Giana Sisters began life as a clone of Super Mario Bros., revived a few years ago thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign led by Black Forest Games. The end result was a genuinely appealing platformer by the name of taglined Twisted Dreams – a game where changing between planes was the key gimmick. Giana Sisters: Dream Runners is a standalone version of the free multiplayer DLC, which in turn goes back to the series’ blatant rip-off days of old.
Well, that statement is technically correct. You see, the game that Dream Runners uses as its influence is Tiny Build’s Speedrunners – a PC game that has been on Early Access since 2013, where you race against friends in a 2D platformer track. The only differences here in principle are the changes in setting and Giana’s lack of a grappling hook.
If you’ve played Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams, then the mechanics of how you move should be relatively familiar. You can use the same dash and glide abilities from the main game, plus you can hit little orbs or portals to switch between planes and affect how the track layout is set. Each of the nine tracks uses different themes, but all of them have some nuances that aren’t well executed.
While sliding under or jumping over obstacles makes sense, figuring out which walls can be wall-jumped off of is difficult and the gliding sections are not terribly involving. Other than that the gameplay is a carbon copy of Speedrunners: There are boost points where you can stock up on gems to go faster and minor obstacles to navigate over. But it’s the controls that are a key problem as the momentum the Sisters get while running is way too slippery for fine control.
Power-ups can be found around the track, ranging from invincibility, teleportation, projectiles, and owls. It’s certainly in theme, but none of the attacks aside from power-ups affect the other runners, making the game far more reliant on luck. As such, you don’t get those clutch moments where just as someone is about to steal the point you take the lead in the last minute.
But what’s worse is that the game does a poor job at times of ensuring the player in first place doesn’t get eliminated for going too far off screen. This happened numerous times to both me and other racers, making the game feel deeply unpolished. Had I have been playing against real players, there would be a degree of animosity.
However that is impossible at this time as every attempt to connect to other players results in the game eventually going to a character select screen that is waiting for players. Either the client is broken or nobody is playing the game. Either way, local co-op is a thing and supports up to four racers with several different skins.
Then there’s the presentation. For some reason, the action is incredibly zoomed out, making avoiding obstacles somewhat difficult. It’s also tricky to make out in any detail the visual design of the tracks. While I loved the soundtrack from Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams, hearing the same music here is slightly sloppy. There are also some voices that are initially drowned out by the music, but are among the weirdest grunts I’ve heard in a character selection screen.
Games like this live or die by their multiplayer community and while it’s sad to see no such community thrive for a competitive platforming racing game, maybe this isn’t the best game to mourn for. Its dated looks, slippery controls, and occasional bugs don’t exactly help, but the lack of originality compared to both Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams and Speedrunners just highlight the problems with this copy and paste effort. Go play Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams instead of this.
Version Tested: Xbox One