Lasting First Impressions of Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet from Shadow Planet Productions
In 2005, artist Michel Gagne created a series of interstitials for Nickelodeon’s “Halloween Shriekin Weekend” From these small vignettes it is quite evident where the idea and the imagery came from for Summer of Arcade’s third release in 2011, the aptly titled Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. Partnering with game industry veteran, Joe Olson, Michel has taken his unique visual style and interwoven it into a wonderfully twisted and brilliant adventure. When I first learned of this title, as weird as it was, I was instantly intrigued. The title alone made me want to check it out and I’m certainly glad I did.
When a mysterious and malevolent entity infects the sun of a distant, indeterminate galaxy, and turns it into a living, thriving monstrosity, a tiny little alien, in his 1950’s inspired flying saucer, takes it upon himself to put a stop to the growing mass and save his also-infected planet. The game begins with a wonderfully animated introduction to the events described above and immediately drops the player into the role of controlling the tiny flying saucer with only a single utility attached, a scanner. Don’t worry, however, as throughout the course of the game you will find many other utilities such as a laser beam, a saw blade, a grappling hook, and a self-guided missile, just to name a few. You will be required to leverage each of these utilities to continually uncover this entirely massive map.
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet boasts an incredibly wonderful art style. It truly feels like I’m watching and playing a Saturday Morning Cartoon. The entire world appears utterly alive as nearly everything is animated. The pastel colours are vibrant and used mostly as background and accents while the foreground and main game items are rendered solely in black. It is a brilliant visual feast and almost mesmerising to play. ITSP does not take itself seriously and is animated in a very silly and irreverent manner and that is truly the appeal to this game. When I first started playing it, I could not help but smile at its pleasant simplicity and this continued as I uncovered each new section of the map and moved from one area to another. It is altogether a joy to play this game.
Many collectable are hidden throughout the map which, once found, unlock items such as concept art, video vignettes, and upgrades making this definitely worth uncovering every nook and cranny in the game. Several sections of the map are only accessible with specific ship utilities so a revisit later in the game is a must. I truly love games like this as I enjoy finding every little hidden item.
So far in my play through of Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, I found the challenge level not overly difficult. It would appear to have been designed as a sincerely casual game which fits quite well into its whimsical look and feel. While some boss battles do present challenges, they are never so arduous as to make you want to throw the controller across the room. The challenge is enough that, even if it takes a few tries, it is definitely possible within those few attempts. After a long, stressful day, this is the kind of game that you can definitely relax to and just have plain old-school fun.
Shadow Planet Productions, I gave you an hour and I am joyously IMPRESSED. Well done!