Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams - Owltimate Edition (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 10.01.2019

Review for Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams - Owltimate Edition on Nintendo Switch

The story of The Great Giana Sisters, a Commodore 64 game, barely needs a retelling these days. Infamously, the platformer released on the 8-bit computer, was, for all intents and purposes, a clone of the original Super Mario Bros. released by German developer Time Warp Productions, on a platform on which Nintendo's own franchise had obviously no presence, and, really, no equivalent. Legend has it that Nintendo approached the German studio to get their game off the shelves since it was obvious that it was, if not a perfect copy-paste, at least a heavily inspired clone. It was therefore quite a surprise to see the series make an appearance on the Nintendo DS, as a physical retail release, no less, in the form of Giana Sisters DS back in 2009, seemingly reconciling Nintendo with what had become its own series by then, distinct from Nintendo's own creations. Eventually Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams released on the Wii U several years ago where it even received a limited Directowl Edition. Now, on Nintendo Switch, it comes back in its most complete version to date, packing in absolutely every additional content ever released for it.

Giana's twin sister Maria was abducted by a dragon named Gurglewocky and it's up to the titular character to travel the world to save her. There is little in the way of storytelling here, in keeping with the 8-bit roots of the series. Whereas other franchises like Mario have evolved over the decades to tell a bit more of its story, give reason for the adventure to even take place, and keep gamers engaged and keep going, it is not so with Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams. Players will be thrown into the action and explained the mechanics through in-game billboards, effectively teaching the player what each action does by experience rather than through a tutorial, which in and of itself, is not at all a bad thing, since text boxes tend to break the pace of gameplay in platform games in general.

Giana does not collect any power-up in this version of her adventures, rather toggling at will between her regular self and her "Punk" alter-ego, seen in previous incarnations of the franchise. This switch doesn't just affect her abilities, but also transports the heroine between both dimensions of the game world she traverses. Regular Giana travels a grim world made of dead trees over a mostly desolate landscape, while Punk Giana instead gets to travel through a magical wonderland taken straight out of a cheerful fairy tale. Certain objects and obstacles only exists in one of both dimensions, while others exist in both, yet behave differently depending on which world is being explored. Platforms will move up or down depending on this, portcullis will rise or lower themselves, bridges will vanish, or deadly plants will either be very much alive and dangerous or withered and inoffensive, to only name a few things. Moreover, each stage is filled with hundreds of gems that the player is required to collect for a good rank at the end of each level, making this game very much a collectathon at heart.

Screenshot for Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams - Owltimate Edition on Nintendo Switch

Blue gems can be picked up by either of the two "personalities" of Giana, while yellow ones are exclusively for "regular" Giana, and red for the Punk one, further forcing the frequent switch between both parallel worlds. Giana controls and responds well, with the ZR button toggling between dimensions, and the B button being used to jump. The Y button corresponds to the dash attack of Punk Giana, while the X button is mapped to Normal Giana's twirl/gliding jump. Performing such attacks while not in the corresponding mode forces the world to switch over to the version that matches the attack. However the world can be toggled back to the opposite side in the middle of said action, such as for example twirling with Normal Giana and then while gliding down, reverting back to Punk Giana who will continue performing the gliding sequence until touchdown.

This is used heavily to force the player to react quickly so as to be able to catch a row of gems made up of different colours that can only be picked up by either of Giana's two forms. Each form has its own advantages and disadvantages. Punk Giana's Dash can destroy some solid objects showing signs of weakness, such as cracks, or even bounce upwards against walls in tight vertical shafts to reach otherwise unreachable heights, but multiple spots in the game require a slower approach by bouncing off the head of enemies to get to areas that are also otherwise unattainable, something which her slower gliding twirl is perfectly suited for. Controls are very responsive indeed so that it should never be the fault of the controls if the player fails but, rather, each stage, and even early on, has multiple spots designed like big giant puzzles requiring the player to figure out the sequence of dashing, gliding and toggling that has to be used to overcome obstacles.

Screenshot for Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams - Owltimate Edition on Nintendo Switch

This will undoubtedly lead to repeated deaths that can very quickly bring up the level of frustration through repetition, as you get sent back to the latest checkpoint every time, forcing to repeat the same actions over and over, until the expected sequence is nailed down. It truly controls like a charm, make no mistake, but requires the player to think and act quickly. It is a very challenging game, and this is not helped by how long each level is, and how much stuff there is to collect in each one, something that means that the player will be forced to stick around till the end of the level for progress to be permanently saved. Having more, shorter levels, would have gone a long way to make the overall experience more enjoyable, especially on a system that is at least partially portable. A single level of this game, to be fully completed with every gem collected and a perfect rank at the end, which can only be achieved by keep deaths to a minimum, may take roughly 30 to 40 minutes.

This is a lot, and therefore doesn't lend itself well to short bursts of play on the go, at least not without leaving the game suspended in sleep mode in between sessions. All of this sadly leads to a feeling that the game lacks that element that keeps the player hooked an interested in the long run, for lack of story development, a certain blandness in level design, and repeated deaths inducing frustration more than a desire to keep trying harder. That's a shame, really, because this looks and sounds really good otherwise. Whereas a common complaint with other versions of the game on competing platforms was frame-rate issues, the Switch version shows no signs of instability in that regard. Docked mode seems to run at a resolution that falls somewhere in between 720p and 1080p, while portable mode runs just a little under 720p. Both modes appear to run at a locked 30 FPS that never showed any signs of faltering.

Screenshot for Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams - Owltimate Edition on Nintendo Switch

On the visual side of things, it does look truly gorgeous, if perhaps reusing a lot of the same assets throughout, making the scenery look a bit repetitive and preventing two scenes from looking all that different from one another. There's certainly some clear artistic talent there though. As for the soundtrack, no music track at hand is really bad in and of itself, but level of awesomeness varies greatly with the best tracks in the game being arguably the metal pieces that play while Giana is in Punk mode. The latter even go so far as to use sound effects taken straight from the "SID" sound chip of the Commodore 64, which is a signature aspect of music composed by the metal band employed here, Machinae Supremacy. Sadly, because of the way the gameplay is thought out where the player has to constantly switch between the two worlds, the player never really gets to fully appreciate each composition since, indeed, the level music too keeps going constantly from one version of the track to the other.

For all the complaints about repetitiveness and failure to capture the attention however, Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams - Owltimate Edition, even with all the extra content, caps at a little under 40 levels to play, not counting boss levels. It therefore shouldn't overstay its welcome by much, depending on how patient and, even more so, perseverant the player is, but the problem is its pricing. It is arguably, at time of release anyway, a bit too pricey for the amount of content it offers. Certainly, the many different modes of play on offer are there to extend its longevity, however those only further stretch thin what is already a fairly repetitive romp as it is, tasking players to do exact same thing all over again, but with even more unfair rules added on top for an extra challenge.

Screenshot for Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams - Owltimate Edition on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams - Owltimate Edition combines charming visuals and a good level of performance on the Switch, in the service of a virtual world that enchants with its visuals and soundtrack. Controls and physics are tight enough, but the only thing that it lacks is that little spark that hooks the player in and motivates to keep plodding through to the end. It quickly becomes too repetitive for its own good, and fails to vary things up enough, or to entice a sustainable level of commitment on the player's part beyond a few hours. It may, however, be the most stable version of the game to date in terms of frame rate, if perhaps a bit slow to load from an SD card on the hybrid console.

Developer

Black Forest Games

Publisher

Black Forest Games

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

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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