Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is the first game being developed by new studio Fuelcell Games. Branded by producers as an "adventure-exploration-shooter," the title seeks to take a new spin on the Metroidvania formula. Players control Alien, a being that pilots a spaceship and collects various tools scattered around the world. The strange planet is divided into various themes, including ice, underwater, and organic zones. The items and weapons that can be discovered include buzz saws, blasters, scanners, and claws. Each of these gadgets has unique uses for solving puzzles and destroying enemies.
We started with the scanner and claw grip. Both of these weapons could be accessed by bringing up a radial menu and selecting them or by assigning these tools to the face buttons for quick use. The latter option was preferred because all menu options favored using both the right analog stick and right bumper at the same time. The scanner could be used on objects and foes to discover the best tool to use against a particular target. The claw grip could be used to pull switches, lift boulders, or even toss around enemies. These items were not only great for dealing with foes but also for forging new pathways to find more power-ups.
After dragging up one rock, a whole inclined tree sprung up like a fat man slamming his rear on a teeter-totter. This led us to more upgrades, including boosted shields and a spruced-up laser cannon. This rooty-tooty point-and-shooty became the main weapon in our beefy arsenal. After a few power-ups, this gun could destroy most enemies with ease. However, some enemies had additional defenses and hazards. Some minions would explode upon death or have frontal shields that required swift maneuvering to target their weak spots. There was also no heads-up display; instead, there was an energy meter directly on the ship itself. As we took damage, the ship's lights would flash from yellow to red, and dark smoke would emit from the top of the craft.
Among the last items we found was the buzz saw that could be used to slice through the various cracks in the world. We were only able to locate a handful of such points, but we were informed that many secret paths are spread across the planet. The saw also served as a strong--though short-range--force of destruction. Though there were more roads we could have backtracked to and explored, there was a much greater temptation to press forward and battle the stage's huge boss.
This fight focused on the use of the blaster as we dodged a plethora of enemy fire. Because the demo was only in its early stage, the number of shots onscreen was a fraction of true bullet hell. The boss would also retract and accumulate its fire and form it into a protective shield to defend its weak sections. We could aim at both the monsters eyes to deal damage or destroy the tentacles to prevent further projectiles. The demo concluded after all four eyes were obliterated.
Even our shorthand trial of Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet was impressive and fun. While the early stage was easy to complete, we can see great potential for complex puzzles and challenging fights. The single-player campaign hosts a robust eight-to-10-hour adventure. There is also a four player co-op mode, but it was not available for demoing at this time. Check back again later for further details regarding this hot downloadable release.
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet will be released exclusively for Xbox Live Arcade in the summer of 2011.