Insanely twisted Shadow Planet is the first game from new developers FuelCell games. The game sees you take the role of a small alien flying a UFO. With great art design and minimal, well actually no storytelling, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is subtle yet brilliant.
The game begins with this beautifully crafted animated scene with a brilliant string composition with rises and falls at the right intervals. There’s no narration or dialogue but you begin in a UFO with just a scanner and a claw. Throughout the whole game, there is only one instructional screen and that appears right at the start to show you how to choose your different gadgets on the radial wheel.
From there you are given a waypoint on the map but nothing else. You’ll soon discover that there is quite a long way between each one and making it there is totally up to you. Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet will become very familiar to those who like the Medroidvania games.
Like I’ve already mentioned, you are free to make your way to each waypoint. The more you go off the beaten track the more upgrades you will find. In typical Metroidvania style, not everywhere is accessible right away. As you travel through the many different worlds, you will find weapon and armour upgrades as well as artifacts. After collecting set amount of artefacts, you will unlock a tiny snippet of story. Once again, there is no dialogue or even captions to tell you what’s going on. They are interesting enough though to warrant searching for more to uncover what happens.
While traversing the various worlds, you will discover new gadgets for your little UFO to help overcome some of the games daring puzzles. These puzzles are definitely a stand-out aspect of the game. They begin relatively simple, but soon enough you will be putting that brain to good use. Even when you feel really stuck, a little creativity can go a long way. The physics and the creativity to the puzzles keeps them from ever being frustrating. You must guide rockets through very tight areas, use crystals to divert lasers and others that always leave you guess what’s next.
Easily one of the best but subtle features is the object scanner. As you hover around in your UFO, you will come up against different types of foe and obstacles. Instead of the game throwing hint screens and just telling you what to do, using the object scanner helps give some indication what to do. After you can an object or certain pathways etc. a small image showing the radial screen will show the position on the radial wheel which gadget would be best suited. This is also really handy with enemies. Not only does it show you what gadget might be best suited, but it also shows if you can kill it and if they can hurt you. It’s also a small details but one that is commended.
The art-style in this game just captures you from the moment you start. The whole game’s art is designed by animator Michael Gagne. The art was done completely separate to the game itself. Gagne created the art-work and devs Fuelcell built a game around it. It leads to a game that truly compliments one another. Usually, art or the gameplay fights for your attention but in Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet they help make the game feel more whole.
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet sees you travel through half a dozen worlds but the game isn’t that long. There’s no dialogue to hold you down, no huge amount of backtracking (although it is still present), and the fact you can fly anywhere makes this game feel smooth and fast at all times. There is a multiplayer mode called Lantern Run which should add some more time, and it will of course come down to the players you play with.
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is a great take on the genre. Unlike other games in its genre, ITSP stands out simply due to the fact that you fly around the worlds in a UFO. It feels different, looks different, and plays different leading to a game that’s familiar, yet fresh. It grew on me like a tumour, but the best possible kind.