The Giana Sisters series has had a storied history, from its earliest beginnings as a pretty blatant Super Mario Bros. rip-off for the Commodore 64 way back in 1987, to its nostalgia heavy resurgence on pretty much every platform imaginable in the last couple generations. They’ve never been the best games, but they’re fairly solid platformers, and when I had the opportunity to review this new entry in the series, I figured why not; I love platform games. Unfortunately, I had no idea what I was in for.
Giana Sisters: Dream Runners is not a platform game. It looks like one and sort of acts and plays like one, but what it really is a Super Mario Kart style racing game with some platform game window trappings. It’s also online only, unless you count playing against bots with no form of single player progression. And the online system’s servers are terrible. I wouldn’t say it’s all bad.
But mostly, it is.
Here’s what I liked:
A little bit of fun – I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a little fun in the few matches I managed to get myself into. Unfortunately, I never managed to get a 4-player match going except against computer-controlled bots. Once I had a bunch of matches under my belt and got the hang of things, it was fun running past the other players (or player, in the case of my many 2-player only matches). Similar to Super Mario Kart, you can hold one power-up or obstacle at a time that you get by running through special blocks, and when you use them, it either boosts your character or releases an obstacle to trip up the other guys. Also similar to Super Mario Kart, it can be quite fun using a well timed power-up / attack to propel yourself into the lead.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
What am I supposed to do? – You are seriously thrown in with zero explanation. It looks like a platformer, so you figure run left to right and hit A to jump – but everything else is pretty much a mystery. The funny thing is that about 4 or 5 games in, all of a sudden these instruction overlays started popping up that explain what other buttons do. They continue popping up and disappearing every few games. Also, with no explanation of how to set up an offline game against bots (or even an indication that that’s an option), you’re forced to figure it out in a live game, online – if you can actually get one going.
The controls – The controls are pretty bad. Your character is extremely floaty, and making precision jumps (especially with the absolutely necessary if you want to win dash move) is extremely frustrating.
The graphics & music – The graphics are pretty second rate and repetitive, but even worse is the grating music – especially when you’re stuck waiting for a match for 5-10 minutes or longer. It’s really not a very polished game.
Network issues – I saved the worst for last. For a game that basically has to be played online, it’s almost impossible to get a game going with the network issues. I got some random network errors along the way, but most of the time it was just sitting there waiting for an opponent. I never made it past one opponent at a time even though I’d imagine it’s the most fun when you’re playing with a full four. I’ve been told that it’s a little better if you’re playing directly with friends that have the game rather than trying to get a match up going through the in-game menu, but unfortunately I don’t know anyone with the game.
Giana Sisters: Dream Runners is not a very good game. It’s also especially disappointing for me personally, because I was excited for a good new platformer. Oh well… I never did get around to playing Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams (which our reviewer gave a great rating to), so maybe I’ll go back and play that.
Score: Skip It
Giana Sisters: Dream Runners was developed by Black Forest Games and published by EuroVideo Medien on Xbox One. It was released on August 19th, 2015 for $9.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.