What’s the game about: flying around in your own “little” flying saucer picking up weapons or tools, figuring out puzzles and enjoying artistic backgrounds. What’s unique is the lack of gravity pulling on your character. Gliding around in this flying saucer was a different experience from the usual jumping and walking of other traditional Metroidvanias.
That being said, exploration and puzzle solving is the main focus of this game. Combat is mostly straightforward. Your weapons are easy to aim. You and your enemies can only take a couple of shots before exploding. So it’s in your best interest to dodge the shots coming your way. The saucer can only heal from save checkpoints and rare health pickups, so you want to avoid taking damage whenever possible. While enemies do re-spawn when they’re off-screen, you can pretty easily avoid them. Most of your time will be spent focusing on exploring this crazy planet you've landed on. Thanks to the pacing of the game and upgrades you can find, said exploration is enjoyable.
What I really liked about this title is that I felt clever when I made progress. Boss fights aren't big slug fests where you outlast your enemies but outthink them. You just need to use the tools and weapons you find along the way. If you’re having a frustrating time with a certain situation you find yourself in, you probably need to think your way out of it differently. Use the scanning tool. It will help you out a lot if you get stuck. The only part of this game that can get overly frustrating is the ice level, where you have to place ice crystals in the right places to get a beam of light to where you need it. The pick-up tool is...quirky and sometimes won't place the crystals correctly.
You follow the adventure of an alien who has gone to...well...an insanely twisted up shadowy planet to stop an invading force from destroying their planet. At least, that’s what I got out of the story. Most of the story is shown via pictures and cutscenes with no text or voice over to really clue you in to what’s going on. As the cutscenes are short, they only give you a basic idea of what’s going on. So, there’s not much to say about the story.
ITSP makes it way from Xbox to the PC platform in good form. Custom resolutions, fullscreen, texture and shader quality sliders (on/off choices) as well as depth of field and anti-aliasing up to 8x are here. It’s more than I’d expect from a 2D game but I’m definitely not complaining. The game runs exceptionally well and I never ran into bugs or crashes during my time with it. Keyboard bindings are present but you’ll have a better time with a controller as the movement simply feels more natural with an analogue stick. I didn't try out any of the multiplayer, I just wasn't all that interested in it.
It felt like this title mostly got ignored, which is a shame because there’s a really solid game here. Sure, the laser puzzles are finicky and the combat depth is shallow. But the presentation is solid, the pacing is great and the atmosphere is really nice. Add in some fun exploration and clever boss fights to make for a great title.
Released nearly three years ago, I only recently picked up and played Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. I left the experience rather satisfied. Which is rare, as this genre is so often plagued with some sort of pacing or mechanical issues that get in the way of having a fun time. Kudos to these devs, I recommend picking it up.