GIANA SISTERS: TWISTED DREAMS / Rainbow Arts / PC
The original Giana Sisters was a shameless Super Mario Bros. clone, but at the time that was cool because Nintendo certainly wasn't gonna bring their flagship cash cow to computers and it was hard to even find basically competent platformers outside of consoles then. It was bigger on Non-PCs than it was on PCs though, so I never ended up playing it because even at a tender age I was about that Master Race life.
Many years have passed, the IP survived legal destruction by Nintendo somehow and now it's being re-imagined by Black Forest as a platformer with its own identity. Well, sort of. Like so many indie designers, they must have looked at those sales figures for Meat Boy and Vuvuvuvuvuvuvu and etc. and said "Me wanty." So you end up with the base of a platformer with traditional design but original style, but then increasing amounts of Mario ROM Hack Save Scum level design get cobbled in as you go.
The good part of Twisted Sisters is showcased in the first set of levels - a game that feels oddly like an old-school Sonic the Hedgehog, but with the speed throttled, much better jumping and exploration to find hidden stuff heavily encouraged. It looks nice, and it has a pretty great soundtrack by the guy that did the original game's memorable MOD soundtrack paired with some Swedish metal band or something. It uses a character-switching mechanic very similar to that of Eversion, where changing characters also changes the tone of the world on the fly, sometimes opening paths or removing obstacles. Each character also has their own ability -- Cute Giana can twirl endlessly to float like the Princess in Super Mario 2, and Punk Giana can do a Sonic-like dash that smashes up most enemies (and some terrain).
If it had just stuck with being an exploration-friendly puzzle platformer, it would have been gold. But as of the first "boss level", suddenly it becomes all 'bout dat Meat Boy (no Miyamoto), and this trend continues through future levels. I should have realized what was coming given that you can die endlessly without real consequence and that there's checkpoints almost every 30 seconds or so, but I thought maybe that was just for the babby Millenials at first. But nope, it's Mario ROM Hacks Ahoy after a point, with tons of the instant-death jump-fests through spikes and etc.
Admittedly, every generation thinks the generation right after it is stupid and terrible, so that may be the case here. I don't understand the appeal of ultra-hard Mario save scum ROM hacks or PewDiePie at all, but there's heaps of younger peeps out there gobbling this stuff up. But even setting aside personal preference, there's a few technical problems with the game, at least as delivered through Steam. There's often a long black-screen pause before the title screen that's long enough to make you think the game has hung, and touching any key other than the ones necessary for the game (like the volume buttons on a laptop) kicks you out of full-screen mode.
I don't blame a small developer for tryna get their money, but it feels like cobbling in the Meat Boy stuff here was unnecessary. They had the base of a unique, great platformer and even production values above and beyond the usual indie to go with it. Mario ROM hack segments are like the creme fraiche of the gaming world apparently, amateurs see it and just can't resist throwing it into goddamn everything thinking it will magically make it better. If you need to make your money making these games for the PewDiePie generation who wants to make videos of themselves doing this UBER CHALLENGE TEEHEEHEEE OMG I DIED AGAAAAAAIN, that's fine man, but it would nice if you'd do the courtesy of not springing this shit on the player an hour or more into the game when they're starting to get into and enjoy it. Just be clear, unapologetic and up-front about what it is. Twisted Dreams' swerve into Spikes N' Respawns World isn't as unexpected or jarring as the one in Guacamelee (which very rudely changed from a Metroidvania to Meat Boy out of nowhere a few hours in), but it's sitting at second place with me so far.
* Gameplay Video