Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet

Posted On: 8/1/2011  Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios

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Oh, how the world is so twisted and filled with danger at every corner. Well, yes the real world if like that many times but I am talking about the third installment for the Summer of Arcade 2011 on the Xbox 360. In this new action adventure game you’ll have to navigate your ship through treacherous tunnels and twisted landscapes to restore order to a once flourishing world now covered in an evil darkness.

The game comes to us from artist, Michael Gagne and industry veteran, Joe Olson. Michael Gagne is a world renowned artist who has worked for top animation companies like Warner Brothers, Disney and Pixar. He brings that same quality of animation into this game and truly makes the game a labor of love. Joe comes from Fuelcell Games and approached Michael Gagne about a collaboration for the game that resulted in Shadow Planet Productions.
Visually you’ll recognize the game as being similar to that of Limbo with the shadows and silhouettes making up the entire world. The one big difference is there’s a lot more color and detail spattered across the levels which includes your ship among other things. That’s about where the similarity ends when it comes to Limbo. The visuals are smooth and unique in so many ways and it definitely makes playing this game a treat. Each character animation and creation is solid and makes you wonder what lies ahead. Every part of the world is spattered with color and unique from the portion of the world you progressed through previously.

One thing I noticed about the game was the extensive use of circles. Everywhere I looked there were circles and whether this is on purpose or just coincidence I do not know. What I do know is that it works well in the presentation of the game from the main menu all the way to the in game menus. It’s just something that caught my attention. Pardon me for the slightly off course comments. Ok, back to the meat of the review.

The gameplay is a mixture of puzzle as well as action adventure. You’ll have to navigate the world through narrow paths avoiding hazards and destroying enemies. You’ll run across boss fights which are a great mixture of gameplay which will include using the assets you have obtained as well as classic puzzle solving. Boss fights are never to over the top but are challenging enough to keep even the most skilled gamer occupied and satisfied. Many things you will have to learn on your own from the beginning of the game right through the end. Many gamers will stumble in the beginning trying to figure out what they need to do but the game does a great job of holding your hand without actually leading you anywhere.
The world is separated in to various environmental areas which range from an Ocean Zone to an Ice Zone. Each has a totally unique and fantastic visual appearance. I am telling you, this game is jaw dropping when it comes to environments. You’ll run across various enemies that are unique to the environment such as jellyfish and snowflakes but you’ll also see some enemies that you have run across before.

As you progress through the worlds you are introduced to new gadgets or weapons for your ship. There are some weapons that are stronger against certain enemies while other weapons will prove useless or very ineffective. In the beginning of the game you start with nothing until you find you first weapon which is a standard gun. Effective yes, but there are bigger and better weapons ahead such as a buzz saw, missiles and even an EMP cannon.

Early in the game you’ll also gain access to a claw which will help you move elements of the environments in order to make your way further in the level. At times your weapons will be used as well to advance the level further. It’s all a part of the overall puzzle theme that the game does so well.

Controls will take a little bit of getting used to but the system works well using the left and right thumbstick as well as being able to map specific actions and devices to certain buttons. You’ll learn how to map a device in the very beginning of the game and trust me it comes in quite handy rather than using the radial selection menu. The controls are quite responsive and they work very well once you get to know your ship and what it’s capable of.
So you have the single player campaign which will offer up about 6 to 8 hours of gameplay depending on your style of play. Collectors will find a little more playtime due to exploration of the levels. There is a multiplayer aspect to the game called “Lantern Run”. This is a very team oriented gameplay mode. The basic concept of the game is to take your lanterns as far as you can progress in a level before being caught by “The Hunter”. You’ll move from room to room fighting enemies and solving puzzles to get to the next room. It really is a lot of fun and definitely is a game mode that works best with friends that can communicate. Each time you run through the game can be completely different so it never gets boring or repetitive. Also, all of your upgrades from the single player mode are here but you’ll have to divide them up among the players. Yup, you have to decide who is going to man the gun, which is going to have the shield, etc. Again, your decisions will make teamwork a must.

Bottom line is that this game is not only a visual masterpiece but a fantastic game to play from start to finish. When I first fired up the game I didn’t think I was going to like it too much. Especially since I had to figure things out on my own and exactly what it was I was supposed to be doing. But once I was past that momentary frustration the game really appealed to me in every form and fashion. I love the fact that the story is told through visuals and not actual voiceover narration. It really adds to the artistic expression that the game holds. Gameplay is solid and the game never gets overly frustrating. Just when you think you are about to give up you’ll finally get past that area and happy thoughts are once again rolling through your head.

If you liked Limbo then it’s a no brainer that you have to play this game mainly due to its visual similarities. Yet the game is so much different and the silhouette style is the only thing in common with Limbo. This game has so much to offer and hidden collectables along the way definitely adds to the depth of the game. You’ll definitely want to download this game and check out the free trial but I have to highly suggest you experience the entire game and just add it to your gaming library. Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is a fantastic addition to anyone’s gaming library. The price point of 1200 MSP ($14.99) does seem a little steep for this one and I think it might be better accepted at 800, but I am not a marketing guru either.
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