Reviewed: August 12, 2011
Reviewed by: Mark Smith

Publisher
Fuelcell Games

Developer
Fuelcell Games

Released: August 3, 2011
Genre: Shooter
Players: 1-4

8
9
8
6
8.6

Supported Features:

  • 577 MB (Full Game)
  • HDTV 720p/1080p
  • Dolby Digital
  • Local/Online Co-op (2-4)
  • Online Multiplayer (2-4)
  • Content Download
  • Leaderboards

  • The Summer of Arcade keeps heating up with its third release of 2011 and quite possibly my favorite title so far. As much as I enjoyed Bastion and From Dust, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet really triggered some major nostalgia moments with me. With a game style reminiscent of Metroid and an art style that borrows heavily on the heavy black shadow themes of Limbo, I was completely entranced from start to finish.

    The opening movie features the same stylish look as the gameplay with lots of blacks and themed colors of orange, green, and blue. It tells the silent story of an alien infestation, a plant-like organism that is devouring your home world. As the sole survivor or your planet, you climb into your trusty flying saucer and try to rid the world of this invader with all sorts of clever tools and weapons.

    Gameplay mechanics are quite simple. Your ship can nimbly move around the twisted labyrinths that make up this shadowy world. You collect various weapons that can be slotted to the four controller buttons for quick access or activated from a pop-up radial menu, which you will eventually have to use when you collect more than four weapons. In some sections, usually specific puzzles or boss fights, you will need to figure out which four weapons are best to hotkey to achieve victory since you will need to cycle them quickly in combat.

    Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet plays much like any twin-stick shooter with the left stick moving your ship and the right stick controlling the direction of your weapons or tools. Tools range from the invaluable sensor beam that will pop-up a visual clue of what weapon or tool required to get past a puzzle or enemy. You have a laser for simple combat, a guided missile, also for combat but also used to navigate twisty tunnels to explode distant door locks, as well as a claw useful for picking up rocks or grabbing onto items to steady your ship, and even a giant saw blade useful for combat or clearing away loose rubble. There are more like a tractor beam useful for moving objects or even grabbing on and slinging your ship through upstream air currents, but Iíll leave those for you to discover.

    The game is presented as one massive map that is slowly revealed through exploration. As typical for the genre, you will inevitably encounter areas you cannot explore until you find another tool or weapon later in the game, thus creating a bit of backtracking, but there is always some great reward for your trouble like an unlockable piece of art or a part of an alien artifact or even an upgrade for your weapons. The map is sectioned off into definable areas, each with their own primary color scheme and usually ending with a memorable boss battle.

    Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is a brilliantly designed game with great attention to consistent themes and art styles. Everything has this organic flow about it yet remains completely alien in design from the gameplay components in the foreground to the soothing pastels and multi-layered silhouettes in the background. The ambient noises, eerily soothing score, and lively music during the cutscenes all combine with the visuals to create a stunning and immersive experience.

    Sadly, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is a rather short game, lasting only about six hours, but to explore the entire map and find every last item will take about ten. And then you have some pretty fun and inventive multiplayer for up to four players in a Survival mode called Lantern Run. In this mode each player drags a light through randomly-generated labyrinths while being chased by a giant tentacle monster. Given the relatively short game length (even for an XBLA title) and little incentive for replay, I think 800 points would have been a much fairer asking price. Regardless, this is one XBLA title you donít want to miss.