The third game in Xbox Live’s Summer of Arcade is the stylish extraterrestrial puzzle game Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. Don’t let its name fool you, this game is both insanely twisted and takes place on a shadowy planet filled with all sorts of traps and monstrosities whose sole mission is to take your cute little alien spacecraft and tear that fucker in half.
The Summer of Arcade started off pretty strong with the fantasy RPG Bastion so this game had a pretty high bar to reach. So did the game use its arsenal of alien gadgetry to blow my mind? Let’s find out. The Baby Factor: If Patapon and Metroid got together for a night of steamy silhouette on silhouette action, then were abducted by aliens and probed for no less then three days, Shadow Planet would be somehow be the result of all that.
To me, the best thing about Shadow Planet is its jaw-dropping visuals. Everything about this game looks incredibly cool, from the worlds you explore, to the enemies you encounter, to the animations all look amazing. Alone this almost would’ve made this a game worth checking out, just so you can see all the creativity that’s been invested into making sure this game looks fantastic. Thankfully, it’s not the only good thing it has to offer.
Along your adventure you’ll come across a plethora of upgrades, tools, and weapons that you can use to outfit your spacecraft so it can handle everything that tries to get in your way. The weapons range from a basic energy gun that can be improved to fire multiple shots more quickly to a missile launcher that lets you guide your missiles to an enemy before detonating them. Some of the weapons, like the missile launcher, also have to be used to solve puzzles, like guiding the rocket through a maze of tunnels to reach the switch that unlocks a door.
Most of the gadgets you’ll find double as both a weapon and a tool. The laser beam can take out waves of smaller foes or it can be aimed at crystals to activate them, the saw can shred enemies that get too close or it can help you break up rocks that are blocking the path. Then there are gadgets that are better suited for solving puzzles, like the pincer arm that can grab and carry objects, kind of like those things you get at fairs – those poles with the animal/dinosaur head on one end and the trigger on the other than can be pulled to open and close the creature’s mouth. I loved those so hard.
For the unfamiliar, this is an exploratory shooter; think of it like exploratory surgery where your spacecraft is the medical instrument, the shadow planet is the body, and the enemies inside are the tumors you have to cure. Why should you think of it like that? Think of it like a game within a game, where you’re playing a game while thinking of the game as another game (not that surgery is fun, or at least it isn’t for the patient). I’m rambling, let’s move on.
From the start you’ll have access to a map of the world you’ll be exploring, but most of it can’t be accessed until you have the right tools. As you progress your arsenal will grow giving you access to more of the environment. I suggest straying from the beaten path every now and then as there’s plenty of weapon and ship upgrades, concept art, and relics that unlock brief cinematic strewn about the game’s labyrinthine levels.
Not everything about this game is perfect. The major drawback is how short it is. If you’re looking for a meaty game then Shadow Planet’s 4-5 hour story probably won’t satiate you completely. Of course, there’s plenty of reason to go back for those of us who like to collect every item hidden in the game, but the real replay value comes from the game’s multiplayer. In the Lantern Run mode you can team up with some friends locally or over Xbox Live where you’ll have to work together to drag a lantern through an environment filled with obstacles. You’ll have to do this while being slowly chased by a massive tentacled beast. It’s appeal is limited but there’s no denying how fun it can be if you have the right team.
Shadow Planet follows the tried and true Metroid formula where you start off with nothing before gaining a bunch of equipment and abilities that transform you into a complete badass. There’s plenty of challenge in this game that stem primarily from the boss fights, all of which are extremely fun and really put your skills to the test, and the puzzles. You’ll really have to get familiar with your tools to survive in this crazy world.
The Final Word: This is a game you should definitely check out. It’s few mechanical flaws and short campaign are easily overshadowed by the beautiful animations, clever puzzles, and fun arsenal of gadgets.
This review is based on a digital copy of the Xbox 360 version of Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, which was provided by the publisher.