Reader Review: Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet

Kotaku reader Dutch is quite the prolific reviewer, and this time he's back with a review of a game I personally had some interest in, but never got the chance to play - Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet.

As always, the best written Reader Review each month receives a Blu-ray/DVD pack from Madman Entertainment.

Take it away Dutch...

Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet In the lead-up to its release, many had likened the elaborately-named Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet (ITSP) to classic platformers such as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Metroid Fusion. In terms of concept, I believe the comparison to be accurate enough; as the game gradually introduces new weapons and equipment that allow for players to explore parts of the play area that were previously inaccessible. In terms of execution however, there is very little left to go back to, and the expanded arsenal doesn't necessarily need to be implemented in combat. Striking visuals aside, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet doesn't have the depth to be mentioned in the same breath as a quality "Metroidvania" title.

Loved Delicious direction - Much like the other releases we've seen in this year's Summer of Arcade promotion, ITSP features striking art direction with wonderfully animated organic and mechanical foes and obstacles set in clean, colourful and varied environments. The game's cut scenes - while used sparingly - are well produced and beautiful to behold.

Sounds evil - The sound design featured in ITSP is sufficiently dark to draw strong contrast to the vibrant visuals. Upon taking damage, players are treated to a Jaws-esque audio cue that creates a real sense of tension. Each of the corrupted planet’s inhabitants are also capable of stirring players to action with a cacophony of screeches and roars to let you know that they mean to do you harm.

Momentum – There were some parts of the game – particularly early on – where it felt almost whimsical. The colour and weighty movement mechanics made for a genuine sense of discovery.

Hated Watch where you point that thing - This is more a quibble than a genuine problem, but on multiple occasions I found some of my weapons getting caught in tight spaces or slowing me down when they brushed against the earth or the planet's florae. The momentum-killing potential that my deadly appendages afforded me was often annoying.

Missed multiplayer potential - Lantern Run is a more visually-appealing take on F.3.A.R's "[email protected] Run" mode, with up to four players tasked with escaping death at the hands of a large, tentacled monster in a tunnel punctuated with “arenas”: where groups of smaller creatures must be dealt with quickly to progress. I could never find a full match and connection quality was spotty at best, but working together with complete strangers to escape certain death was fun for a little while. Lantern Run could have been a worthwhile addition to ITSP but ultimately it fails to deliver.

The ends of the earth – After completing the campaign proper – which takes about six hours - there is very little left of the shadow planet for players to explore. I didn’t even really try to find most of the collectable upgrades and artwork scattered throughout the map, and yet there’s still very little for me to find after besting the final boss battle. There just isn’t enough content here to justify the asking price (1200 Microsoft Points).

That's not a weapon! - Most of the unlockable weapons in ITSP have a very specific purpose: generally they're used for puzzles in one of the game's environments. There's no mixing up your arsenal to get the edge in combat: more often than not I would just spam my alien foes with the saw blade appendage. The majority of the nine attachments on offer have some very specific applications that make for cheap and repetitive combat.

How bad is it, Doc? - During several boss fights - and just about any time I found myself in a large, open space - the camera zooms out to a point where it is very hard to discern how much damage your little ship has taken. This was particularly frustrating during the final boss fight, where I was little more than a black blemish compared to the hulking monster below.

Got a light? - The last of the shadow planet’s five zones is played out in a darkened area illuminated only by some bright lines in the background and a lantern that players must carry along with them. This disorienting experience was made even worse by barely visible enemies and a wide camera angle. I could hardly see my ship, I died a lot, and I didn't have much fun.

Stormtrooper syndrome - Aiming in ITSP is inconsistent, often inaccurate and a real blight on the entire experience. In several boss fights a sure hand is required, but the finicky aiming controls had me missing the mark and meeting my demise more times than I could count. This may have been alleviated with an on-screen reticule, but for the majority of the game I was cursing under my breath on account of the loose targeting controls.

The Verdict Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is dripping with charm in terms of presentation, but it’s too shallow and frustrating to justify the steep price of admission. The art direction and sound design are of an equally-high standard to its Summer of Arcade contemporaries, but it doesn’t match them in terms of fun and longevity.


Comments

    I haven't actually played it, but what I've seen of it made me think a lot more of Ecco the Dolphin than it did Metroid or Castlevania. Is that impression completely off?

      Considering there is an underwater zone, the comparison is not completely off the mark. Still, more like a Metroidvania title than Ecco.

    Since when was 1200 Microsoft Points ($19.80) a steep price for a 6 hour game?

      Considering how cheap you pick up full retail games that offer far more than 6 hours worth of play on sites like Play-Asia and ozgameshop, ITSP felt short and shallow. As above, it was 6 hours to complete the campaign and collect pretty much all of the collectables. I don't feel any compulsion to go back for a second playthrough or the multiplayer either, so I think 1200MSP is a stretch. Publishers should acknowledge that there are three price points they can use and this game would have been ideally placed at 800MSP IMHO.

      It's not about size; it's about what you do with it.

        Late comment is late. Sorry.

          Agreed, and there's no need to apologise.

    Thanks Dutch, I was curious about this.

    I liked it for what it was (an XBLA game) and continue to enjoy the Lantern Run muchly! :D

    However, I will agree that the campaign is too short and better design should have been employed to make the user have to get the most out of the plentiful choice of weapons/tools.

    One thing I would like to advise on, as an added frustration, that wasn't mentioned (to my knowledge) is the weapon changing mechanic. The inventory ring is all well and good, but only having 4 assignable hot-keys is just stupid....the controller has more than just 4 available buttons for this function. D-pad is entirely unused in the game and would have been very useful for weapon hot-keys. I mean seriously, what were they thinking?

    On whole though, I thought it was worth the points and was very enjoyable. Also as I said, I LOVE the Lantern Run and currently feel compelled to play it over all other games in my stack when I turn on my xbox.

    One final note, gimme some DLC please. Sound!

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