March 16, 2011 4:00 PM | Cassandra Khaw
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is very good at making you feel small. In fact, it's terribly effective at making you feel downright insignificant. Granted, it makes sense. Unlike most games, you're not at war with a person or an organization; here, in this upcoming two-dimensional shooter, you'll be going toe-to-toe with an entire monstrosity-infested planet. A planet. I cannot express exactly how intimidating it is to see that your little, UFO-shaped vehicle is smaller than even the first enemy you encounter. Can you imagine the scale on which everything else is built? To make matters worse, your spacecraft feels more like a utility ship than a war-faring vessel of any variety.
During PAX East 2011, I didn't get to play too much of the upcoming indie shooter at the xBox Arcade Live Booth. I did, however, get a feel of the first three tools you'll come in contact with: a scanner that divulges information about your surroundings, a telescopic claw that serves rather well as your all-purpose appendage and a somewhat dinky little laser that didn't feel remotely adequate for the task at hand. It seems, however, that all of these accessories are fully upgradable along the course of the game so opinions might change in a future review.
While evaluating a game based on its visuals isn't exactly the most indie or even the wisest thing to do, I have to say that I really, really do feel an overwhelming amount of love for the artistic direction in the game. The devil really is in the details; everything about Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is absolutely sumptuous to behold. From the way your space ship crumbles with every blow it takes to the little things in the environment, there's a lot to gawk over when you're not otherwise fighting for your life.
Developed by Michel Gagne and published by FuelCell Games, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet also features some of the most inspired enemy designs I've seen in a while. Everything is large, voracious and true to fashion, intent on killing you. Early into the demo, you'll run into a number of strange, worm-like things protruding from the walls. If you get too close, they'll attempt to lasso you with their tongues and eat you; I couldn't tell, I was too busy trying to run away. Mind you, it looks like there will be multiple ways to deal with your opponents. While I was waiting in line, I saw a more composed-looking player deal with these things by feeding them the spiky, ball-like things that are everywhere in the caves. It worked far better than my attempt, I can assure you.
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is as much a shooter as it is a game about exploration. There is an almost Metroidvania-like joy to investigating the vast, shadowy world that you find yourself in, a joy that will follow you almost as assuredly as the game's many, many enemies. While a lot of people claim a resemblance to Limbo, I feel like the upcoming title has more in common with Samurai Jack than the former though neither, I think, are bad things to be compared to. Destined for exclusive release on the Xbox Live Arcade, something that makes me rather sad, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet will be out this summer. Till then, watch this 10-minute gameplay footage to better appreciate what is coming out.
Those interested in keeping track of the game as it goes through the final stages of development can visit the official website.