iPad Game Review: Giana Sisters HD Reviewed by Guy Dayen
Originally created for the Commodore 64 platform, the Giana Sisters come back in fine form more than a quarter century later for the iPad. Great graphics, tons of levels and a responsive control scheme make this game a winner, especially for the younger crowd.
This game was one of the first Jump'N'Run games made for the Commodore 64, and this new version is true to its origins. You play as Giana, and your goal is to get through various worlds in order to recover your diamonds. These were "stolen" by your treasure chest, as you will discover in the opening animation sequence. Keep in mind that this is a dream of Giana's, and therefore the worlds you are in are very fanciful; they are replete with strange creatures and imaginative environments.
The main power-up comes when Giana transforms into Punk Giana. This happens when you bump Giana?s head against one of the golden bricks, and a beach ball pops out. You must touch the beach ball to get the special power. Punk Giana can destroy bricks with her head, which sometimes reveals hidden diamonds. Punk Giana can also shoot fireballs at the monsters. Beware, though; some of the monsters are unaffected by your fireballs. Then, the game is all about positioning yourself or jumping quickly enough to avoid the mean little critters. There is a limited amount of time to finish each level, so keep an eye on the timer. Get to the flag before the numbers count down to zero.
There are plenty of save points, so kids (and butterfingered adults like me) won?t get excessively frustrated when they run out of lives. The game will start up at the last save point, with a fresh array of lives. Since the game is still quite challenging, considering its focus on a younger audience, this is a perfect game scheme to allow players to make steady progress through the game without making it seem so easy that they feel there is no difficulty at all.
Points are earned by collecting diamonds, and bonus levels are unlocked when all the red diamonds are collected in the various stage levels. Progress far enough in the game, and collect enough diamonds, and you will unlock a ?retro? game mode for those who are nostalgic for the good old days of gaming.
The game controls are very easy to pick up. Essentially, you move left and right, you jump onto some of the monsters to dispose of them and you jump up and down unto various platforms to move along in the worlds you are exploring. In Punk Giana mode, there is also a button that shoots fireballs. There is also an option to activate touch controls if you prefer to have fewer buttons on screen.
Giana Sisters will appeal mainly to young girls, although I?m sure boys will also enjoy this game tremendously as long as their buddies don?t know they?re playing a ?girl?s? game. Parents can feel comfortable with the game?s appropriateness for younger children. The violence is kept at a relatively low level and it is very cartoonish. There is no gore, which is refreshing in a time where most games, even those aimed at the young, seem unnecessarily filled with blood and flying body parts.
The visual style is very reminiscent of Saturday morning cartoons. Everything is bright and colorful. The level of detail in the various worlds is impressive, with something fun to look at on every screen. The character and environment designs will strong appeal to female sensitivities, without being too ?girly? for boys.
Don?t forget to swipe the screen up and down, so Giana can see what is above and below her. The developers do a good job of indicating at which points this is important by including little arrow signs here and there in the game.
The game controls are quite responsive, in both iterations, and they feel very natural. The placement is such that they don?t interfere with the visual elements of the game.
One aspect of the game that bothered me a bit is that you return to the same splash screen every time a new level loads. It would be good to have different scenes. Happily, the load time is not very long, so this is only a minor drawback.
On the other hand, a truly innovative feature of this game is the way the tutorial is integrated organically into the game play. As Giana progresses in the worlds, there are little information signs. When she gets to something new, there will be a sign, and as Giana passes the sign, a popup will appear to explain the new element. This is genius; it?s unobtrusive, it?s always there with in the game which avoids having to exit gameplay to check up on the tutorial, and it solves the problem of information overload that is so common in game tutorials that try to explain everything at once. I would like to see this type of tutorial implemented in all the games play. The developers deserve congratulations for this feature - it?s terrific!
The music is very appropriate to the game design. Bright and bouncy - no death metal or overly loud and frantic bears here. Again, the game reaches back to its 80s roots, and uses music that could have been heard in any arcade of that time. If you prefer, you can play your own music through in-game options.
The sound effects follow the same pattern: many of them are reminiscent of the sounds used in older games for a cool retro feel. However, plenty of other sound effects are present throughout the game (such as bubbles, water, etc.) as befits a game made for the twenty-first century. Of course, the music and sound quality are on par with the iPad?s capabilities, and the game sounds great when playing with headphones.
Giana Sisters HD is a great game value for five dollars. Kids as well as adults will have a blast playing it. The only problem for Mom and Dad (besides their kids doing better at the game than they themselves) might be trying to wrestle the iPad back from children in the middle of ?just one more level?. This is an excellent effort, and we hope to see more adventures of the Giana Sisters soon. Either as a distraction on a long car trip, a fun way to spend a few hours at home or as a first introduction to action games, this game will please all family members.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5): 5
Graphics: - 4.5 - Wonderful graphic design, but please add a few more splash screens in the next update Sound: - 5 - Very enjoyable mix of retro and modern sounds, well-done! Controls: - 5 - Responsive, intuitive and easy to use. Nice to have options for controls. Gameplay: - 5 - Will appeal to players of all ages, especially girls. Replay value is high, as players will try to earn all the red diamonds to unlock bonus levels and the retro mode.
Playing Hints and Tips:
- Make sure to look up and down, and explore every level, especially the ones on the upper part of the screen, and the underground ones as well. That?s where you will find many of the red diamonds. Time your jumps well, and beware of water: for all her prowess, Giana cannot swim!
- Be sure to break as many bricks as you can; some of them contain multiple diamonds, which will improve your score.
- Watch the timer. Don?t obsess over collecting all the diamonds the first time through; you will waste too much time and risk losing a life. That?s what replays are for!