If you have kids, or ever spent time with one you already know how early our fascination with space can start. This is probably why any time I see an adorable spaceship (like the one found in Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet) I can’t help but sing the preschooler’s Zoom Zoom Zoom song and it may also be why I am fascinated with Nasa’s space stream on Roku. Regardless of the reasons, space is a beloved mysterious location that is perfect for the imagined dangers that can only take place in video games.
Just before I began my adventure with Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet I mentioned, in passing, to my boyfriend about my newest project. As I eluded to in the game preview (here), I was extremely excited to get my hands on the video game work of fellow Sheridan Alumni, renowned artist, Michel Gagne. In typical retro gamer fashion my fella asked me if it was anything like Solar Jetman of NES fame. I of course had no recollection of the game (don’t worry kids, one day you too will complain of a memory that isn’t what it used to be) and decided to play the two side by side.
Here’s where ITSP and Solar Jetman are similar:
But that is about as far as I conclude the similarities are rooted. You will of course find the metroidvania style play in ITSP that is sure to appeal to the older more experienced gamer.
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is an exploratory, puzzle solving, testament to the ‘art as video games’ mentality. With both a single player campaign and online multiplayer modes the short but satisfying experience may draw you in for multiple visits. ITSP includes smooth controls and a polished game play experience which means there is something for everyone in this Summer of Arcade gem.
Your journey through the ominous sounding Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet begins on a small platform with an adorable alien. The assembly of his/your spaceship occurs and ‘voila!’ you are ready to navigate out of your home hub and into the planet. Starting with the bare minimum it is up to you to locate and discover your next point of interest. Don’t worry you are not completely alone in this task; your trusty map will point you in the right direction. During your gameplay you will navigate through various areas of the planet (organic, mechanical, etc), fighting foes, collecting weapons tools upgrades and bonus assets, all while solving puzzles. In familiar fashion many paths and points within the specific area you are exploring will not be accessible to you until you acquire the next tool or upgrade. For this reason you had best be okay with backtracking to previously visited areas.
The beautifully rich and creative environments and creatures are nothing short of artistically inspiring. The silhouette style presentation of the graphics are perfectly suited for this style of gameplay. Each and any screenshot is a prime example of the saturating experience with ITSP graphics.
The controls of your spaceship in ITSP are very intuitive and was probably the biggest relief for me when switching from Solar Jetman. Navigate your ship and your tools using the analogue sticks and a quick hit of the bumper will reveal your wheel of weaponry. Use your weapon wheel to assign four quick access tools to the XYAB buttons. In some of your larger battles/puzzles you may wish that you could more easily switch out your four tools for faster reaction to the environments and enemies but the game is easy enough without giving you everything.
This brings me to my only real criticism of the game. ITSP is easy, short and easy. The length can be forgiven by the fact that the game also contains an online multiplayer experience (with up to 4 players) called ‘Lantern Run’. Lantern Run will add some replay value to your purchase and the chaos contained therein will guarantee loads of fun for you and your friends. Aside from getting crazy with more players and more lanterns, though, ITSP is a pretty easy game. Achievement hungry players will have no trouble getting all of the ‘bwoop bweep’ they desire in one play through. Even though there are no verbal cues there are visual ones and it won’t take your hard earned BFA to pick up on them.
Even though your experience may be brief, and not at all like taking the SATs, it will be a satisfactory one. The audio and visual cinematics keep you wanting more. Upon discovering the final boss battle of this oh so twisted planet I found myself hoping that it wasn’t.
So is Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet the new Solar Jetman? My answer is no. ITSP is a new and visually delicious puzzle game with fluid controls, polished gameplay, featuring unique characters and environments.
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is available NOW on Xbox Live Arcade.