Giana Sisters: Dream Runners (PlayStation 4) Review

By Gareth F 11.09.2015

Review for Giana Sisters: Dream Runners on PlayStation 4

Considering that The Great Giana Sisters first made an appearance on the Commodore 64 way back in 1987, it seems odd that, as a franchise, it hasn't double-jumped its way into the platformer hall of fame alongside some of its more familiar peers. It could have something to do with the debut's noted similarities to the original Super Mario Bros., which, despite some minor controversy at the time, saw its publishers emerge relatively unscathed from a rumoured Nintendo lawsuit. Whether these plagiarism cases were warranted or not it clearly affected the series, which only recently resurfaced in 2013 with the crowd-funded Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams, a vibrant, colourful slice of platform-based fun that was generally well received. Fast forward a couple of years and Black Forest Games is back with a spin-off set in the same universe, called Giana Sisters: Dream Runners, which eschews the traditional platforming the series is known for in favour of competitive multiplayer.

The premise behind Dream Runners is very simple: take the platform-based pitfalls and traps typical of a Giana Sisters game, create a looping course, deftly sprinkled with a variety of fiendish power-ups designed to confuse and obstruct, then unleash up to four players in a competitive head-to-head race. While making Dream Runners, developer Black Forest was clearly inspired by aging couch multiplayer games like Micro Machines (and its lesser known sibling Micro Maniacs), given that it adopts a similar method to decide the winner of each round.

Stragglers that get left too far behind fall off the screen and drop out of play, which continues until there is one player left standing, although any round going on for too long will be given to the leader once the countdown timer hits zero. This will earn the successful player a gold star, with the outright winner being the first to collect three stars. In order to traverse the courses, characters can run, jump, slide, twirl (floating) and dash, with the added ability of holding down the right trigger for a burst of speed that can be charged up by collecting gems.

As hinted at earlier, there is a selection of power-ups that can be collected and deployed at any point during the race, ranging from dazing or switching places with opponents, to leaving a trail of owls behind to obstruct and slow down anyone foolish enough to tailgate. There's some interactivity with the landscape, too, in the form of switches, which will open up new routes and close up others when hit.

Screenshot for Giana Sisters: Dream Runners on PlayStation 4

Sounds like it could be the perfect game to wheel out at social gatherings around the console, then, right? Unfortunately, this isn't the case. It's not that Dream Runners is a particularly bad game, but it's just devoid of any redeeming features and feels more like an exercise in futility than an enjoyable pursuit to foster friendly competition. The fairly barebones menu compliments the lack of story, training mode and single-player campaign, although soloists can still compete against bots with a skill set ranging from Easy (unerring and tough to beat) to Hard (seriously, don't even bother).

Online multiplayer is included, but it's a barren wasteland and nigh on impossible to find any competition. The fact that there were only fifteen names on the ranked scoreboard at the time of review should be an indication of the low population playing online, which is a shame, as it only leaves bots and local play as viable options to get any usage from it.

It's a bit of a mixed bag control-wise, too, as the height of a jump is determined by the length of time the button is depressed, rather than the more obvious double jump, which wouldn't be so bad if it actually worked as it should. The dash button also feels like a waste of time, as it results in bouncing off the nearest object and usually out of play. Graphically, it maintains a colourful, cutesy art style that is spread evenly throughout the nine available tracks on offer; however, given that the characters all look relatively similar, it just makes it that little bit trickier to keep tabs on which one is actually under control by the user(s), and many a race is lost as a result.

Screenshot for Giana Sisters: Dream Runners on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

While it's not impossible to glean some enjoyment from Giana Sisters: Dream Runners, it's entirely reliant on meeting a specific set of circumstances to do so. As a single-player experience, it lacks soul, feels somewhat hollow and looks like it was cobbled together from the leftovers of the previous game, Twisted Dreams. Sadly, the online section is pretty much dead in the water, although nothing that couldn't be fixed with the sudden influx of players that goes hand in hand with being a PS+ title. Its last saving grace, the local multiplayer, is where this title could really shine; however, there are so many other games on the market that do a much better job of it that it's only really worth picking up if a group of buddies had done likewise.

Developer

Black Forest Games

Publisher

EuroVideo Medien

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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