a resounding yes – in fact, they may even be better, with a keyboard + mouse combo that is entirely effective and hotkeys which allow you to map the different powers to your number keys.
It’s a great game, but one that is over far too quickly for our likings. When we paused the game after just 20 minutes and noticed that we’d completed 20 percent of the game already, that was a real eye-opener. Fortunately it gets tougher and therefore the going slows down, but you’ll still be able to see the whole game through in a single evening.
It doesn’t help that the game is incredibly linear at times. Sure, there are pathways here and there that you’ll need to go back to later, but there’s usually only one way you can ever go, and it’s rarely difficult to work out what you need to do. The puzzles are too simple, and even when you come across a tricky bit, checkpoints are in abundance, so you’re never taken back too far when you die.
A couple of multiplayer options, both local and online, attempt to balance this out. While they are both fairly enjoyable, you’ll most likely need to grab a friend to play at home – we didn’t find a single online match, and we tried over and over and over again.
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is gorgeous and entertaining. If you take it for a spin one evening, you’ll no doubt find yourself dreaming about it (or should that be nightmaring?) until the morning comes. If you like exploration in your video games, this is one for you.