Earlier this year I had the chance to play (and loved) Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams on XBLA. I enjoyed it so much that when I received the email announcing the sequel on Steam I was immediately excited to jump back in. Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams – Rise of the Owlverlord packs all of the platforming excellence of the original into a smaller game that’s more accessible to players, making it a must buy for fans of the genre.
The basics are the same as the original, with each sister playing in the dream world of the other. While the punk rock Giana sister bounces off owls in a friendly meadow, the cute sister must dodge demons in a dark and dreary forest. The worlds have soundtracks to match, and players can swap sisters (and worlds) at any time with a tap of the right trigger.
Aside from the visual aesthetics, the worlds are physically different. A closed gate in one world may be open in the other, platforms rotate the opposite way and other differences, making world swapping necessary to progress. In addition, colored gems are scattered around the levels, and each sister can only collect her color of gem. The sisters themselves are different as well, with cute Giana having the ability to twirl slowly down from a jump while the punk sister sports a dash attack.
At the end of each level stars are awarded based on the number of gems collected and deaths during the level. On the default difficulty, hard, in order to unlock the boss fight players must have earned an average of half the available stars on the preceding levels, just like in the original. Rise of the Owlverlord also adds a normal mode though, which removes this requirement, in addition to placing extra checkpoints in the levels and reducing the overall difficulty. The game also features a tutorial level to acquaint players with the mechanics, and both are welcome additions.
The worlds are pretty and well detailed, and the soundtracks are catchy, but the real accomplishment is how they seamlessly transition from one to the other. With a tap of the trigger thorns shrink away and a benign snail morphs into an ominous armored spider, all while the music shifts styles, never missing a beat. It’s a very cool mechanic, and one that doesn’t stop being impressive the entire time.
Like the original, Rise of the Owlverlord is an excellent platformer. It’s fun to play, the controls are tight, and the level design is great, with plenty of hidden areas and gems to encourage multiple play throughs. For those looking beyond the normal and hard difficulty settings, there are time attack and score attack modes, as well as the returning hardcore and über hardcore mode, so there is certainly no lack of challenge.
Rise of the Owlverlord isn’t especially long (six levels plus a boss fight), but it’s more than worth the $5 asking price. Fans of the original Giana Sisters will find more of what they loved from the first game, and newcomers can ease into the series with the relaxed difficulty setting. The Giana Sisters continues to be one of this generation’s best platforming experiences.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.