Not to be confused with insanely twisted shadow puppets, which are frankly quite disturbing.
The third XBL Summer of Arcade offering may well spark feelings of deja vu amongst it’s players, being that it has cheekily borrowed gameplay styles from a number of other games. But that is okay. As long as the game is fun, it really shouldn’t matter where it’s ideas came from. So can Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet from FuelCell Games deliver the goods?
The first thing that will hit the player is the visual style used in the game. Taking its cue from such games as Limbo and Patapon, Shadow Planet makes use of the silhouette graphical style in the foreground with the occasional burst of simple colour. As beautiful as the game looks, the overriding darkness does raise a few problems when it comes to navigation, and it is not always clear what the player has to do next.
The story seems to revolve around a little alien guy in his little flying saucer, as controlled by the player. It would appear that some kind of catastrophe has occurred that has left the planet both insanely twisted and shadowy. None of this story is ever spelled out or spoken, just depicted by cut-scenes to give the player a sense of roughly what is going on. What follows is a healthy dose of exploration and puzzle solving, combined with some twin-stick shooter action.
The little flying saucer, which the player can fly freely through the shadowy twistedness, is highly customisable and will come across various tools that can be added and chosen from by the player, such as the somewhat unimpressive ray gun, a grabbing arm and even missiles. These are the tools with which the player will travel back and forth through the map, unlocking new areas with each new tool and solving puzzles that will allow access to previously inaccessible places.
Using a waypoint system, the player must guide his ship to each new area amongst tunnels filled with grasping tentacles and suicidal blobs that want nothing more than to take you out with them. Perhaps one of the major problems that I found was that I had to keep referring to the map in order to find my way, which frustratingly broke up the flow of the game. It also didn’t help that I found myself having to travel back and forth across the map to the different areas.
As already mentioned, the player will have to deal with all manner of nasties trying to deal spiky death to their flying saucer, and it is here that the twin-stick shooter action comes in. Using the right stick, the player can direct any gadget that they currently have equipped such as, in the case of most aggressive encounters, the ray gun.
Every so often, the player will come across a big boss battle which will make use of whatever gadgets the player has found up to that point. On the whole, they are quite satisfying and provide a decent amount of challenge, requiring the player to sometimes think out of the box. The same can be said for the puzzles in the game. Whilst they are not especially taxing, some of them do make creative use of the gadgets and of the games rather good physics engine.
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is a great little game, but suffers from a lack of anything new and exciting. The concepts found in the game have all been done before in other games and as such will feel old to all but the newest of gamers. However, this doesn’t stop the game from being enjoyable and fun to play. It is just not as special as I hoped it would be.