Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet Review

I love that Xbox Live Arcade has given so many indie developers the chance to publish fascinating and enjoyable little games that probably would never get the green light from the corporate suits at a large game publisher. Take Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. Even its name would have never survived a marketing committee meeting, but thanks to Xbox Live Arcade this elegant and intriguing action-puzzler is available to all who make the wise decision to trade in some of their Microsoft Points for the download.

Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet (I will honor the game's developers by refusing to abbreviate its title) puts you in control of a little flying saucer whose goal it is to explore said twisted planet looking for artifacts, upgrades, and also the way through the whole thing to the other end. Exploring the planet entails making your way through twisting caverns filled with deadly creatures, saucer-destroying obstacles, and other hazards. Such dangers would certainly mean the doom of most saucers, but luckily for you yours is the Swiss army knife of UFOs. You can activate little attachments that pop out of the saucer and provide useful functions, such as a scanner that will give you a clue as to an enemy creature's vulnerability or inform you of what weapon is needed to get through an obstacle blocking your way. Attachments include a ray gun that fires blips of deadly kinetic energy, a rock saw that can tear through cave-ins and some enemies as well, and an extendible grabber that allows you to move objects within the caverns as well as to grab onto something and hold on when a strong current comes sweeping through a flooded cavern. Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet does a fantastic job of providing you with this set of tools and little else, leaving you to figure out how to use them to make your way through the planet's caverns. None of the puzzles, obstacles, or boss fights are obscure, cheap, or unfair; you'll constantly by happily surprised to see how intuitive the solutions are to the game's inventive puzzles.

The "shadow" in Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is reflected in the game's look. The game is played in 2D in silhouette, and its look is reminiscent of that of LIMBO, except with a bit more color. And the "twisted" caverns have a way of compelling you to explore just a little bit more of the planet before shutting down to the point that when you finally do decide to call it you'll be surprised at how much more time you actually spent playing the game than you initially intended to – frequent checks of the in-game map inevitably expose an opening to a new side cavern or tunnel begging to be explored.

In addition to the game's main mode there's a multiplayer mode dubbed Lantern Run. The goal in this mode is for two to four players (either local or over XBL) and the goal is to get the lantern as far into a cavern as possible. The catches are that 1) the cavern is filled with enemies and obstacles, and 2) there’s a giant creature chasing you from behind the whole time. ‘Intense’, ‘challenging’, and ‘enjoyable’ are terms that come to mind when describing this mode. It’s at once a complete change of pace from the single player game and a logical companion to it, and you’ll probably find yourself being hooked by Lantern Run as well.

Final Rating: 95%. The only thing insane here would be your failure to download this game.


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