Originally Published: August 2, 2011, on EGMNOW.COM

Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Shadow Planet Productions
Platforms: XBLA

Release: 08.03.11

The Good: Old school exploration and backtracking similar to Metroid
The Bad: Constantly referring back to your map and weapon wheel breaks pace of game play
The Ugly: Monstrous, screen-filling shadow creatures bent on your destruction

Cut from the mold of old-school action games like Metroid, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet proves that fun, simple, yet engrossing game play can trump all the special effects and cut scenes of other games most any day of the week. In fact, the story of Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet can be summed up thusly: You’re an alien with a spaceship. Your home world has been invaded by a plague like shadow creature. Kill it.

And that’s all you really need as you pilot your way through a maze-like massive world with varying climates and themes and you blast away at parasitic creatures spawned from the master shadow monster. And blast away at these creatures you shall as you’ll earn an assortment of various weapons from standard missiles, blasters, and scanners, to more unique weapons like buzz saws and barrier shields. Of course, each new weapon will only make you want to explore even more as each will not only help you take down certain foes, but also open up new door ways that were once blocked off to you. Rewards ranging from concept art and more of the game’s back-story to armor and blaster power-ups await you if you choose to explore the entire map available.

The only downside that comes from having a large assortment of weapons and a map of where to explore is that you find yourself constantly referring back to the map to see where to go next, or even with four assignable hot keys, needing to go to the weapon wheel to change weapons. This tends to break the pace of game play and will slow down the experience for all the completionists out there.

Despite this minor complaint, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is a wonderfully addicting old-school romp that uses simple, tried and tested techniques to pull off a winner. The limited color palette works perfectly for the theme of the game and it helps put your sensory emphasis on the mood-setting music as you blast away in classic underdog style with your tiny ship against an entire world. Throw in an actually compelling 2-4 player co-op/versus mode called “Lantern Run” where you and up to three friends must work together to solve puzzles and escape the encroaching Lantern Monster, all the while competing for the high score, and Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is another more than worthy entry into Xbox’s Summer of Arcade.

Score: 9.5/10