Impressions: Cloudberry Kingdom & Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams

Two side-scrolling platformers for the Wii U.

Cloudberry Kingdom

When I first took a look at Cloudberry Kingdom back in 2012 and again in 2013, both times I could not help but feel impressed by how developers Pwnee Studios managed to find a new and innovative way to deliver the 2D platform game experience while retaining what makes the genre so great in the first place. Best described as Super Mario Brothers meets WarioWare, Cloudberry Kingdom is a procedurally generated action platformer that adapts to the user play style in order to deliver a fun and entertaining experience that can last for hours on end.

Although the game describes itself as a maniacally difficult platformer, I believe this to be an inaccurate label that undermines what makes Cloudberry Kingdom so great. The game features a variety of different modes, the prominent one being “The Arcade.” Within The Arcade are an assortment of different games to choose from, but all of them run under the same principle the computer creates a series of levels and the player must complete them. The levels themselves are quite short – usually completable in just a few seconds – but they grow increasingly difficult and more chaotic as you rapidly go through them one by one.

As I mentioned before, The Arcade features four different game types Escalation, Time Crisis, Hero Rush, and Hybrid Rush. Escalation is what you would come to expect from a typical platformer, with limited number of lives to complete as many levels as you can, though lives can be replenished by collecting diamonds along the way. Time Crisis focuses more on speed than survival, giving players a strict time limit to complete as many levels as they can, with each diamond adding a second onto the clock. Hero Rush is just like Time Crisis, only an with the extra variable added by the way of random player abilities per level (like a double jump or a jetpack). Hybrid Mode ups the ante and gives players three abilities at a time. These modes are exhilarating and highly addictive, and the seemingly random elements lend themselves to virtually unlimited play.

The game’s Story Mode is meaningless and takes a much smaller role in this game than in most platformers. These levels are not procedurally generated, which is a disappointment since that is what makes Cloudberry Kingdom so great in the first place. Those who want to skip all the fluff and go straight to the highest difficulty may find much joy in the game’s Free Mode, which allows players to customize how they want their stages to be built.

Ultimately, Cloudberry Kingdom is a fantastic pick-up-and-play title that never gets old thanks to its clever level generator. Those who are looking for a challenge will certainly enjoy the higher difficulty modes this game offers while more timid fans of the platforming genre will appreciate the game’s ability to create exciting levels without giving you brain aneurysms. When it comes to indie 2D platform games, Cloudberry Kingdom is a must.

Cloudberry Kingdom is available for download on the Wii U eShop today.

Giana Sisters Twisted Dreams

The Giana Sisters franchise has had its share of controversy, for obvious reasons. Its original release so closely resembled Super Mario Brothers that the developers hesitated to make a sequel to the game. Giana Sisters Twisted Dreams is the third game in the series (after 2009’s Giana Sisters DS), and the first to be crowdfunded on Kickstarter. The result is an interesting puzzle-platformer that has its issues, but is ultimately an enjoyable experience.

Despite its name, players control Giana, who is apparently bipolar (or “discovering her identity,” whatever you prefer) and is able to shift dimensions in the game world as she pleases. The goal in each level of to collect as many crystals as you can while making your way to the goal. Changing dimensions switches Giana’s persona between “cute” and “punk,” and the game world alters itself accordingly, with some obstacles only appearing in one state but not the other. The whole transformation of the world is quite impressive as well; instead of merely changing a few objects here and there, the entire aesthetic of the level changes, making obvious which dimension you are currently playing in.

Each level contains several hundred crystals to collect, many of which lay in plain sight while others are either hidden or out of reach. I found the level design to be surprisingly thoughtful, with numerous hidden secrets and some very cleverly-designed platforming sections. Many of the game’s puzzles involve switching personas at the right time, even in mid-air. Some gems can only be collected depending on which dimension Giana is in, which makes for some very interesting puzzles.

One problem I found while playing Twisted Dreams is that Giana feels a bit difficult to control. Getting used to her persona-specific powers takes time, sure, but even after that it does not always seem like Giana always moves in the way I want her to. This, combined with the relatively complex mechanic of switching dimensions, can make for some truly frustrating moments as you fight through long stretches of enemies and obstacles. Thankfully, checkpoints are scattered across each level, making the experience much less excruciating than it could have been.

If you are looking for a solid 2D platformer that does some curious new things, Giana Sisters Twisted Dreams may interest you. It definitely has its fair share of problems, but the game taps into that old-school collect-a-thon vibe that will certainly make many gamers happy.

Giana Sisters Twisted Dreams is available for download on the Wii U eShop today.


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