Insanely Good Times!
For those gamers craving more Metroid, Castlevania, Shadow Complex, and Aquaria, they will be in state of nirvana with Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. Adding-on to the elements of the previous mentioned titles, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet gives the player Dual-Joystick Shooter type controls on top of the format presented in this style of "Metroidvania" type games. It makes for an experience that is more focused on the ambient experience, exploration, and 360 degree shooting, rather than on the platforming aspects per say. With that said, the skill of the game is shifted to player's abilities to handle 2 joysticks simultaneously, rather than on timing and landing jumps (though not all of this holds true to Aquaria either).
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet clocks in at about 7 to 8 hours to finish 100% of the campaign and gain the ability to watch the complete cinematic of the game's story. Although, most gamers probably won't care for the "story" (yes, I put that in quotes) and could potentially rush through to the end game in about 4 hours of time. It's honestly no different than a game like Super Metroid, which can be beaten in under 4 hours, but how long did it take someone on their first time through, back in the year 1994 without looking at a guide? Anyway, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet will have you exploring, solving puzzles, and defeating bosses to your heart's content, for just the right amount of time. It does not overstay its welcome and feels about right in this regard.
Beyond that, there is a multiplayer component tucked away within Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, called Lantern Run. The average gamer could probably clock-in around another 3 to 4 hours in this mode, which is about the time it takes to master the ropes, if all they care about is unlocking the game's final Achievements. Lantern Run is a purely co-op affair, where each player starts off with their own lantern. All players (from 1 to 4) must cooperatively attempt to carry as many lanterns as they can, for as far as they can, down a forever continuing map that randomly builds itself based on preset corridors and arena rooms. It turns-out that Lantern Run is actually quite fun, and is even more-so with a good team of 3 or 4 people. Microphones are a must in this mode, and at times, so are split second decisions based on split second communication.
Probably the first thing people will take notice of, in Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, is the art style and animation. Everything is presented smoothly and beautifully! The world of Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is something truly wonderful to take-in, on all accounts. Compile that together with joyous ambient sounds, a dash of Black Metal, and flawlessly tight controls; and you've got yourself one quality title!
While my time spent on the Shadow Planet that's inanely twisted was heavenly, there were a few issues that I wished Fuel Cell could have flesh-out and/or improved upon before release. Below I have outlined what I believe went wrong or what could have been improved:
- Finding all of the game's Artifacts so that you can experience its full story: The developers decided to take an old school approach with some of the items in the game and just straight not tell you where they are on the game's map. This proved to be very frustrating after already getting 100% map completion and defeating the game's final boss, causing me to scour every nook within the game, in full, 2 to 3 times. Sitting at 100% Map but only 99% Campaign, with no clue of how to go about getting the last item you need, is very frustrating.
- The frequent use of check-pointing, which makes the game's difficulty too easy, especially on some bosses: Going in a complete reverse, the developers decided to go with a modern approach on this one. While I could see how some gamers may appreciate this implementation, I'm of the mindset that the person playing the game should be learning, memorizing, gaining and applying skill. If someone is lazy and messes-up badly on a boss or other area, they should be punished and reminded that gaming is about skill. Not every gamer may see gaming like this though and I understand that aspect as well, but I personally see this as a negative.
- Most of the game's equivalent of Metroid's "elevator shafts" are only 1-way: This is honestly pretty ridiculous in my opinion. I can understand why they are 1-way when you first get to them, but after finishing a zone (or even the full game), why can't these elevator shafts be turned 2-way? My only guesses are that they either ran out development time or it had something to do with how their technology works. Maybe the game pre-loads the next area or something and it would be difficult to change. The load times in this game are extremely quick, and that's very nice, but this may have the added effect of 1-way elevator shafts.
- The last level of the game was the least fun and also the only buggy part of the game that I personally experienced: I really don't like these kinds of levels in games and the last level was the least enjoyable part of the whole game for me. Also, it didn't help that the lantern disappeared on me and I had to reload my save to continue on with the game. I'm chalking this up to being a bug, I don't know, maybe a monster ate it when I wasn't looking, but if this is the case am I really supposed to reload a save to continue on? This is the only bug I recall experiencing while playing Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet.
If I was making Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, this is how I'd go about changing the above mentioned issues that I perceived having with the game, for what I believe is for the better:
- To fix the issue of Artifacts (and other items) not being displayed on the game's map, I would make it so that after the player finishes the game, by defeating the final boss, the map would at the very least display the number of items still needed in each of the game's 5 main "zones." It doesn't even have to be that detailed; just tell me what zone I'm missing that single last Artifact in.
- With the use of check-pointing, I would have personally remove it from boss battles and maybe even make checkpoints/saves a tad less frequent within the main game itself. It's all there making the game easier than it needs to be. Checkpoints don't occur on all bosses, but some bosses seem to hand-out a check-point even after the first "hit" conducted by the player, thus allowing the player to continue on from the second hit if they die. Again, this is just my mind-set and if I were making Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, I would have reviewed all this before the final release and made checkpoints happen less often overall and removed it completely from happening during boss battles.
- To fix the 1-way elevator shaft issue, I would have made the game change all the elevator shafts to be 2-way, once the game had been completed by the player. Thus making it more enjoyable to go back to locations where the player thinks they may be missing something, on the road to 100% campaign completion.
- To fix the last level, I would have probably scrapped the whole iteration of how it currently exists in the final product and made something more epic and fun. I would have also verified that the lantern wouldn't randomly disappear and make the player need to reload a save to continue on.
Closing-up this review, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is a great game that will most likely be enjoyed by anyone who is into this style of Metroidvania type game and can also handle the Dual-Joystick Shooter controls.
Is Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet better than Super Metroid, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, or Shadow Complex?:
For insanely twisted Metacritic lovers, I would give Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet a 90/100.