Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, I should have known better. I mean you are a Xbox LIVE Summer of Arcade game, which generally means some level of quality, however you my friend have blown me away, I love you, quite literally and whats more, it was love at first site. The moment I saw your assets I just knew straight away that this was the start of something special, and I wasn’t wrong.
Now that may be the strangest ever opening paragraph that I have ever written, however its justified, because out of a game I have never seen before and haven’t actually heard much about, I have found what is most probably one of the best Xbox LIVE Arcade games I have ever played and that is no lie. So what is so special about Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet? Where do I begin?
Perhaps the most impressive signs of this game is its first impressions, as soon as you look at it you can see the attention which has went into this title. Ever piece of artwork is a joy to behold and as you travel through the various areas within the game it just gets better and better.
The main premise of the game is to save your planet which has been cast in a shadow by an unknown force. This sees you entering your UFO and traveling though the various landscapes, which start at your homeworld and takes you through five other zones which include an organic zone, ocean zone, ice, mechanical and electrical. As you would expect, each zone has all manner of hazards, which change depending on the environment you are in. Thankfully you ship has and gains some pretty handy tools along the way, although at the beginning you only have a scanner and a claw arm. The scanner is used to gain information on an object, for example if there is a path you need to cross and it’s blocked off, a simple scan will tell you the tool you need to use for the job. This is also quite useful against some of the enemies, as a quick scan will tell you what weapon will be most effective against them. The claw arm does what it says on the tin, allowing you to grab objects and take them where you need to, or of course you can use it to just move things out of the the way. Progressing through the various zones will see you gain access to other weapons such as a gun, rocket, laser, tractor beam and more; each of these will come in handy in various situations.
One of the things that will draw you into this game the most is just how addictive it is or should that be frustrating. Many a time you will either be scratching your head wondering what to do next or you just won’t be able to do it cause it’s just so hard. An example of this is when you need to guide one of your homing missiles through a winding path. Here the action will zoom in on the rocket as you attempt to guide it round some tight corners in order to get it to its destination. Now I don’t know how many times I attempted this, but it was a lot; in fact, I have to apologise to the developers really, because you’d probably need a calculator to count up the amount of times I cursed them during these moments. Still, I managed it eventually, which is to the credit of the game and its addictive nature. The rocket section I mentioned above is just one of the many puzzles you will find along the way which utilize weapons, whether you are using a tractor beam to move boxes, using crystals to deflect lasers or cutting through rubble with your saw.
Of course since you are trying to save your planet, you do have quite a few different enemies to fight off. Again, enemies will vary depending on the zone in which you find yourself. In the snow zone for example, you’ll find yourself dodging razor sharp snow flakes and laser touting ice like creatures, whereas in other levels your fighting off rocket firing plants and buzzsaw like creatures, which make a beeline for your as soon as they see you. Whatever enemy you are up against though they are all a challenge and they’ll have you switching between weapons as fast as you can in order to find out which is the most effective against them.
Now this wouldn’t be a 2D classic without boss battles, and these are here in abundance. When you get to the end of each zone, a boss will be waiting on you, each with their own little way of frighting and frustrating you. Thankfully your scanner does come in handy against bosses, telling you the best way to take them down, although you still need to beat them, something which is generally easier said than done. Once you beat the boss, it’s at this point you move to the next zone, and gain your next weapon.
Even though the game is frustratingly difficult, the level design is such that you will never be too far away from where you started should your ship explode into a thousand pieces (and believe me it’ll do this on a regular occasion). Spread throughout the levels are various save points which take the guise of shield like spheres. These are actually quite useful as not only do they save your progress, but they also block any pursuing enemies from damaging you, and they also replenish your health, making for a great place to retreat should you be low on health.
The best part of the level design, is how the game looks. I can’t really think of any other Xbox LIVE titles which look as unique as this one. Even though it’s quite a dark game in places (hence the name), there are still plenty of colourful areas and effects which light up the levels and keep your attention. The electrical zone is especially impressive, although I don’t want to go into detail about this as you will see it for yourself (although you may have pulled half your hair out by the time you get to this point).
Finally, its worth mentioning that as you progress through the zones you will find collectables along the way. Collectables range from weapon upgrades to artifacts and concept art and are spread out in hidden areas throughout each of the zones. Although it’s not really essential to find the unlockables, the weapon upgrades do help you progress through the game that little bit easier.
Outside of the main story mode, there is also a Xbox LIVE and Local multiplayer mode called Lantern Run. This mode is quite simple, seeing you and up to three friends grab a lantern with your claw and speed through the level while being chased by a large creature. The person to get the furthest before the lantern is broken wins the game.
I started this review by saying that Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is probably of the best Xbox LIVE Arcade games I have ever played, so I think this is also a good way to end it. If you love a challenge and enjoy games which play as good as they look, then this game is for you. I’m not going to kid you and tell you that Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet won’t frustrate you, but then the clue’s probably in the name anyway.
Rating: Outstanding Review policy