Giana Sisters DS
Many of you reading this have never heard of the Giana
Sisters before. Considering that the game is over 20 years
old and was sued by Nintendo for being a blatant rip-off, it's
no wonder why this title never became a household name.
However, it's a real shame, as even back then, it was one of
the best 'run and jump' platformers around.
So let's take a trip back to the mid-to-late 80s, a time
where chicks had big hair, punk was still going strong and
the two gaming systems of choice were the Nintendo
Entertainment System (NES/Famicom) and the Sega Master
System. At the time, side-scrolling platformers were all the
rage and Super Mario Bros. was king of the industry. To this
day, it's the second highest selling video game of all time,
beaten only by Wii Sports.
Now, while platformers were on home consoles, they were
virtually non-existant in the home computer market. Early
PCs like the Commodore 64, Atari ST, ZX Spectrum,
Amstrad CPC and the Amiga all had dual functions. They
were all designed for work and play. Seeing an opportunity,
German publisher Rainbow Arts fot the ball rolling on the
very first PC platformer. The good news was that the game
turned out to be an excellent example of the genre. The bad
news was that circumstances beyond their control would
cause the Giana Sisters to quickly disappear and be
forgotten, much like so many one-hit-wonders of the
So how did such a great game disappear without a trace,
only to be left with an underground cult following of rabbidly
devoted fans? It's all because it did its job really well, and
may have borrowed a little too liberally from another hit
platformer at the time, one which starred a moustachioed
plumber. There's always been a fine grey line between
what's homage inspired by a genre classic, and what's a
totally blatant rip-off. Just have a look at Brian DePalma's
cinematic career and all the flak that he's copped for being a
Hitchcock wannabe. It's disappointing that Nintendo saw the
Great Giana Sisters as the latter, especially since it had the
tagline "The Brothers are History", and sued the skirts off
the sisters, forcing Rainbow Arts to recall all copies from the
It's ironic then, that after 22 years the game's remake,
Giana Sisters DS, would appear on a Nintendo's own
premier handheld console. This means that the hatchet has
finally been buried, which is fantastic news for a whole new
generation of gamers.
As you'd expect, the game has been given a visual revamp.
The character designs by Pikomi are gorgeous, giving Giana
in both her forms (sweet, innocent blonde and flame-haired
punk headbanger) a cheeky new vibe. All of the
environments have a beautiful cartoon feel, without looking
too cutesy, with the animations performing excellently too.
The attention to detail is wonderful, and mention to the
game's soundtrack is certainly in order.
This soundtrack is a mix of new compositions and
reworkings of Chris Hulsbeck's original score. It's full of
catchy tunes that are perfect for this kind of game, and
you'll quickly find yourself humming along to them.
The gameplay itself is running and jumping action in its
purest form. Players take control of Giana as she explores a
vibrant dream world, collecting gems, taking out enemies,
and overcoming all manner of obstacles and traps. The
controls themselves are simple and very easy to pick up.
However, mastering the game is a completely different
story. That's not so say it's a difficult game, though. Sure, I
died many a time, but that was often due to a misstep or my
lack of skill, nothing that's made me want to turn off the
While on the subject of difficulty, old-school fans may be
disappointed that the new Giana Sisters is less challenging
than the original. What we all should remember though is
that no game is harder than those before this century. They
don't make games like those for a reason. This newer
version makes the game more accessible and balanced,
especially due to the addition of mid-level save points.
There's still plenty of difficulty found in collecting all of the
red gems, for when you do so, you unlock the original Great
Giana Sisters! ZOMGGGG!!!!11one!!1
There are also a couple new additions to this revamped
version, which take advantage of the special functions found
in the Nintendo DS. While some of these features feel
cheesy (such as having to blow into the mic to move a
bubble), you'll be pleased to know that most of them can be
turned off. Though much of the control system is your
average platformer fare, Giana can tap into two special
abilities at different points in the game by pressing one of
two live areas of the touch screen. I could spend ages on
what some of these abilities do, but that's not really what a
review is for.
In fact, pretty much all of Giana Sisters is stacks of
addictive fun. Much of this has to do with simple gameplay
mechanics and the streak of wicked humour in the game.
What makes Giana Sisters stand out from the huge array of
platformers available is its total lack of sugary, Mario-esque
cuteness. At times, it's even downright weird. There are these eyeball creatures that go 'splat' when Giana jumps on
them, leaving guts and goo in her wake. I bet you've never
seen that in a Mario title!
The truth is, I absolutely loved my time with Giana Sisters
DS, and found the game difficult to fault. Though the
absence of multiplayer mode would be something valid to
complain about, it'd probably suck anyway and would be
best to leave out. Giana Sisters is simple in terms of
gameplay and visuals. However in a time of HD visuals and
button-mashing gameplay, we should all remember that the
simplest things are often the best. Giana Sisters DS is truly
one of the best sidescrolling platformers that this purple
reviewer has played in a long time.