FuelCell Games has created a fascinating, unique experience with their latest downloadable title, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. The game displays a beautifully artistic open world, slick menu designs, and some very interesting gameplay mechanics. However, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet will leave you with a sour taste in your mouth.
After the opening cutscene you’ll be left with a sense of confusion because the game doesn’t tell you anything. I mean nothing at all. There’s not one spoken word throughout the entire game, and no silent dialog either. You start off in your tiny spaceship on what’s labeled your home planet and given a very brief –and I mean extremely brief– tutorial on how to use your object scanner. That’s it. From there, the game assumes you know what to do, where to go and so forth.
The only help you’ll actually receive throughout the game is when you scan an object, in which case, the icon will display a picture of what can be used on your specific target. I don’t expect a game to hold my hand, but I do want a sense of direction and insight on what it is I’m supposed to be doing. Upon scanning objects and completing objectives –when you’re able to to figure out what those are– your map will be updated with various icons. Objects, points of interest, gates, etc. After all that’s said and done, and you manage to teach yourself how to play, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is a fantastic experience.
As I mentioned before, I don’t want a game to hold my hand and thankfully so, during the course of the game’s mass variety of puzzles, it doesn’t. The game consists of six different locations that are all tied together and can be freely explored at any point during the game; Homeworld, Organic Zone, Ocean Zone, Ice Zone, Mechanical Zone, and Electrical Zone, each with their own unique and beautifully crafted display of art. Every area has its own style, enemies, traps, and puzzles. They all feel so different and will hold your interest throughout the game’s four to six hour campaign.
The best part about Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is the selection of tools to choose from. There are nine tools in all and every single one has a different purpose. Most of the time, you’ll need to combine them to proceed through a puzzle and gain access to your destination. The claw tool allows you to virtually grab just about any object or enemy and use it to your advantage. Rocks may be blocking your path, you might need to plug in an electric current to enable a door to open, and many other things.
You can also set up to four hot keys for your tools to quickly switch between them. Unfortunately, later in the game, you’ll need to use just about every tool at your disposable and switching between them manually can be a real pain in the ass. The world itself is quite large and checkpoints are spread throughout respectably, but almost too often as they take some of the challenge away. It doesn’t help that dying has no consequences. Dying will just simply put you at your most recent checkpoint, but all your work prior to your death will still be completed.
The puzzles themselves can leave you stumped at times. Sometimes, you may need to use your laser beam through a series of rock crystals to reflect and burn through an object. Other times, you’ll need to telekinetically control objects to push other objects, or use them to activate switches. Each area also comes with its very own boss. The bosses themselves aren’t very interesting, nor are they very difficult. Once you figure out how to kill them, there’s physically no challenge what so ever.
One of the major complaints I have about the bosses is the final one. Without spoiling anything, it’s the most frustrating boss fight you’ll ever encounter in such a game like this. It’s not frustrating because it’s hard, it’s frustrating because there’s so much happening on screen that the frame rate suffers. Fortunately, this issue doesn’t detract from the overall success of this game, even with multiple enemies and objects on the screen.
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet also offers an online component, Lantern Run, which can be played by up to four players locally, or via Xbox LIVE. The basic goal of this mode is to carry a lantern through a series of stages while running from a giant octopus-type monster. Each wave will add different enemies and more obstacles, but the catch is you’re not equipped with anything at all. While trying to beat your high score is fun and all, the game mode itself isn’t very intriguing and will lose your interest after a few rounds.
The campaign also has a few collectibles like concept art and movies, but not much else is to be found. While the game does lack a sense of replay value, it’s still a fantastic, unusual experience that at the very least you should try. A game like this doesn’t come along very often and if you love running from giant octopi to increase your high score, you’ll have a great time with Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet.
Here’s The Rundown:
+ Beautiful artistic design
+ Unique and compelling gameplay mechanics.
– No sense of direction or proper tutorials
– No story explanation. I still have no idea WTF is going on in this game.
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet was developed by FuelCell Games and published by Microsoft Game Studios. It will be released on August 3rd, 2011 for 1200 MSP ($14.99) on the Xbox 360. The copy used for review was provided to us by the publisher. Campaign was played until completion, taking around 5 hours to finish. Online co-op was played for about an hour.