Twisted and Shadowy
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, brainchild of visionary animator: Michel Gagné and developed by Fuelcell Games (Joe Olson), is a short title that’s devoted to providing you with several hours of fun. It has a simple and elegant control system and borrows a very Metroid-esque style of puzzle solving for many of its locked passages. Dive in and see what the fuss is about with our capsule review right now!Story
An alien world’s sun has been devoured by a mysterious shadowy planet, causing no ends of trouble for the little guy’s homeworld. So, he packs himself into his saucer and sets off on a fantastic voyage to discover just what’s going on. Gameplay
Shadow Planet as previously mentioned borrows heavily from the Metroid school of ‘locked route is opened by weapon x’ and it does so beautifully. You control the titular alien’s saucer in a side-scrolling adventure that will occupy you for a few hours in single player, and offers a form of multiplayer to round out the experience. The single player story sees you attempting to navigate all kinds of hazards, monsters and boss battles from the mind of Michel Gagné and his superbly twisted imagination.
Along the way you’re going to search out upgrades, pop open the map to find the best route and collect several kinds of weapons, from a blaster to a remote guided missile. The saucer comes equipped with a scanner and can scan enemies and other objects in the world. If you’re stuck for a clue, try using it, it’ll save you a lot of frustration trying to work out just what’s going on.
Weapons and gadgets can be mapped to the various face buttons, quickly and easily. Swapping them out is simple enough and the controls are very solid. There’s no control lag and the whole experience is smooth, very smooth. Likewise the control of the saucer allows for some precise manoeuvring to avoid the various obstacles, dodge the enemy types and manipulate some of the game’s more complex puzzles. In short, it’s a joy to play.
The lack of mini-map does mean that you’re constantly switching between play and the map, which does bog things down a little and breaks the flow. The map is easy enough to use however and this little short-coming isn’t bad enough to really mar the whole experience.
There are checkpoints that track your progress through the Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet and they also restore the saucer’s health. Clever checkpoint use means that you’re never too far away if you are destroyed or make a mistake from a puzzle or boss you just fought.
The boss fights are pretty clever and often require brainpower as well as trigger power.
The campaign is quite short though. The game’s difficultly isn’t too bad and there are a few controller-chewing moments that will give you a headache or two, this is however all part of the fun!Graphics
The visual charm of Shadow Planet is not to be sneezed at, this is a gorgeously animated and extremely detailed game. The stark black and white shadowy effect is offset by a brilliant splash of colour here and there, with a beautiful surreal nature to the actual graphical designs. There’s a lot of minute detail in the graphics as well, with the saucer looking superb with its little windows and tiny antenna on the top. Gagné has pulled out all the stops with his art here. It also runs silky smooth and there’s not a single smidge of slowdown.Animations
The whole animated style of Shadow Planet give it a very Russian ‘Shadow Puppet’ feel to the proceedings, with gorgeously evolving scenery that moves and weaves, the whole thing comes alive in tiny animated touches. The backgrounds have a lot of motion to them and there’s very little static scenery in the game, in fact I’d hazard a guess to say there’s hardly any places in Shadow Planet where something isn’t going on in the background really. When you come to the alien, the saucer and the various other enemies in the world, there’s a layer of animated detail that is easy to miss if you’re not looking for it.
The little antenna atop the saucer has a way of bending back at speed, or moving to match the opposite direction of saucer travel, its a little touch but an important one. Our titular heroes’ ship is the star of the show in many cases and as you upgrade it, it changes subtly to reflect the extra power given to the vessel. Then you have the enemies themselves that all have numerous moving parts, some are made up of smaller enemies that can break apart if damaged too much. And at times I’m reminded of Bullet Hell style games with tons of projectiles on screen at once and the saucer nimbly zipping around and through them.