“You’re playing what?”
“Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet.”
“Sounds like a heavy metal song. Sounds stupid.”
Yeah, it sounds stupid. But in reality, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is a brilliant little game that has provided me with a new addiction.
Sporting a visual style that is suspiciously similar to Ubi’s Outland, Planet goes even deeper than the former’s dual-color mechanics by substituting a set of tools that are collected and used as you progress. Worlds are interconnected, ultimately creating an entire map that you can traverse freely once you open all of the barriers. In order to keep some sense of linear direction, these barriers often require a specific relative tool - one which may not have been procured yet.
Examples of these tools include a mining saw that breaks through certain types of rock, a grab-all claw arm that sometimes serves to anchor you in strong currents or wind, a phaser gun, a laser beam that can be used to activate crystals as well as attack enemies, a temporary directional shield, a rocket launcher, and more. All of the tools can be directed in 360 degrees using the right analog stick. The tools are selected during gameplay via a radial menu, but you can assign any four tools to the face buttons at your leisure.
The game is completely devoid of written or spoken dialogue, save for the title and credits. This is part of its charm, and also part of its challenge (which is comparatively low, by the way). If you find yourself completely stumped, your flying saucer is equipped with a scanner tool that provides visual hints for enemies and objects that can be interacted with.
Not only is the game charming, but it’s beautiful to behold - both visually and aurally. An orchestral, golden-age-of-monsters soundtrack is perfectly married to fluid animations and simple but striking graphics inspired by silhouette art. To me, Planet is the downloadable game to beat for sensory pleasure.