Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is an exploration based shooting adventure game with aliens. It's not particularly original, but that doesn't mean it's bad. I wish I could begin by explaining the story or characters, but there's practically none of either. You're a random flying saucer tasked with exploring the alien menace that's invaded your home planet or something. It was never really clear. All I know is that the game consisted of going from one place to another, solving puzzles, getting items, and fighting enemies, all on a quest to rid this planet of the aliens that had taken up residence there.
The first things you'll notice about the game are the score and visuals. Special note goes to the score, which was composed by Dimmu Borgir and is perfect for the game, blending fantasy and metal sounds to create a truly epic experience. While the cutscenes were few and far between, every one of them had an awesome track that blew me away. Sadly there was practically no music playing during actual gameplay, but the epic cutscenes more than made up for it. After all, it's a lonely exploration and adventure game, heavy metal riffs during the many puzzle solving sections would ruin the mood.
The graphics, on the other hand, are pretty forgettable. As much as I love the stark contrast of black on every other color of the spectrum, I'm noticing it's beginning to be a bit overused. It was in LIMBO and Outland before this, and Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet fails to match the mood of either of those games. I'm not saying it is bad, but other games have done it better and they did it first, which is a shame since this has technically been in development since 2007, an eon in gaming time.
But once you settle into the world, one more thing is particularly apparent: you're essentially playing a Metroid game, the only difference is that you're piloting a ship rather than exploring on foot. For comparison's sake, the game consists of exploring uncharted territory, fighting enemies and finding hidden loot along the way. You're going to be solving a series of shooting and grappling puzzles, fighting bosses, and you're going to spend much of your time backtracking to get hidden powerups and unlockables that you couldn't get the first time around. Like Metroid, the more weapons and tools you collect, the more of the map unlocks and the more you can acquire. There's no denying we've seen the formula before, but it's a formula that works and it's done pretty well here.
There are plenty of collectibles to find along the way. You find the 8 weapons throughout the natural course of the game as well as optional upgrades for your gun. You can also find hidden artifacts that unlock concept art as well as other artifacts that unlock parts of an epic cinematic that explains a bit of the back-story. There are plenty of collectibles to keep you busy, but I think a health bar upgrade would have been welcome, in the end I'm happy with what I got.
As I mentioned above, the formula is one you've seen before, but I can honestly say that at least the game was well executed. The controls are tight aside from some aiming issues, the tools are intuitive and fun to use, the enemies are fun to blow up, the pace was fluid, and the boss battles are actually surprisingly well done. The only complaint I had was that I found some of the puzzles were a real pain to figure out. There was one puzzle that involved using mirrors to reflect lasers into a crystal, which was complicated enough, but after I was sure I found everything, I couldn't advance. It didn't matter what tool I used or how I adjusted the lasers, I could not figure out what to do. As it turns out, I was missing a part of the crystal that was hidden on the other side of that world and was hidden behind another impassable wall that I couldn't figure out how to pass. I'm not saying challenging puzzles aren't fun (They certainly are), but I had to go an awful long way out of my way to figure out something I doubt I would have figured out without at least an hour of random wandering. That minor complaint aside, most of the puzzles were well thought out and designed (like the aforementioned laser reflection puzzle), but some had me wondering how I was meant to figure this out on my own.
Once you're done with the main campaign, which took me about 7 hours or so, you can play a mode called “Lantern Run” which consists of you and up to three friends (locally or on Xbox Live) working together to drag some lanterns through a cavern as a tentacle monster slowly chases you down slow and steady, horror film style. You get points based off how far you get and how many of the lanterns survive. It's a good mode, but there didn't appear to be much substance to it and I really can't see myself returning to it.
All in all, the game would last you about 10-15 hours depending on how efficient you were getting all the items and playing Lantern Run. It's certainly not a horrible deal, at 1200 MSP, but the fact remains that there are plenty of better deals out there on Xbox live, and this game really doesn't have much in the way of originality. Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet isn't a bad game by any means; it just doesn't have an identity of its own. I don't have anything particularly bad to say about it, but it's hard to recommend a game that just regurgitates things we've seen so many times before and better. If you've got the points to pick it up, you might as well because it is a well made and fun game, but there are plenty of other games I'd recommend first.