majormitch's Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet (Xbox 360 Games Store) review

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Pew pew pew

It’s no secret that I enjoy a good 2D exploration focused game as much as anyone, and it’s a particular sub-genre I feel we don’t see enough of. When one does roll around every now and then, however, it’s generally pretty good, and Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is not one to buck the trend. This is an engaging, well designed exploration game that any fan of the genre should enjoy.

Like most exploration focused games, solid world design is a big part of what makes Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet as good as it is. It begins with the fantastic art style, which goes to great lengths at giving the titular Shadow Planet its own unique sense of place. The game simply looks amazing from top to bottom, and showcases its visual fidelity through a nice variety of different environments. From dark swamps to ice-covered caverns to clockwork mazes there’s something exciting to see around every corner, and each area looks equally brilliant. The audio design is just as effective at contributing to the game’s thick atmosphere, with stellar ambient sounds working in tandem with a great musical score to set the tone throughout. The game also paces itself very well, constantly giving you clever new abilities- usually after killing one of the game’s numerous, excellent bosses. Everything controls well with the game's dual analog setup, and it’s a blast to use this stuff to fight enemies and access new areas of the map. Which, of course, often leads to more items.

That item hunting mentality that defines the genre is very much present and accounted for in Shadow Planet, though that’s also perhaps where the game most noticeably pales in comparison to its fore-bearers. Save about a dozen ship upgrades, all the gameplay affecting items lie on the critical path, which is pretty straightforward. Middling things like concept art compromise the rest of the optional collectibles, and even most of those are but a stones throw off said path, requiring little extra effort. As such, finding that rare nook or cranny is both less frequent and less rewarding than I’d like, which makes the experience feel a little more guided- think of it as Metroid “Lite”. Still, exploring what’s there is loads of fun, and the game is a good value to boot. I’ve heard numerous complaints that the game is too short, but I really don’t understand that. It took me more than 5 hours to complete the game’s campaign and find all there was to find, which given its high quality is more than enough for $15. Maybe I place more value on my games than most, but I found it to be perfectly reasonable in this regard.

The slightly more direct, guided nature of Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet makes it less memorable than this sub-genre’s stalwarts, but there’s certainly more than enough room in the world for exploration games of this caliber. This is a fun, well designed adventure, and I’m happy to see the genre get some much deserved attention. If it can see more games as good as Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet in the future, I’ll be one happy camper indeed.

For additional information on my review style and scoring system, click here.

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