Project Giana preview
I’m going to preface this preview with a bit of a history lesson. The year is 1985 and Super Mario Brothers is selling gangbusters on the NES. German based Spellbound Studios looked to capitalize on this success with The Great Giana Sisters, a game that bared more than a coincidental resemblance to the iconic plumber bros, yet still managed to offer gamers a taste of different levels done in a familiar style. However, Nintendo didn’t like that at all, and the game was never allowed to be released in the United States and Japan. I suppose it didn’t help that the game’s tagline was: “The Brothers are history.”
That’s ancient history now and you can see if you fast forward to 2009, in an ironic twist, Nintendo allowed Spellbound to release a remake for the Nintendo DS. The game didn’t exactly reinvent the Platformer wheel, but it was a fun little romp through some Mario inspired levels with unique transformations giving the main character Giana different powers to progress. Recently, Spellbound fell on some hard times and was forced to shut down. Undeterred, and determined to see their vision of a modern Giana sequel, key members of the Spellbound staff reformed under the Black Forest Games label to make their dream a reality.
Project Giana (the working title for this project) is the first true sequel to the original game and builds on this concept of transformation in new and exciting ways. Rather than just giving Giana a different set of powers as she traverses the environment, shifting between her two forms (“Punk Giana” and “Cute Giana”) causes the entire environment to shift between a nightmarish world and a cute, fluffy world that wouldn’t be out of place in a Disney flick. In an ironic juxtaposition, the Punk Giana form is used in the cute world, whereas the Cute form is used in the nightmare world. The art style between these two worlds is something to behold, really quite beautiful to look at.
The shifting is handled in two ways – by performing one of Giana’s signature moves in the opposite form (Example: You’re in cute form and want to do a flame dash, pressing the button causes the world, and Giana’s form, to shift while you perform the dash), or by hitting one of the shoulder buttons. Doing this can be used in strategic ways as you can shift before making a crucial jump, as shifting has drastic effects (other than aesthetics) on your surroundings, such as shifting enemy types, changing the shape of platforms, or even creating new platforms for you to jump off of. Shifting is also key in finding all of the collectible crystals placed in hidden places throughout each level.
The above chart gives an example of how you use Giana's powers to progress in a level.
The game’s music is also effected by the shifting, changing between a more traditional score played during the “Cute Giana” segments done by legendary game music composer Chris Hulsbek, who also did the music for the original game in 1985 and Machinae Supremacy’s tribute to the Giana Sisters, played during the “Punk Giana” segments, in addition to new tracks that have been recorded just for the game. The transitions in music happen seamlessly, each song picking up precisely where the last left off, lending to a pleasing overall ambience with the game thus far.
The demo levels we played included a basic tutorial level and a more advanced level that let you really use the different powers that Giana has at her disposal, and demonstrated some of the more advanced changes that can happen in the level and enemy types. Though not particularly hard by any means, the game provided enough of a challenge to be entertaining, and we're sure in the final product will have some truly mindbending stuff to puzzle through. The controls in particular were very polished leaving gameplay a matter of your personal skill with the engine, unlike some other platformers we’ve seen in recent years.
The game won’t be released for awhile without your help though – the Project Giana Kickstarter only has 5 days left as of this writing and still needs another $30,000 to be completed and shipped by October. If it does not get funded, it will take much longer as Black Forest Games will have to stop to take side projects to fund this little gem. Help ‘em out! This game really innovates in a lot of ways and it would be sad to see it get delayed that much longer. There are many rewards available for donating to the kickstarter, in addition to scoring a copy of the game when it's complete! You can check out the full Kickstarter here.
Dustin Steiner is GameZone's eSports Correspondent! Follow him on Twitter @VGHC_Deitis and check out Video Gaming Hard Corps, where he is a local tournament organizer for the S. FL. Fighting Game Community.