Tag Archives: GoG

River City Ransom Underground Review

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Back in 1989 those of us with an NES likely had a copy of River City Ransom. It was a landmark game in that it was one of the earliest games to meld the Beat ’em Up genre with RPG elements. It was made by Technos Japan, who were mainly known for the Double Dragon games by that point Stateside. But RCR was a port of the third game in their Kunio-Kun series. In Japan the main character appeared in several games. Many of which would appear in the USA but with many alterations.

River City Ransom was pretty popular in its heyday. While it was never as beloved as Technos’ Double Dragon games, it was a game that had a Nintendo Power feature back in the day. It was a game many people fondly remember playing, and its one you should have in your collection if you don’t already. For those with a Switch, it’s included in the NES game bundle you get when you buy the online service.

PROS: Everything great about the NES original, and then some!

CONS: Confusing quest routes. Cheap segment.

ABOBO: Bridges the worlds of Double Dragon, and River City Ransom.

A while ago, Arc System Works acquired the Technos Japan assets, and began making games in these classic series. They made Double Dragon IV, and here we have a new entry in the River City Ransom series. Created by Conatus Creative, and published by Arc System Works, River City Ransom Underground continues the saga. All with the same blend of Beat ’em Up, and RPG conventions the original was known for, and lauded for.

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It’s also a direct sequel. Taking place nearly 40 years after the NES game, River City Ransom Underground begins with a prologue mission where Alex, and Ryan have to once again defeat Slick. The leader of the most ruthless gang in River City. Shortly after this epic battle Slick goes to prison, and River City High School explodes. After this mission ends the game fast forwards to present day, and we are introduced to some new characters in the process.

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It seems that while life might have improved for the characters at the end of the original game, it didn’t stay that way. With a new River City High School, came a plethora of new gangs, and the resurrection of the original games’ gangs. And with that, River City Ransom Underground truly begins. This is a modern continuation of a game, that really understands what made the original so great, while also building upon it.

As I mentioned before, what really set the original RCR apart from other games of its ilk, was the inclusion of RPG elements. Not only did you have to beat the snot out of people to survive an area, you had to do it to level up. It wasn’t enough to level up either. You had to find dojos where you could buy new moves, or shops where you could buy food. This game continues that tradition. You can fully expect to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars you steal from fallen enemies on this stuff. And spend it you should, because learning advanced techniques, and stocking up on cheeseburgers is the key to victory. When you first start out of course you’ll be relatively weak, and you can expect to die quickly. But over time, as you put muggers, bullies, and nearly every High School student stereotype in the hospital, you’ll grow stronger.

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And you’ll be backtracking to earlier areas for new items, or new paths that open up later. Again, an element that feels very much out of a Role Playing Game. This entry also adds a number of things to the formula. For starters, there are a large selection of playable characters. Many of these are new to the series, as this story introduces the next generation of descendants to us. So you’ll find many new teenagers out to rid the city of evildoers. But throughout the story you’ll also meet characters from the original game like Alex, and Ryan. There are also other characters old, and new who will join the roster if you defeat them in glorious battle. This adds a bunch of replay value to the game too, because of how differently each of these characters plays. Some of them are slower characters that rely on grapples, and holds. Some of them are ranged attackers. Others are brawlers that retain that old-school play style you expect from a Beat ’em Up genre title.

 

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On top of this, the game allows for up to four players to go through the campaign together. So now you can add an even bigger sense of frustration if one of you in your circle of friends is worse than everyone else. Or a sense of camaraderie if you’re all fine with each other’s level of ability. But to be honest even when playing with less skilled friends, this game is still a lot of fun. Between the action packed brawling, there are stretches of time where you’ll be exploring for new story missions, or events.

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The game also has a day, and night cycle in it. So some of these only happen at specific times. If a certain boss you need to kill only shows up at night, you can’t really head to fight them during the daylight. You’ll have to spend the daylight hours doing something else entirely. But this works to your advantage, as it gives you time to check out shops, restaurants, and dojos. Keep in mind however that even these are built around the game’s clock. Stores have their own hours. So if it’s 10pm in the game time, you’ll have to skip that trip to the game store. Hit up the burger joint instead.

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Of course as alluded to, you get money by fighting bad guys. When you knock their teeth in, they drop cash you can then pick up, and hoard. You can also get money by punching parking meters, or certain vending machines. Be careful though. Because another new feature in this one is borrowed from a place you wouldn’t expect: Grand Theft Auto. If you should accidentally injure an innocent bystander in your pursuit of street justice, they will call the cops on you. If this happens you’ll see a badge show up with a timer, and you’ll be facing the cops until it gets down to zero. Not only that, but if you resist arrest instead of running away, and lying low they send tougher officers after you. Beating up the police also gets you news coverage, which also beefs up the calls for backup.

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Over the course of your adventure you’ll also find hideouts. In these secret (and not so secret) areas you can manage inventory, change between characters, look at achievements, and save your game. It’s also useful for getting a more detailed description of your current objective, as you can read the last bit of dialogue without it going by too quickly to be able to finish it. The game also ties the worlds of Technos Japan’s big two franchises River City Ransom, and Double Dragon together. How? By featuring copious amounts of Abobo. Double Dragon’s epic villain shows up a number of times throughout the campaign, and even plays a role in the story arc I won’t delve into here.

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Another aspect of the game that you’ll love is just how funny it is. Whether it’s a well-placed reference joke, or genuinely funny dialogue the game will make you laugh. And it isn’t really self-parody most of the time. Although there are a number of times where the storyline in the game involves gags that are over the top, they still fit the world. They’re still in line with the humor found in the original NES game. The aesthetics of the game also play into this too. the pixel art is an obvious homage to its 8-bit era origins. But it’s also retained the humor. Characters have exaggerated expressions. They have animations that follow along with the theme. They look like they belong on the NES. But the advanced number of frames, and level of detail in the background animations obviously couldn’t be done on the little toaster that could. There are also a bounty of Easter Eggs, and appearances from characters in indie games.

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The soundtrack is very good. While not every song can live up to the lofty bar of the original game, there are plenty of them that do. Expect to hear some great up tempo chip tunes, with many catchy hooks. There are also slower, ambient songs in areas that call for it. There’s enough variety here for everyone though you’re going to be so busy you may not have time to truly appreciate it.

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There are a couple of minor issues with this game to be aware of. The PC game has one technical issue in that initially only the Xbox 360 controller is seen by the game. If you set the controller options in Steam to whichever controller you want to use however, then the Steam client will override the game allowing it to be played with whichever controller you’ve selected. The only other issue is that near the end of the game you’ll have to go through a massive gauntlet with no major save point in between. The game isn’t impossible by any means mind you. But this artificially increases the difficulty in the last act as a result. Be sure to stock up on items before tackling it.  The saving grace is that some previously locked doors stay open if you fail. There’s a couple of annoyances during missions where the map doesn’t always make what you’re supposed to do clear. There’s the fact that you lose half your money when you die. But in all fairness the old game did this to you too. And if a quest ends with a boss fight grin, and bear it. Because if you go back to a hideout to save you’ll have to do it all over again anyway.

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Beyond that, though this is a very entertaining, and interesting sequel of sorts. At first things may seem insurmountable, but after a few deaths, you’ll eventually begin to level up your characters. Then sections that were once almost impossible will suddenly be fairly easy. Allowing for four players makes the game even more fun than it already is, and the solid game play solidifies it. The wide variety of playable characters also adds a lot of replay value as you’ll have to approach each wave of enemies very differently. In short River City Ransom Underground is a wonderful game even if it can be a little rough around the edges. Surprisingly it’s the only River City game not on consoles as of now. But there are ports for Apple, and Linux available for those with computers that aren’t running Windows. The game can also be found on GoG. as well as Steam.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

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Holiday gaming gifting for the frugal.

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Man, what a crazy couple of weeks. I’ve been insanely busy with deliveries at my paid gig. Between this, and Thanksgiving week I haven’t had much in the way of *me* time. But I did find a few morsels of time finally this evening, so I’m trying something a little bit different. If you’re like me, the holiday weeks are not only very time-consuming, they’re wallet busting. Not only do you want to get the people closest to you something off of their list, you may want to do a little something for your friends. Or even Pete in accounting. But after getting that Nintendo Switch for your kids, that Gibson guitar your wife has been eyeing, and that new 4K TV for your aging parents, there isn’t much left in the tank.

Fear not! These are some pretty cool gifts you can pick up, that won’t break the bank. At least not too much. Some of these will be games, others trinkets. But hopefully they’ll give you some ideas. Some of these have deals that are ending soon, but I’ve tried to find some that aren’t too expensive at full price either. And some of these I’ve reviewed a while ago, but now can be had for less due to their age. But just because something is older than 6 months doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. It’s still new if the person hasn’t played it.

So let’s have at it!

Digital Games

Digital Downloads can be a great way to save some money, and still give someone in your life an entertaining gift. I do this a lot every year, and I’m sharing that tactic with you. Steam, and GoG have amazing sales every year. As I type this there are two days left to their respective autumn sales, and Steam will likely follow it up with their annual Winter sale. But even some of the console manufacturers have thrown in some discounts. So do look into Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft’s digital store fronts in case of any promotions they may happen to put up. Some games I recommend:

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Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams

Anyone who knows me, or has been reading awhile knows I’m a huge fan of this game. It’s one of my favorite titles ever. But even if I weren’t, the quality is obvious. It has wonderful graphics, an amazing soundtrack, and a cool morphing mechanic. It twists you between parallel worlds. One a whimsical dream, the other a horrifying nightmare. But you’ll have to use this to solve puzzles, collect gems, and succeed in general. It’s also got a plethora of secrets, and unlockable modes. It’s a scant $3.59 with it’s expansion on Steam until 11/28. PS4, and Wii U owners can track down the disc version for around $20 on Amazon.

 

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Ultionus: A Tale Of Petty Revenge

This one is a great choice for the friend who loves challenging action games, and shmups. Just know it is inspired by old computer games where movement was more calculated than it was brisk. That said, this one is a fun game for anyone who can get past that caveat, and it’s even better for one who grew up on the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, and Amiga. It has great pixel art, a great sense of humor, and a lot of love for Phantis. It’s just shy of $5 on Steam until the sale ends. Then it goes back to the regular low price of $7.

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Undertale

If you have a friend who still hasn’t tried this one out, it’s a meager $5 right now rather than the usual $10. At least on Steam. But even if you spend the full ten dollars, that’s about what you’d spend treating them to lunch at their fast food staple of choice. Undertale is pretty cool too. While I’m not the hardcore fan many people are, I can attest to the fact that it is a fun RPG with some great humor, swerves, and a love of 8-bit computers. It also implements some bullet hell shmup mechanics in a creative way. It also has multiple endings, giving it a good sense of replay value. It’s also on consoles, so you’re not limited to the computer, though you’ll likely pay less for the PC version.

Ikaruga 

You may not realize Treasure’s classic is on Steam, and that like the previous game on the list it’s $5. $10 normally. Here’s the thing. A lot of retro fans obsess over getting the Japanese Dreamcast version or the Nintendo Gamecube release. These can easily exceed $40 for a used copy, and well beyond that if they have their case, and manual inside. If you have a collector friend, who also has a PC, you may want to get this one for them digitally. They can enjoy it legitimately, and you can save a lot of money.

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The entire run of Ultima can be had on GoG fairly cheap. They have their own sale running alongside Valve’s, and have made these games even cheaper. For a mere $3.58 you can get the best of the series via two bundles. Ultima is one of the most important RPG series in the genre. Many of the conventions you see in RPGs, and even some JRPGs were inspired by Richard Garriott’s seminal series. It starts out simple, but eventually gives you a compelling overall story, and an open world to get immersed in. It may not look like The Witcher, but you should probably play these if you love RPGs. And while it might not elicit the same joy cloth maps, and trinkets do being digital, the GoG release means you don’t need to know how to use DOSBox. GoG releases have DOS emulation wrappers built around them, so all you have to do is click *play*. Later Ultimas didn’t have the core elements these did, so you may want to pass. But if you’re still interested, those are also on GoG’s sale. A great gift for the Retro RPG fan in your life.

The Witcher Series

Speaking of The Witcher, the entire series can be found digitally for very affordable prices right now. And with Steam’s winter sale coming up, you can remind yourself to nab them if you miss the current offers. If you didn’t already know this, these games offer vast worlds to explore, tons of missions, and all of the levelling up you could possibly want. CDProjektRed has made a trilogy of excellent RPGs that would please about anybody. These sales aren’t as deep as some of the other games I’m mentioning, but they’re still worth looking into.

Rocket League

Rocket League may not be the newest game anymore, but it’s as fun, and as compelling as ever. Plus with the recent release on Nintendo Switch, and cross-play, there’s never been a better time to check this game out. The PC version is only $10 in this current Steam sale. If you’re uninitiated with it, it’s like a mash-up of Super Mario Strikers, and RC Pro-Am. If RC Pro-Am could jump with hydraulics, and do bicycle kicks. It’s one of the most fun arcade soccer games ever made. Even if your friend doesn’t usually gravitate toward sports games, they’ll probably really enjoy this on whatever platform they have.

Insurgency

This is one modern military shooter worth playing, and the fact that it’s less than $2 during Steam, and Humble Bundle sales makes it even better. It’s a few years old now, but it still has a sizable community, and you can still get into a full game. It eschews just some annoyances other modern military shooters have. No grinding away for guns. No micro-transactions. Here every player gets points to use every round on their layout. Every weapon is available, and attachments, as well as side gear. The catch is you won’t have enough to equip everything so it balances out nicely. Too much fire power you’ll have no protection. Too much protection you’ll be slow, and low on ammo. It also encourages team work, and objectives over kills. Though you’ll still have players who care about kills, ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Also there are no kill cams, and barely any HUDs to speak of. It’s a wonderful blend of Rainbow Six 3’s realistic damage, and movement, with modes popularized by games like Battlefield. If you have a friend looking for something different from the typical Activision or EA annual release, get them this one. If they like it tell them to keep their eyes out for the sequel. If it’s half as good as this one, it should be quite the game indeed.

Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R/Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator

This may not be the latest, and greatest Guilty Gear game around. But it is the definitive version of the XX line. All of the Guilty Gear games have some astonishing animation in them, and a wealth of great characters to choose from. If you get this during the Steam sale, it’s a meager $3, and will give a fighting game fan who missed it, hours upon hours of fun.  If you do want to get that friend Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator instead, being that it’s newer, it will set you back $15. This one is more advanced, looks slicker (Runs on the Unreal Engine), and is also a blast. The fighting system also has refinements over the older series so it doesn’t play exactly the same. But either game makes an excellent gift.

Ys series (Most of it)

Ys Origin, the re-mastered Ys 1&2, Oath In Felghana (Ys III), Ark Of Napishtim (Ys VI), and Ys VII, all have huge discounts, with the oldest games coming in for under $5 in most cases. This is a wonderful series of action RPGs dating back to the NEC PC-8801 computer in Japan. In recent years XSEED, managed to get the re-mastered editions localized, and on Steam. Their tireless work is your gain, as these titles are worth every penny. If you have a friend who loves JRPGs, and hasn’t played this series, all of these are great options, though I may start them with Ys Origin. It’s a prequel that kicks everything off, and explains a lot of back story the original games only touched on.

Cities Skylines

If you have a friend who can’t get enough of old school management games, and they’ve blown through Civilization 5, Sim City 4, and the Tropico series like a hot knife through butter, they’ll probably dig this one. And with the current sale price of $7.49 it’s a steal. I recently watched my buddy Xonticus stream it for Extra Life. It’s easily as deep as any Sim City title, and it has a lot of its own cool little details, and world animations.

 

Physical Games

You can often times find pleasant surprises in the used, and clearance bins at traditional retailers. Here are some really good ones I’ve found over the past year. Of course your mileage may vary as stock, and prices change. But that said, keep an eye out anyway. You may just find one of these.

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Axiom Verge PC Game Trust Steel Book Edition (And other games in this format.)

Game Trust is a label GameStop created for some exclusive physical indie game releases. They partnered with indiebox to produce a few special editions of some of these games. For whatever reason, the company decided to put these titles on clearance. All of these are worth picking up if you see them in your local GameStop. Axiom Verge is probably the best of them. But they also did Steel Books for Guacamelee, Rogue Legacy, Punch Club, Nuclear Throne, Chariot, Thomas Was Alone, Stories: The Path Of Destinies, Awesomenauts, and Jotun. These editions not only include the digital key for Steam, but a physical disc with the game on it, as well as the game’s particular soundtrack album on a studio CD. The cases are made of aluminum, and are a sight to behold. I only paid about $5 for my copies of Axiom Verge, and Rogue Legacy. Hit up your local store’s clearance bins. You just might get lucky.

Bloodborne, The Last Of Us Remastered (Best Buy)

While I was out shopping for Christmas gifts, I noticed two pretty good games, are now at a budget price point. And even cheaper for the week of Cyber Monday this year at Best Buy. Bloodborne, and The Last Of Us on PS4, are only $20. But with this year’s sale, you can shave off another $5. If you have a pal with a PS4 who hasn’t picked up either of them, it’s a pretty good deal.

A plethora of PS4 Deals on Newegg.

I generally go to Newegg for parts. But a quick glance at their Cyber Monday deals tells me, to tell you, to go look at their store for PS4 game deals. A lot of games are ridiculously cheap.  Doom (2016), Dishonored 2, Ratchet & Clank, and Until Dawn are $15. Not bad at all for those on your list with a PS4.

“What if my friends have an XBOX One?”

Microsoft’s store has a TON of XB1 stuff at cutthroat prices. Injustice 2, Super Lucky’s Tale, Gears Of War 4, Fallout 4 (Standard), Prey, Watch Dogs 2 all were severed down to $20. Dishonored 2 is $12.

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Gaming Tchotchkes 

Sometimes you may go through a thousand awesome bargains, but realize your friend probably won’t be into any of them, because they’re not in their genre of choice. Or because they have them already. Or they’re on a platform they don’t own. Not to worry! You can still find something affordable, and fun to accent their favorite hobby in a different way.

Pint Glasses.

Maybe they drink beer. Maybe they drink soda. Maybe they only stick to water. Whatever the case, when you’re playing through a 140 hour RPG, mastering a fighting game character, or just enjoying some Pac-Man here are some great, stylish glasses to gulp down a beverage while doing so.

Obviously you can get some decent game-themed glasses at GameStop or Think Geek as they’re the same company. Often times if you catch a closeout you can get a pretty cool Pokémon, Zelda, Mario, or Pac-Man glass for a few bucks. And who doesn’t like to jazz up their glassware with a nice print. But you have some other options too. I’ve had some luck at Spencer’s Gifts. Last year I got my co-workers some Nintendo themed glassware, but also one in particular an excellent Cyberdemon glass from Doom.

Sometimes you can even find them in an unexpected place. Wandering through a Kohl’s I’ve even found a few Pac-Man glasses. But also don’t discount the idea of helping out one of your favorite internet personalities. As most readers know I’m a big fan of Classic Game Room. As luck would have it, the show has a wealth of show themed Beer Steins, Pint Glasses, and Coffee mugs along with the usual things you might expect. Some of them may even go on sale before the holidays arrive.

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T-Shirts, and Discs

Continuing on from that, if there is a game focused blog, or YouTube show your friend or relative follows, see if it has any merchandise. Many of them do put out DVD’s Blu Ray’s, and T-Shirts. Purchasing one of them not only gets your pal an awesome piece of swag, but supports a small biz, or labor of love in the process. Plus you know that nobody else thought to give the person an awesome Heyzoos The Coked-Up Chicken Stein. I know the focus here was to stay affordable, but some of these items are worth the extra money if you can get a few other people to go in on it with you. Pat Contri’s NES Guide Book isn’t cheap. But it’s also something one would definitely want to go with their game collection.

Individual Artists

A ton of really talented artists out there make some great gaming themed art. Like the YouTubers, and bloggers above a lot of the merchandise is similar. But when you get a print from Tom Ryan’s Studio, for example you’re getting quality. There are also a few great shops you can get stuff featuring independent artists work on. NeatoShop, and Teepublic have some terrific prints you can get from these artists, and they often have sales. Neatoshop’s print quality is a bit better, though Teepublic has a wider range of artists. In either case, you can get some memorable prints that won’t break the bank.

Action figures, and other knickknacks 

I’m not talking about the stuff from NECA that costs $30 (Though that Atari 2600 Texas Chainsaw Massacre Leather Face figure is pretty bitching). But hit up those clearance aisles, and you may be surprised with some cheap, but cool finds. Does your friend dig Funko’s POP vinyls? Often times some nice game themed ones will be closed out to make way for new ones. Why not get that co-worker a DOOM guy for a few bucks that they don’t already have? Another great option are the World Of Nintendo 6 inch figures from Jakks Pacific. These usually sell for $10 or less, and dress up any Nintendo fan’s shelf, desk, or cubicle nicely. And of course, The Amiibo figurines are another nice gesture, as the details on them are great. Even if they aren’t going to use them with a Wii U, 3DS, or Switch game.

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Retro

Of course if they’re into collecting old games, we instantly think of $170 copies of Mega Man 7 or $1,000 copies of Little Samson. But there are still a lot of great bargains on old games out there. I won’t list a ton of examples as I’m running long. But things like MagMax, Abadox, or Blaster Master on the NES can all be had for a few dollars. And these are really fun games that not everybody has. You just have to do some research to find some of these titles, and of course figure out if the person you’d give them to already has them.

Hopefully this has given someone out there with a shoestring budget some ideas. You can really find some good stuff out there without maxing out your card, or depleting your accounts. Obviously presents aren’t the focal point of the holidays. Appreciating those in your life, and helping those you can afford to should be. But we all have those people we want to do something nice for in our hobby. So look into these deals while they’re up for the next day or so. I apologize in getting to this so late, but such is the way of a busy week.

SiN Retrospective Part 1: SiN Review

Originally released in 1998, Ritual Entertainment developed SiN from humble, literal in-house beginnings. It follows the story of HardCORPS police officer John Blade. As well as hacker JC Armack (A play on id software founder John Carmack’s name), and the nefarious plots by SinTek. A mega pharmaceutical company run by a voluptuous, and sultry mad scientist named Elexis Sinclaire.

PROS: Huge environments. Solid mechanics. Multiple paths.

CONS: Blocky graphics haven’t aged well. Later levels aren’t as interesting.

CHEESE: It has a lot of the fun, direct to video movies of the 1990’s have.

The game runs on id software’s Quake II engine. To go back to it today admittedly will have you wondering how games from the era could have impressed us so much. But if you can allow yourself to get past the blocky, low poly look of the characters, and 16 bit textures you will find a lot to like. Levels are huge, and intricate. There are branching paths ensuring you can complete the stages different ways, and enter following levels in different areas. Character designs are fairly original with only a few fairly generic ones crawling out toward the end. There are a lot of fun weapons, some cool boss fights, and even a vehicle section or two. Bottom line there is a lot to like.

Seeing how I’m doing this review as a retrospective, I’m doing something a little bit different. I’ll be going over the storyline. Broadly mind you, but there will be a number of spoilers. The game is also a retro game at this point so for a lot of people it shouldn’t be that big a deal. Nevertheless, there will be spoilers.

SiN opens up with the main character. Blade on a police chopper flying in to thwart what appears to be your typical bank robbery. As Blade you will have to gun down a bunch of low-level grunts, (Some of whom are dressed like ninjas with machine guns) to infiltrate a bank. It is right out the gate you will see Ritual made great use of the engine to do in-game cut scenes leaving pre-rendered CGI cut scenes for the very beginning, and end of the game. After making short work of these criminals you’ll get out of the chopper, and fight your way through the bank to get to the vault.

When you get to the vault you’ll be introduced to Vincent Mancini. Mancini is behind this elaborate heist, and has drilled under the bank for an escape route. As you pursue him, you’ll find yourself going through abandoned buildings filled with more henchmen. A short time later you will be introduced to Elexis Sinclaire in another in-game cut scene. She meets up with Mancini on the roof of a building, and argues with him. It turns out that all she had hired the mob to do at the bank was steal a safe deposit box, but instead Mancini had gone all out with a full-scale heist. Here we see Mancini is your typical idiot lackey type henchman. Sort of the Beast Man to her Skeletor. Or the Star Scream to her Megatron.

Anyway, Elexis injects him with something before flying off in a chopper because now her corporation can be tied to the robbery. As Blade you’ll follow on through a construction area eventually leading to a Subway. At the end of this subway level you meet up with a huge mutant monster in a battle that will remind you of the final boss of Resident Evil 2. He crashes through the roof of the train, then darts off after being severely damaged. When the train reaches it’s destination, the mutant returns, and you have to gun him down. This boss takes a TON of punishment. But when you finally beat him, the next cut scenes show HardCORPS taking in the body, and discovering the mutant monster was actually Vincent Mancini. The autopsy also shows signs of a lethal new street drug called U4 in his system, and that SinTek labs is known for making components to it.

The next stage will have you infiltrate SinTek’s lab division. This mission is one of the hardest in the game because you have to be very stealthy. There are a bunch of worker characters like scientists, receptionists, and other low-level drones you aren’t allowed to shoot. If you do, someone will hear it, and pull the alarms. If this happens there will be a horde of spider robots with chain guns swarming you. Plus turrets on nearly every ceiling gunning you down. Your only hope of beating this stage is to sneak up on the low-level characters, and punch them in the back so they can’t trip the alarms. You also have to do this away from security cameras, and you have to find hidden paths like one of the air ducts (You jump into off of a ceiling fan in the break room) to do it. At one point you even need to steal a yellow jumpsuit, and key card to advance.

By this point it should also be obvious that the game retains the “Get the key” aspect of games of the time. So expect to find yourself not only shooting down bad guys, but also looking for keys. However, the branching paths of the stages also lessen this, because if you know where to go you can avoid some (Though not all) of the key cards. That said, it never seems to reach the level of the old DOOM games where you needed them constantly. Here it’s much closer to Goldeneye 007 on the N64.

When you do get the key you’ll get on an elevator, to go underneath the lab, and it is here you first learn about their plan with drugs. You have to sneak around the labs until finally you find this one head scientist who has the key to get further. Up until now the only major environmental action you’ve had other than blowing up background objects is one bank vault password on a computer. But here you will have to log into a system, and turn off a fan. Run through the fan tunnel before it comes back on. Turn on another terminal to unlock doors. Turn on another terminal to get a scientists’ password for another terminal. And there is another terminal that opens up a lab so you can grab a U4 sample. After getting that sample there is another computer that controls a U4 scanner that you will have to jack into so that JC can read the data for your case. After all of that you have to escape the lab through an underground sewage pipe, and make your way to a warehouse.

In the warehouse you find out that Elexis is planning to poison the water supply with this U4 which will do to everyone what she did to Mancini. You also find out after going through this warehouse that she has a SECOND lab under the warehouse designing cyborgs much like the Strogg from Quake II. Much like everything else out of B movies in this story she wants to take over the world. (Though one wonders just how much money her company will have left after all of this elaborate spending. When they’re not wondering how she’s managed to keep all of this stuff a secret.)

After a hard-fought battle through these labs fighting off hordes of enemies you do catch up with Elexis who taunts you before unleashing two NEW types of cyborg killers. These are easier to take down than the mutant Mancini boss, but you do have to keep circle strafing, and sidestepping to stay alive.

I should have probably mentioned this earlier in the review but you don’t just walk over things in this game to get them, you actually have to press a button (Default is E) to pick them up. Some of the items you press a second button (Usually ENTER) to use them. In any event hopefully you’ve figured this out by now. In all likelihood you probably have. After you beat these bosses it still isn’t over because you’ll have to get outside to call a chopper to a pad which of course, is guarded.

The next stage will have you doing A SEWER LEVEL. But I have to be honest, the sewer stage in SiN is actually pretty well done, and is fun thanks again to branching paths. Also helping is the fact that it doesn’t sport the usual “Sewer” enemies although there are mice. (Brief tangent, this game has TONS of mice in it if you’re willing to look straight down when you take seemingly random -1 damage)

When you do manage to get through the end of this you’ll find yourself at the Dam where you will have to find your way down to a secret bunker to stop SinTek from poisoning the water supply.

When you do, you will find it was all for naught.

Why is this? Because Elexis Sinclaire has more dough, and parallel plot points than Dr. Wily, and every one of James Bond’s adversaries combined. While you were busy making the water line safe, she was out hijacking nukes, and taking them to her secret uncharted island base.

From this point JC sends you out to an oil rig owned by SinTek. After quietly coming up on a raft, and sniping some guards you begin your next quasi stealth mission. Elexis lands on the top of the rig with her helicopter, and tells everyone to kill you. So of course now you have to sneak to the top, blowing away everyone you see to get to her. Really everyone. Big guys with wrenches, more ninjas with tank guns, even a few of those cyborgs show up. This is one of the most fun stages in SiN due to the variety of enemies, and the various ways to the top you can go. When you get to the top you will actually be going down, because the elevator leads to another shipping area where SinTek is moving cases of stuff to the island. After dispatching guards, and getting a few more key cards, you flood the undersea base, and follow the shipments out to sea. In the sea you will have even more new enemy types like underwater deep-sea divers with harpoons, and giant blue crocodile/fish hybrids. Beating this stage is less about gunning down baddies, and more about finding air bubbles so you don’t drown. Also avoiding falling rocks, and spikes. It seems like there’s always something falling on you.

Finally you get to the end of the stage, and onto Sinclaire’s island. Here you have to fight your way to the top of a mountain. There are not only SinTek mercenaries to worry about, but you also have to re-battle some of the monsters like the one Mancini turned into. Getting up to the top you’ll drive a jeep through a section of enemies to a lab. Sadly this is the one section where the controls are HORRIBLE.

You can’t steer very lightly, it’s mainly hard left or right turns. So to get to the top you’ll be letting off the gas, turning, then gassing again. Thankfully it’s a very small part of the overall game. But it is a nuisance.

When you do make it to the top, and slay the last few bad guys though, Elexis captures you, and injects you with U4. What follows is the most difficult, and strange area of the game.

“Area 57” as Elexis calls it has you in the role of the mutant. Clawing is your only weapon, and you can jump slightly higher. You also have to do things just the right way or you have to start over. For instance, if you kill the mechs you can’t get into the pipes to get to the areas you need to go. Doors permanently close behind you so you have to make sure you did everything properly before going through one. Do the stage properly, and you’ll find the antidote to U4, allowing you to go back to being human. After this trial, and error exercise Blade will find himself in a really bizarre area with guys in sacrificial coats, and doing experiments on mutants, and chunks of flesh. When you finally escape this area you interrupt Elexis who is in the midst of a meeting with villainous characters.

She goes on about how she stole her father’s research, and through these twisted experiments she hopes to use her drugs to create the ultimate being. In doing so she can use them to enslave the world, and rule it. Blade crashes the party, and even stops the nuke from being launched.

Only to have her capture him again.

This time though instead of being turned into a mutant monster, Elexis decides to throw you into a giant feeding ground for what has to be the biggest monster boss since the Cyber Demon from DOOM.

This thing is HUGE, and takes a TON of punishment. Even if you found all of the hidden super weapon parts throughout the game (Yeah I forgot to mention that before) it is still going to be a hard fight.

Where as the Cyber Demon from DOOM merely required you to duck out behind a pillar between lobbing tons of gunfire, this thing has no pillars to speak of. There are boxes of ammo for your various guns to be found on structures around the ring, but getting them takes some luck because of how many missiles he fires at you. Not only that but the monster taunts you, after it takes so much damage, and then increases it’s attacks. When you finally do take it down you’ll be treated to one of the most tongue in cheek CGI cut scenes in gaming history.

Elexis is in a chair as Blade confronts her. Instead of shooting her, he allows himself to be tempted by her assets just long enough for her to press a teleport button on the chair conveniently between her legs.

Blade does pull the trigger, but not in time, and she beams herself onto an escape rocket.

Back at the station, JC taunts Blade, and the credits roll.

SiN was a long game for its type, and the story while not the deepest was better than a lot of the thin stories back then. There was also a lot of stuff I didn’t get into, like the myriad of hidden secrets. There are a lot of Easter Eggs in the game if you want to take the time to seek them out. Other technical aspects in the game are pretty good here. The AI, and graphics supported realistic (For the time) limb damage. So characters acted different, depending on the situation. Sometimes they would hide. Other times call for back up. Textures on the models changed to reflect ongoing shoot outs. Shot a guy in the head? A hole appeared, and they usually died instantly. Hit a limb? the texture turned to a blood soaked ripped one, and they ran away. Point blank shotgun blast into a bank robber? His entire torso would giblet.

The last real games to do any of this sort of thing were the sequel to this one, and the Solider of Fortune series (Which sadly only really offered giblets after first one, and it’s low-budget second sequel didn’t even give that.). Sure a lot of games let you hack terminals, but in SiN they went as far as making everything a true command line OS prompt (At least in the vein of the game). Some of them let you type in commands besides simply unlocking a door, or entering passwords. The branching paths were also novel because not too many games around then or even since outside of RPGs really offered that sort of thing. It keeps the game from feeling too linear, and it’s something I wish games would go back to.

I also didn’t really talk about the multiplayer, which by this point is pretty moot. Not too many people play it due to the age, and while it is a fun death match game, other arena shooters, and modern multiplayer games have upset it. Still, you may want to check it out if you have yet to play through SiN. There is also the expansion pack Wages of SiN which is comparable to a modern-day DLC bonus episode. In it, Blade has to take down a crime boss who has somehow managed to get ahold of SinTek’s mutant drug technology. It isn’t very long, but it does have a few references to the main campaign.

This game would eventually find its way to Steam, and GoG. Oddly enough the Steam version had some censored textures throughout the game. The game also disappeared from the Steam store front. Though its sequel is still there. Fortunately, if my review has piqued your interest, it is still on GoG. You can also track down the original physical CD-ROM. Just know that there are a number of issues you may have running it on a modern PC. The GoG version is probably your best bet at this point in time if you’re a retro gamer. Still, for collectors, the original game isn’t terribly expensive or rare.

Final Score: 8 out of 10 (Still worth playing many years later)

Shadow Warrior (Reboot) Review

 

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Many times as fans we have to cringe whenever one of our favorite movies, or games is remade. In many of those cases we find our worst fears come to pass, the story might be so far removed from the original it might as well have been its own franchise entirely. Other times they may get the core concept right, but little else. It’s rare when something fires on all cylinders, and meets or surpasses our lofty expectations.

PROS: An entertaining single player campaign. Flying Wild Hog does it again.

CONS: Some cheap enemies. Some players won’t like the lack of MP.

HOLY REFERENCES BATMAN: Including Monty Python, Star Wars, and Stan Bush.

Movies often have a worse track record than games, but there have still been a large number of misfires over the last thirty years. Last year however there were a couple of pretty good ones. Rise Of The Triad was a pretty great remake that essentially put new tech on an old game, without really changing too much of what made it awesome originally. Shadow Warrior takes a different approach, and oddly enough manages to pull that off without too many missteps along the way.

 

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The original Shadow Warrior was both a good, and bad game. Built off of the Build engine that Duke Nukem 3D used, it had a long campaign, huge maps to explore, and a plethora of secrets. In theory, fans of Duke 3D should have loved it as it carried over much of what was liked. There were two big problems with it. The storyline wasn’t very memorable, and the humor in it started to cross the line of trying to be edgy, and veer into “This isn’t funny it’s just stupid, and mean” territory. While it never got as horrid as the stuff that showed up in the Postal series it certainly got a lot of ire, and faded away pretty quickly once Quake came out.

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Many fans were perplexed when this new Shadow Warrior was teased leading up to release. Would it throw in a lot of pointless cultural jokes? Would it retain the open maps of the old 2.5D era, or would it be a linear modern design? With Hard Reset behind them, Flying Wild Hog set out to reboot the franchise as a modern game that doesn’t forget about the 3D Realms game it came from.  They succeeded.

 

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Shadow Warrior runs on the same custom engine that Hard Reset was made in. It shares some elements with Hard Reset, but is certainly not the “Hard Reset with a Shadow Warrior paint job” some of the fans of the original feared. In the game you play a reimagined Lo Wang who is now a prominent crime family member sent on a quest to find a mysterious sword. When a rival crime boss refuses to sell it, and you take it by force, all hell breaks loose as a demonic race of monsters begins invading the Earth. While you fought them in the original game, here the story gives it more of a purpose. As Lo Wang tries to figure out why the monsters are here, what the sword has to do with them, and how to survive, he meets a demon named Hoji. Hoji explains about a secret plot involving Whisperers, these robot like beings that hold demon’s memories away. This leads the two on a quest to track down these beings so Hoji can remember what is going on, and how it involves Lo Wang’s master.

 

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Shadow Warrior is a single player campaign that goes on for around 16 stages, most of which clip along at a decent length. It follows a contemporary design used by many of today’s shooters like BioShock Infinite. You will enter an area, explore it getting more back story along with secrets, and hidden items. Then you’ll enter another section, and engage in a shooting gallery area. Sometimes there will be an in-game engine cinematic thrown in between. On paper it may seem like an also-ran but it does a number of things to differentiate it from other games in the genre.

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The stages, while having a very linear path, do reward, and encourage exploration. Instead of only having the clichéd “Hallway, and two tiny alcoves” layout, they are instead one massive environment with barriers over the path. Stages feel less like a line, and more like a fun house instead. You will find in a number of stages you’ve backtracked without even realizing it, and then still be able to go back to other spots to look for secrets.

 

There are A LOT of secrets too. Going off of the beaten path will lead you to secret items, or retro themed rooms based upon the original Shadow Warrior. Some of these even reference the anime girls hidden in the old game. The game also tosses in its own Easter eggs. Not only referencing Hard Reset, but games Devolver Digital published including Serious Sam 3, and Hotline Miami.

 

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Weapons, and gunplay feel really spot on as well. Guns have the heft, and loud explosions you would expect. Many are updates from the old game including favorites like the crossbow, rocket launcher and the Uzi. All of the weapons can be upgraded through Shadow Warrior’s store system. As you play the game you can collect Karma points from blood altars, as well as killing enemies. Get enough of them , and you can unlock special abilities. You can also power up your sword attacks by collecting crystals. These allow you to recover health, use different stances, or swings with your sword. You can also use the money you find ransacking drawers, and cabinets throughout the game to beef up your various guns.

 

There is a really wide variety of enemies to attack too. Some of your favorites from the original are here, along with a lot of new ones. Many of whom take special patterns, or have a special weakness to take down. Boss fights are especially satisfying. While they are all taken down in a similar fashion their designs are really cool. Each fitting the environments of their respective stages, and the mythos of the storyline being presented.

 

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The game also has a lot of truly funny moments, a lot of which takes a more subtle comic relief approach rather than the low brow gags the old game went for. There are certainly a few cheap laughs too, such as the fortune cookie messages you can find, or in some of the dialogue. But it’s done well without pushing the envelope for the sake of doing so.

Hard Reset was a pretty nice looking first effort for Flying Wild Hog, and Shadow Warrior continues the trend. There are a fairly diverse number of environments throughout the game. The game is colorful, from mountainous Japanese villages, to industrialized factories, to some really dark, volcanic caverns Shadow Warrior looks great. This is an indie developer showing the world that B games can certainly sate fans of AAA visuals even if they aren’t pushing the same number of triangles, and light bloom.

 

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The game ran fairly brisk on my aging hardware on high settings, dropping the frame rate only during the final wave of enemies before the final stage. Shadow Warrior is fairly scalable, allowing you to change texture quality, resolution, V-sync options, AA, and all of the features you’ve come to expect.

Beating the game will unlock a gallery, and the ability to re watch the comic book inspired scenes shown between certain levels. There are already some nice add-ons for this game like the Viscera Clean Up Detail add-on that puts you in the role of a janitor who has to clean up Lo Wang’s messes.

 

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Shadow Warrior is one of the rare times a remake can go in an opposite direction, and still turn out to be a great game that doesn’t disregard the core fans who loved the original. While those who may have wanted a multiplayer mode tackled on might be disappointed, anyone looking for a truly good single player campaign should pick this up. Whether or not you enjoyed the original game, the reboot should entertain you in either case.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Reposted Review: Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams

 

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(Originally posted on Retro Retreat)

You may not know it yet, but you’ve waited your entire life for this.

PROS: Excellent convergence of styles. Excellent tunage. Excellent gameplay. Excellent!

CONS: Soul crushingly difficult in some parts. Kirby’s Dreamland this is not.

WTF?: Gumball machines. Rising acid pits of death. Cute bunnies who kill you with kindness.

Giana Sisters:Twisted Dreams is a modern miracle. It does so many things so successfully simultaneously. At the same time it is one of the biggest pieces of evidence that crowd-funding through Kickstarter can work out for creative endeavors that traditional publishers may not believe in. A very brief history lesson in case you missed our review of the original game or didn’t know of it’s existence. The Great Giana Sisters was originally released in 1987 by Rainbow Arts. A clone of Super Mario Bros. GGS brought along a few of it’s own conventions, and was a hit on 8-bit computer platforms of it’s time. The Commodore 64 version is generally the most cited one.

Legal troubles with Nintendo saw it pulled from shelves, and fade into obscurity until just a few years ago when ironically a new game found it’s way onto the Nintendo DS. After the DS game however, developer Spellbound went belly up, and sadly creator Armin Gessert would pass away after a heart attack. Rather than throw in the towel, most of the developers would regroup, creating a new company: Black Forest Games. BFG had worked on a new Giana game, but with a cash shortage after getting their new company off the ground it didn’t look like the funding to complete it would be coming in for awhile. Until Kickstarter.

 

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Using Kickstarter, BFG managed to find enough enthusiastic fans to contribute money after traditional publishers either turned them down, or requested too many alterations to the game. Changes the developers felt would far too lower the bar of their creative vision. With Kickstarter BFG was able to get the difference needed to complete the game, and throughout the process they would release a couple of demo levels. Near the end of development they would request their game make it to Steam through Valve’s Greenlight program. It did, then after getting enough votes the game was completed, and made it’s way to Steam just a few short days ago (Of this writing) October 22nd, 2012. It’s also on it’s way to other digital storefronts such as Gog.com, and with any luck at all you may even see it appear on console digital storefronts.

With all of that out of the way you probably want to know how the game is. In a word. Awesome.

Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams eschews some of it’s Super Mario Bros. trappings, and yet still features some of the best platform jumping of this generation. While the game no longer has the infamous power up blocks, most of the game still has that same floaty, yet spot on jumping those who played the original game will remember. Giana still jumps on monsters, over chasms, and other environmental dangers. But now she also has elements of another, almost as popular mascot from another huge player. When Giana finally gets the electric ball in this game not only does she become a punk rocker, she also gains a dash move reminiscent of Sonic The Hedgehog. Using this move Giana zips through brick walls, chain attacks smaller enemies, and later in the game even finds some bumpers, and jump pads. But don’t go thinking GS:TD is all about changing one plagiarism for another. Instead the game borrows these elements, and combines them along with a few new mechanics. The game feels both hopefully familiar, and yet completely alien to become it’s own thing. When using the Sonic inspired punk rock Giana the world becomes happy, and joyous. When using the depowered Mario styled Giana the world becomes twisted, and horrifying. Mario styled Giana can float after jumping much in the way Mario did in Super Mario Bros 3, when the Raccoon tail flight period was over.

 

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In addition to being cool enough to hang with the likes of Mario, or Sonic,  Giana also has a light/dark element. It’s been done in countless other titles, but Giana takes it to a new level of greatness. Anyone who played through Metroid Prime 2: Echoes will remember constantly having to switch between light, and dark worlds in order to solve puzzles to progress. GS:TD also does this except it involves little to no back tracking. For example, in some stages you will find yourself looking to find a hard to reach item. In order to reach it the game requires you learn how to properly shift between light, and dark worlds to get there. Dark may cause a block to appear where in the light it may not exist. From there you can jump up to the previously inaccessible item.

 

This change in scenery doesn’t only effect backgrounds from going from scary to happy, and back again, it also changes the appearance of enemies. Cute owl enemies introduced in the original game become scary demons. Acid spitting frogs in one world become cute rabbits in the other. Later puzzles even force you to take advantage of these. Including one eyed green blobs whose corpses become jumping crates when the world appearance changes. Other noteworthy events you simply have to see to believe include clouds that can be walked on. In the dark world these also cast lightning bolts that can shock Giana. These borrowed elements are combined with some really cool original ideas as well. For instance, in some later levels you will find these seemingly out of place gumball machines. Standing on them causes a gumball to come out. Running over it puts Giana inside a bubble that she can pilot around in. Sometimes you will be using it to find secrets, other times to navigate treacherous spike walled areas unseen since Mega Man 10.

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Bosses are also very wild, and imaginative. They are also very difficult, and this is where you will begin to realize that having unlimited lives doesn’t really help you (More on that in a bit). Bosses are huge emotionally investing trials that will both grate on your nerves, and fill you with a sense of accomplishment. Like the greatest platformers they will force you to master all of the game’s mechanics in order to defeat them. Shifting from light to dark, and back again everything done in the main stages will apply to the bosses themselves. The game’s final boss,  Gurglewocky is one of the most difficult bosses you’ll ever be tasked with toppling. It’s a three part saga that easily ranks with the toughest Bowser, Eggman, K. Rool,  Dr. Wily, or Sigma battles you may have spent hours through. Most who make it to the end will likely make over 100 attempts before they can claim victory.

 

GS:TD is not for the faint of heart. Make no mistake, this game is HARD. But like any of the great platformers you remember not usually unfairly so. Save for one or two moments questioning your TV or monitor you will really be more upset with yourself than the game itself. This is a game for people who love a challenge, and it’s also for those who love to explore. Progression is not a simple point A to point B route to victory as in a lot of today’s games. While each stage has a definitive start, and finishing point further stages have to be unlocked based upon performance rating. GS:TD has a five star rating on each stage, and on average players need to have around a three star rating to unlock boss levels. On one hand detractors could argue this pads the game out, making it longer than it is, but on the other hand this really forces players to explore the world for secrets.

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The ratings can be boosted by finding diamonds. There are three main types. Blue yellow, and red. Blue diamonds are pretty visible. Yellow diamonds are only collectable by dark world Giana, while red ones can be picked up by light world Giana. There are also secret diamonds in each level. These things are quite large, and are almost always in fairly well hidden areas. Getting to them may require you to smash a wall, or find a secret teleporter, or float out to a seemingly inaccessible ledge. Others will be more obvious but force you to go through a marathon of hazards, and traps to find them. Find enough of these collectibles with a fairly low number of deaths under your belt, and you’ll unlock your way into boss stages.

 

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The game also makes exploring, and collecting fun. Many platformers in the late 90′s, and early 00′s made the mistake of making them boring chores. It’s something BFG should commend themselves for.

Unlike the original game, stages are no longer simply called stages, and are instead broken up into worlds much like the earliest mainline Super Mario Bros. games. Except instead of 8 worlds of 4 levels each, this game has 3 worlds, each with a different number of levels. Some of the levels are very long however, so it is nearly as long as many modern games in the same genre when taken into consideration. For most gamers, the campaign will take a week of nightly play sessions to finish while some of the more dedicated gamers who have a lot of free time may do it in two days.

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Aside from Adventure, (The game’s campaign) you will find a gallery where you can view unlocked artwork. It’s mostly concept art, but for those who really like behind the scenes content in games it’s a nice feature. Many games do this of course, and most won’t care. But it is a nice gesture. Other modes that you can play are Time Attack, where you replay unlocked stages in an attempt to speed run them. Hardcore mode (Which you unlock upon completion of Adventure) which is a harder difficulty level version of the main campaign, and Uber Hardcore mode (Unlocked if you can beat Hardcore) which is an even more difficult version of the main campaign. Thankfully the game’s length though is just about right, and it’s difficulty will sate all but the most die hard fans.

 

Visually the game is stunning. Not only do backgrounds animate seamlessly as players shift between light, and dark worlds, but there are rarely any hiccups in doing so if ever. The art work is amazing in GS:TD. From the feathers falling off of defeated owls, to the mushroom homes, and faced evil trees in the backgrounds to the glow of light passing through trees or reflections in water. Giana’s worlds look beautiful. This is one of the most beautiful games you will ever run on your PC. It’s even more amazing when you realize it’s rivaling the aesthetics you can find in big budget platformers like Sonic Generations, Rayman Origins, or Super Mario Galaxy 2.

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GS:TD is also a very scalable game, and has options even some AAA tier budget games no longer do. Not only can you change resolution, and texture options, players can remap keys, choose what version of Direct X effects to go with (Handy for any one running a 5+ year old computer with an older video card). They can also tweak AA, and Vsync options if need be. The game can be played with either a keyboard or a gamepad. The Xbox 360 pad is preferable as that is what the default layout is mapped to. Right Trigger changes the world between light, and dark as does using Giana’s special moves. X uses her Punk dash, turning the world happy with it, while Y uses her Spin jump. Holding Y slows her down allowing her to more safely navigate areas. Doing this also twists the world into it’s dreary, bleak, nightmarish form. A, and B buttons are neutral jump buttons. Start pauses the game, and players can either use the D pad or the left stick to move about the various levels.

 

Another point that should be addressed is the music. Chris Hulsbeck returns here to reprise tunes from the first game, as well as to construct some new ones. These compositions are wonderful bringing back both the whimsical, and dystopian New Wave sounds of the Commodore 64′s SID to life once again. Each song has it’s own catchy hooks, and melodies you will find yourself humming long after you’ve stopped playing. But that’s not all. Swedish Metal band Machinae Supremacy was brought on after their cover of the original game’s theme music became famous a few years ago. Here they have their own versions of every song in the game each with it’s own bombastic, hard rock overtones complementing the original song’s composition without corrupting it. Moreover, the game changes between the two styles along with the scenery whenever players shift between light, and dark worlds which only increases the mirror universe feeling of the entire game.

 

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With all of the praise being piled on I’m sure some are wondering if there is anything negative to say about the game. Well, no game is flawless, and Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams is no exception.  The difficulty in some sections (Especially the final boss) is going to turn off some. While those raised on Mario, Sonic, and classic Mega Man will persist, endure, then feel accomplished those who don’t appreciate challenge may shy away. Sometimes there were a few cheap deaths but not enough to dissuade me from playing it. There were also a few very minor instances of slowdown toward the end of the game in my play-through. Shutting down my PC, and rebooting after a few minutes seemed to solve it. But players should probably not run anything other than the Steam client, and the game to ensure the best performance. Also as a SPOILER ALERT: I should mention the ending is a bit underwhelming.

But in the overall scheme of things these problems are fairly minor. This is easily one of the surprises heading in to holiday 2012, and with any luck at all will hopefully make Black Forest Games a well deserved profit as well as a developer to be reckoned with.

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If you’re always pining for good platformers with good production values in an age where noteworthy ones are becoming rarer you owe it to yourself to buy Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams.

 

Final Score: 9.5 out of 10 (BUY IT NOW!)

(Post review edit. The game is also now available on the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Wii U, through their respective digital storefronts. Black Forest Games has also updated the game with an EASY MODE. This should alleviate concerns some may have with the game’s difficulty levels.)

(Post review edit. The game has been bundled with the Rise Of The Owlverlord DLC expansion pack as a Director’s Cut. It’s available on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 digital storefronts. A physical disc version has been released for the Wii U in North America, and on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC in Europe. The Director’s Cut is expected to appear on the North American Nintendo eshop for the Wii U some time in 2016.)