When I first heard about Giana Sisters Dream Runners, I thought it was a fun, unique idea. A four player racing game that relied on your platforming skills to win and all set in Black Forest’s Giana Sisters universe. If you’ve ever played Twisted Dreams, you’ll know that Dream Runners sticks very close to it in terms of level design and game mechanics such as collecting gems and bouncing on enemies.
I began the game slightly weary following recent games Clash and Slashdash, which only featured 4 player co-op and no AI’s or online play, I was at the very least happy that the game had both. Unfortunately my joy soon turned to dismay as a game designed to be both a platformer and a race track just couldn’t adapt to both.
Giana Sisters: Dream Runners: Xbox One [Reviewed], Playstation 4.
Developer: Black Forest Games
Release Date: August 19th 2015
Price: £7.99 [Disclosure: Game copy supplied by Publisher]
Whether you decide to jump right in with multiplayer or fight it out against the bots, you’ll get the choice of four incarnations of Giana, all brightly coloured, looking fierce and ready to go. Unlocking the later characters (Owl, Ninja, Knight and the robot) will require you beating several of the games 9 different stages.
Each stage has a few different elements but are all ultimately the same, with the same enemies and obstacles to avoid. Your goal is to dodge whirlwinds, enemies and run in an infinite loop until you’re far enough off the screen that you’ll leave your opponents in the dust. Most of the time my character was running on her own once I had momentum going, even up hills, which was weird. Each time you get far enough away or your opponents struggle to keep up with the pack, you’ll earn a star. Three stars win the game.
The switching mechanic also makes a return in Dream Runners and changes the world around you as you pass through dream gates which are basically there to slow your opponents down by blocking off certain routes. Which I have to admit can be quite annoying when you are mid jump and all of a sudden a stone wall is now blocking your path, or the path you are running along crumbles beneath you.
If you fail to avoid the obstacles in your way, your character will be stunned for a few seconds, this will probably happen a lot due to the fast-paced nature of the game. Avoiding them requires you to jump or slide out of their path, but due to the zoomed out camera view and the pace at which the characters are moving you can sometimes lose your player completely and think you’re ahead but really you got left behind, twenty seconds ago.
Dream Runners pays tribute to SpeedRunners, and the races feature power-ups to help you come out on top. Unfortunately the frequency of these and the close-quarters racing means you’ll probably be stunned a lot, hitting all three of your fellow racers has never been so easy. The power-ups range from dropping Owls behind you to stun your opponents (yes, really) launching cannonballs, switching places with another racer, throwing meteors and forcing everyone to use their powerups. Holding RT after collecting gems allows for a quick boost of speed, which you’ll need. Playing against the easy bots can be quite amusing sometimes when the timer counts down as they will all start running the wrong way.
Controlling the sisters felt a little off a few times, as I’d go to dash away, my character would fly backwards or not jump the way they should, I also found controlling the charged dash even more annoying and hardly used it, opting for using the twirl on my jumps to get ahead of the pack and tried not to spend the majority of the race with stars spinning around my head (very hard to do).
Overall Giana Sisters aimed to be a platforming racer but ended up just being a racer where you’ll be seeing stars, literally for around 85% of the time as you’re stunned frequently during the races, which can sometimes drag on as the timer only ticks down when you have lost one player, meaning you could run around for a while in a very short loop of a level repeating the same things. I like the concept of the game and a little fun was had, with some satisfaction being felt as I took out three opponents with one powerup , that was until I realised how frequent that was. The game gets points for difficulty based AI’s and the option for online play, it just got old quick.
Giana Sisters Dream Runners was reviewed on the Xbox One.
Disclosure: Game copy supplied by publisher