The first opportunity I had to play Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet was at PAX East in Boston a few months ago. Initially, I was struck by the impressive graphical design that went into this game. This was a gorgeous little indie. Unfortunately, due to the circumstances of playing a complex and sneaky game in the midst of 2,000 people, I had no clue what I was doing or why.
Skip ahead four months and I’ve had a much more in-depth experience with Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. I still don’t completely understand what I was doing throughout, but at least I have a better idea why the game was made this way.
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet starts out with the player navigating a small spaceship around an alien level. This spaceship will become the centerpiece of the game as you traverse an extensive maze of tunnels, waterfalls, icicles and more. Along the way this spaceship will gain upgrades, weaponry, and tools that will need to be utilized in order to solve a variety of puzzles.
There are a multitude of recent releases that Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet borrows from and, wouldn’t you know it, most of them are critically acclaimed. Right off the bat I was comparing this game to Limbo. Much like Limbo, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet provides zero instruction on how to play, what you are doing, and why you might be doing it. Both games ooze a black enigmatic puss from their cores.
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet also reminded me of PSP favorites like Loco Roco and Patapon. The vertical labyrinths of this XBLA game felt ripped right out of a Loco Roco game. Both games encourage a fair amount of memorization and patience while a player has to navigate through its confines. The comparison to Patapon stems from more of an aesthetic standpoint, since both games seem to really enjoy an organic black level design.
As far as the game plays, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is a very challenging puzzle game that doesn’t provide easy answers, but also doesn’t make its puzzles so difficult that you’ll want to quit. It’s apparent that the developers want gamers to play around with everything. If something moves or glows in the game then it’s likely it serves a purpose in an upcoming puzzle. At first, I was a bit frustrated by this; however, it’s probably because I have grown accustomed to games that hold my hand. Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet does a wonderful job of making its puzzles challenging without making me want to cry.
One of the biggest surprises in this game is the fantastic score. Having only played this game on a convention floor, I was bowled over by the epic orchestral soundtrack. Seriously, I felt like I was playing a Star Wars game at times. The music is a great addition and makes this more than just your everyday arcade game.
In the end, I had a great time trying to figure out the puzzles of this game and recommend it highly to fans of games like Limbo and Braid. I was a bit disappointed by its length but it does have some optional time trail modes that should add a bit more value. Go forth and grab your super cool spaceship and explore Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet!