Giana and her sister have been sucked into their dreams. Giana is doing pretty good but her poor sister is being dangled by her ankles by a terrible dragon. Her only hope is for Giana to attempt a daring, dashing, twirly, twisty rescue! Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams is a puzzle-platformer with one incredible hook – Giana can twist the dream worlds and her own persona. New Gen platforming starts right here. One moment you’re a cute little blonde girl surrounded by crystal blue waters and cute puffy birds and the next you’re a kicking little pink-haired punk girl surrounded by bats, devils and oceans of fire. The morphing of these two worlds is the key feature of Twisted Dreams. When L2 or R2 is pressed, one world immediately transitions into the other. The enemies transform, the trees twist into new shapes, and pathways and platforms appear where there were none before. Even the music changes from a gentle ditty into a rock version of the same composition. There are parts of this game that move swiftly and you’ll need to twist the dream at a moment’s notice, so this transition needs to be flawless. Luckily, that’s exactly what it is. Within a couple of seconds, everything has seamlessly and smoothly warped, and Giana is ready to continue her twisted quest.
There is much of the old-school in the gameplay in the form of jumping about, collecting the shimmering gems and fighting the big bad infuriating boss. In many ways it feels like something you may have played twenty years ago (and probably did if you played the original on the Commodore 64). Clearly the twisting of the dream worlds moves the game away from the sense of retro, but that inkling of the old fashioned is still there in the form of the slick Mario-style platforming and Sonic dashing. The twisting environment doesn’t exist as a gimmick, however, and it’s not there to complicate the mechanics either. Rather, it creates another dimension to gameplay by adding depth to the navigation and puzzle aspects.
The controls are simple enough. X makes both Gianas jump, square makes punk Giana dash and triangle makes girlie Giana twirl. You’ll need to think of the L2/R2 twisting mechanic as basically another action button. You may need to jump up between two tall columns of rock, for example. Some of the platforms required to do this will only exist in one world and the remaining platforms will exist in the other. Trouble is, once you’ve twisted ready to jump to the new platform, the one you are standing on will cease to exist. Bye-bye. To make matters worse, the platforms may be too high for a standard jump. Hardcore twirling will be required. So, jump, twirl while in mid-air to get some height, twist the worlds, land. Repeat until you make it to the summit. Jump, twirl, twist, land, jump, twirl, twist land. It’s coordination at its most sadistic. The good news is that the jumping and twisting mechanics are rock solid. You won’t spend half an hour trying to make a jump because of bad programming. No, you’ll spend half an hour because your fingers can’t keep up with your poor old brain.
Now I’ve probably just made it sound as through Twisted Dreams is a twisted nightmare that will give you chronic hand cramp and a stroke. Not so. While there are plenty of moments where lightning reflexes and quick-fire dashing are the only things that will save you, there are just as many nice sedate moments where you can take your time and enjoy the bouncing about and gem-collecting. Of course if you like zipping about like your hindquarters are on fire, you can really go for it. The game does have several difficulty modes. I’d heard the standard two were called Easy and Hard but according to my trusty PS4 they are called Normal and Hard, which made me feel much better about indulging in the lighter option for the greater part of the game. Still very much a challenge, Normal Mode felt like the right fit for me. No locks on the later levels or the bosses so you can still progress even with minimal gems collected and many deaths suffered. Play through to unlock some harder, serious business levels including uber hardcore, where you have one life and that’s all folks. I’d love to know how many people have actually managed to reach the end of that one. Also available for unlocking are Score Attack and Time Attack modes, which pretty much explain themselves. Also included are the scary Halloween and snowy Christmas levels originally released as separate DLC’s. These are standalone levels of festive fun and it’s wonderful that they’ve been included in the PS4 edition. Thank you, Black Forest Games and Merry Christmas, one and all.
But enough of all that. This is the exciting bit. Let’s talk about graphics. Let’s talk about stunning graphics. Let’s talk about graphics that are right up there with Child of Light and Never Alone as the best on PS4. If you’re looking to be dazzled, Giana Sisters is the place to be. The environments are beautifully rendered, both dream worlds sporting graphics that will make you swoon over your controller. From the spooky world of twisted leafless trees, gravestones and resplendent flames to the bright world of giant flowers, colourful balloons and sparkling waterfalls, Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams looks unbelievable. The twisting feature is a feat of programming and the shifting music is Amazing with a capital A and a shower of confetti. Seriously, you will need a Dyson to get your jaw up off the carpet.
This is a beautiful world to spend time in. Signposted arrows will roughly guide your way, but each level has quite the landscape to explore. Don’t forget to look for ways to get underground or way up into the sky. Bouncy springs or round pinball-style bumpers will launch you to frightening heights, and later on in the game fluffy yellow clouds will help you get up to the heavens. Be careful, though, because when you twist the dream, your yellow cotton fluffiness will turn into a storm cloud that will zap you with lightning if you don’t shift your backside quickly enough. With a decent amount of exploration, this is easily a ten hour game on its first playthrough, much longer if you’re a true gem hunter and much much longer if you’re a trophy hunter. There are twelve trophies presented for your gaming pleasure and good luck with some of them. It’s unfortunate there is no platinum, because this game is a fabulous platforming dream and it absolutely deserves one.
Staggering, stunning, exquisite graphics and original gameplay that combines old-school platforming and new gen mechanics – If you like puzzle-platformers, you’ll love Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams. It’s a flawless diamond that sparkles on the PS4. Not to be missed.
S J Hollis Rating – 9/10