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Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet preview: UFO catcher


I went into Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet with very little background information. I had seen a few trailers -- and it looks just as great in person -- but other than that I started playing knowing virtually nothing about the overall bent of its gameplay. Much to my delight, I was greeted by an expansive world (think Metroid) to explore and some inventive, well-polished mechanics.

Gallery: Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet (E3 2011) | 10 Photos

Players pilot a small UFO through a black, writhing landscape, making the limited use of color very vivid. Color is used to accentuate the background or signify important details. The enemies and hazards I encountered, for example, were typically red, while power-ups and helpful items were yellow. The UFO is capable of equipping several gadgets -- using a simple circle menu -- in order to destroy enemies or explore the environment.

I started the game with a scanner and a claw. The scanner's function is to reveal which gadgets to use in specific situations. After pointing the scanner at a pile of stones, for example, a picture popped up highlighting the claw's position on my circle menu. After equipping the claw, I maneuvered my ship close to the pile, pointed the claw using the right stick and clamped down on a stone by holding the right trigger. Each stone has a different weight, affecting the flight of my UFO. Adjacent stones tumble down as others are pulled away.

With the barrier removed, a path opened to a new gadget, a ray gun. The gun, obviously, is handy for destroying enemies (scan them if you don't believe me). Following my map to the next objective -- again, similar to Metroid -- I encountered enemies and a few barriers that I couldn't get past (yet).

I worked my way down toward the objective until my path was blocked by a giant worm. Its head hung down in front of my UFO, tentacles dangling from its slavering mouth. As I approached, the worm inhaled the air around it like a vacuum, trying to suck my ship in with it. Shooting the worm was useless, so I scanned it, revealing that the claw was the right tool for the job. Claw equipped, I tried pulling various parts of the worm. Its head, tentacles and body seemed immune to my efforts.

After a minute or two of unsuccessful grabbing, I noticed some nearby stones and something clicked inside my brain. I snatching up a stone and shoved it into the worm's mouth. It greedily sucked it down, suffered from some immediate gastrointestinal discomfort and slithered away.

I dispatching a few more enemies, snagged an upgrade to my ray gun on the way, and then finally arrived at my objective. Turns out the objective was a monster, a huge black mass bristling with tentacles and eyeballs. With some deft maneuvering and skilled shooting, I was able to best the monster, ending my demo.

After my session, developer Fuelcell Games showed me the game's full map. It's definitely expansive, with lots of different zones connected to one another. Each zone will be distinct, according to animator and designer Michel Gagne. And, of course, there will be many other gadgets to utilize as well. Having played only a small section of Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, its fluid controls, clever design and beautiful art style have quickly made it my most anticipated title in this year's Summer of Arcade lineup.

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