It is an easy and quick cliché to describe a game as an amalgam of two other titles, but sometimes it is the best way to convey the experience. Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is one of these games. Combining the mechanics and art style of PixelJunk Shooter with the exploration and discovery of the classic Metroid series, the latest in the Summer of Arcade collection is definitely worthy of attention. Smooth controls and a quirky style help the title standout, and if you are a fan of “Metroidvania” type games, you are definitely in for a treat.
There is a story here, but for the life of me it was hard to follow most of the time. You are the last of your alien race on a mission to invade the parasite planet that is wreaking havoc and destroy it from the inside out. Cut scenes and artwork are unlocked throughout the game that fleshes out the story a bit more, but for the most part the cut scenes only serve to give reason to your antics. Even with a shallow story, the world itself is the star of the game, and the world you are exploring is truly one of the more mind-bending environments I have seen in some time.
Each section of the game is broken down into one theme, including organic, mechanical, electrical and so on. You will have to collect new weapons, which in turn open up new paths and help you solve puzzles relevant to each area. For example, in one area, you need use guided missiles to open up a new path. Until you obtain said missiles, that portion of the map remains inaccessible. I love these types of games, but one thing ITSP doesn’t do well, is to leave room for going back.
In my first play through of the game, I explored 90% of the map and completed over 80% of the campaign without straying too much from the normal path. Most games like this offer up some incentive to head back into the world to find multiple hidden items; here, you are tasked with picking up a few upgrades and some concept art. Still, what is here is a fantastic journey into a warped world. The main course will run you anywhere between 3-4 hours and just a bit more if you strive for 100%. There are also the multi-player portions known as Lantern Runs that add some replay value and a host of leaderboards to compare scores with friends.
As I have mentioned several times, this is a straight up Metroid style adventure. Your ship is equipped with a series of attachments that allow you to progress through the game. The more you collect, the more access you have to the world. For example, you earn a buzzsaw that cuts through portions of rock and a rocket launcher that activates certain gates. It is all pretty standard stuff for this type of game. You can map any attachment to a face button at any time or simply hold down the bumper to open the radial menu. My problem is that there are so many attachments that I was still forgetting which did what by the end of the game. There is also no solid set to keep mapped at all times because the game requires you to use a plethora of tools at all times.
I am sure you can tell from the screenshots on this page that this is one incredible looking game. The art design by Michel Gagne is simply inspiring. Each world has a unique look and feel, and the level designs are fantastic. Sometimes, you will be confused because the answer is so simple; it can’t possibly be the correct one, and I loved that. Every aspect really flowed together and yet remained unique, from the metal-clanging in the mechanical zone, to the extremely creepy darkness of the electrical zone. This game is gorgeous on so many levels. The sound design is equally impressive, with truly ambient effects that draw you into the planet. The music is eccentric and fitting at the same time, and playing with a good set of headphones really immerses you into the world.
I loved most of what Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet had to offer. The Metroidvania style gameplay is a nice touch, even if it is a bit fabricated. The campaign definitely feels over too soon, but that could just be because of its stellar pacing. For $15 it is hard not to recommend Fuel Cell’s effort here. The game screams of style and has the gameplay to back it up. With the recent announcement of a co-op DLC campaign I am stoked to return to this twisted locale. Definitely fitting of Microsoft’s Summer of Arcade promotion.
Review copy provided by publisher.