Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet

10 Overall Score

Written by on August 9, 2011 in

The Summer of Arcade is in full swing and the latest addition to the lineup is FuelCell’s Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, an intergalactic adventure sure to keep you entertained well beyond the summer. Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is one of those games that wasn’t on my radar in 2011, but after playing it I found myself hooked within minutes. The first cutscene in the game shows you, an alien, working inside of your ship, when all of a sudden your computer screen shows an incoming dark object. This object is teeming with black mass and is headed right for a nearby star. As it collides with the star it engulfs it and plunges the star into darkness. Fragments then shoot off of the star and head straight for your planet, hellbent on spreading quickly and repeating the process. Upon impact, the vile, infectious asteroid spreads its dark matter across the globe and it’s up to you and you alone to save your planet. The music in this cutscene is what really evoked my emotions, and it was saddening to see the planet being consumed by the darkness, but I knew I had a big job ahead of me in my treacherous journey to cleanse my planet.

ITSP plays very similarly to the original Metroid game where you explore an area, collecting new abilities which in turn allow you access to previously inaccessible areas. Now we aren’t talking 3 or 4 areas within the map. No, the map in ITSP combines 5 different sections each with its own environment, such as ice, water, barren metal wasteland, abandoned factory-like area, and a dark ominous cave. Each of these areas houses gates and points of interest which you will see the majority of on your first playthrough, but it’s not until after you have collected all the items and fully upgraded your spaceship that you will be able to access 100% of the map. Doing so nets you an achievement though, so it’s definitely worth the work.

The nice part about ITSP, and the reason the game is so approachable, is that the game tells you exactly what weapon or item you need to be able to access an area, simply by scanning a door or gate. This is done by using your scanning laser. It doesn’t cause any damage to enemies, but instead allows you to scan your surroundings, telling you which items you need to interact with the environment. This can also be used on enemies to figure out which weapons harm them the most. The scanner was my best friend throughout the game and was very helpful when I was stuck in a section and didn’t know how to get out.

Other than your scanning tool, your ship has the capability to use 8 other weapons and tools to aid you on your planet-saving journey. You can map these items to buttons on your controller, but with only 4 usable buttons and 8 items, I found myself having to manually select the weapon more often than using a hotkey. Each tool is used throughout the game for multiple purposes. Have a rock that is blocking your way? Use your claw arm and drag it out of the way. Need to get through loose pebbles? Use your saw tool and cut your way to freedom. Facing a horde of ice monsters? Choose a heat laser and melt them to death. Other tools include a gatling laser gun, controllable missiles, magnetic forcefield, shield, and lightning generator. Throughout the game these tools will even allow you access to hidden areas where you can collect artifacts and upgrades for your shield and main laser.

Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet  is beautifully made and I really loved how one section of the area transitioned into another. Traveling through a rocky cavern and then seamlessly ending up at the bottom of the ocean was enjoyable. I could tell that the artists and developers worked hard to make each area seem believable, including the array of enemies and bosses each area contained. I really enjoyed fighting these bosses and figuring out the best way to defeat them using my brand new shiny tool I had just upgraded my ship with. I did get frustrated at times, especially on the ice boss, but I felt a sense of joy upon delivering that final blow and watching the enemy shatter into a million pieces.

Aside from the campaign is a mode called “Lantern Run” where anywhere between 1-4 players attempt to see how far they can drag a lantern before being caught by a behemoth shadow creature. Each time you play you will encounter a new course, as each section is randomized. At the end of each section, however, is a room were you will fight off waves of enemies in order to continue. Now while this may sound boring, it is anything but. I first tried it out solo just to see how difficult it could be playing by myself. At first everything seemed too easy, but as I got further into the level I started encountering obstacles like rocks, vines, enemies, and other objects that required me to put down the lantern while I dealt with the problem. Nothing is more stressful than having to drop your lantern to kill a wave of foes, all the while the massive shadow creature continues to get closer. Ideally, it is best to have 3 other teammates who can do the grunt work for you, so flying solo seemed to be a bad call on my part. Along the way you can collect items and shield bonuses to help you, but be wary because with the items it is first come, first serve. I made it to the 90,000 point marker before dying and wasn’t able to beat my score again on solo. I doubt anyone could get the achievement for accumulating 1,000,000 points playing by themselves. Playing multiplayer with several other players is where the true fun and exhillarating moments happen. If you are playing with 4 players, there will be 4 lanterns. Each player doesn’t need to grab a lantern at the beginning, but the game is over when all the lanterns or players are destroyed. My first multiplayer session was in a 4-player game and we made it to the 300,000 point mark before all of us died. At the beginning we all took a lantern and struggled to advance while retaining our own individual lantern. We quickly learned that it is easier to have fewer lanterns because that allows other players to focus on dispatching enemies, moving rocks, and helping the lantern carriers in any way they can. The nice part is that lanterns can be passed around and aren’t user restricted, but if you pick up a lantern it will change to your color, then change again according to who carries it next.

The good vastly outweighs the bad in ITSP. In fact, I wouldn’t call anything about this game “bad”. My only gripe was that I wish there was an easier way to hotkey the items so I wouldn’t have to continuously hold down RB to switch. When you access your inventory the game doesn’t pause, so there were times where I was outrunning enemies while trying to access a tool I didn’t have hotkeyed, often resulting in my death. Also, there were times where I had no clue what to do to get past a gate and would have appreciated more guidance. There was an area where I had to blow up a red crystal and it told me the item I had to use, but unbeknownst to me I needed to add another crystal in order to get by! How was I supposed to know that? Still though these are mere annoyances and don’t take away from the awesomeness.

Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet isn’t a game that I can just persuade you to buy. You need to try it for yourself. ITSP is well worth the $15 and if you haven’t already, you need to purchase and play it now! Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is available on Xbox Live Arcade now and is rated E for Everyone.

A copy of Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet was provided to The Married Gamers for the purpose of evaluation and review.


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Author: Loren Nikkel View all posts by
Hardcore Xbox and occasional PC gamer. I love to play multiplayer and co-op games where strategy is key.

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