Black Forest Games have developed and released a spin-off from the Giana Sisters main series which aims to mix a couple of popular genres together for a fun multiplayer experience. They originally described Giana Sisters: Dream Runners as being sort of similar to Mario Kart in 2D but on legs; that’s a bold claim and I’m sure you’ll agree that sounds pretty darn impressive if accurate. Essentially, it’s going to be a platform game mixed with racing on foot. This is a dream come true isn’t it?
More like your worst nightmare. It’s all fine and dandy watching videos of the gameplay until you actually come to play Dream Runners yourself. That’s when you realise it doesn’t really work… at all.
The idea is straightforward enough; try to stay ahead of the pack whilst you traverse around a level in a circular motioned journey until an opponent disappears off the screen because they are so far behind. As long as you’re in the lead when the clock counts down to zero or everyone else has gone off camera, you will be declared the winner of that round. Achieve victory three times to be the overall victor of the level. There isn’t an awful lot wrong with the idea, just the way it has been implemented.
First off it’s far too easy to lose sight of your own character, despite being a different colour to the other three on-screen, mainly due to them overlapping with each other quite often. That’s not ideal when everything moves so fast. Jumps need to be well timed to ascend platforms or to leap over enemies that’ll stun you if touched. Secondly, characters randomly go missing between rounds and don’t actually respawn; not just the AI but also my own at times which leaves me being a spectator.
There are nine levels/maps in total to choose from when it comes to deciding where the next ‘race’ will occur. I don’t have a problem with the designs or layouts of these; in fact, one of the few positive points is the way all nine have quite a different feel to each of them, ranging from snowy environments to water filled areas. The ability to switch the mood of the land to a pretty dark place by passing through a mini-vortex style hole is cool too. It’s helpful that Black Forest Games have set the levels out so it’s easy to distinguish the less tasking levels from the trickier ones.
With only eight characters available when all are unlocked and four of them being incarnations of Giana, there’s no scramble to pick your favourite. They are all essentially the same apart from looks and during a round everything goes too fast to really pay attention or be bothered about who has which particular character.
You’d think having a decent amount of power-ups would add to the excitement factor but the majority of the nine on offer basically backfired. Being able to switch places with another player would be the best of the bunch if timed correctly but as I found with most things, the accuracy seems rather off when aiming power-ups or even during a standard dash move. And when a power-up of your own hinders your chance of winning then it just isn’t worth using them.
Dream Runners can be played either offline or online with up to three other players, well that’s if you can actually find anyone online. Despite my best efforts I have yet to find any humans via the online side of the game, not one, even after waiting anywhere up to twenty minutes in a lobby during what I’d consider to be peak gaming times.
Admittedly I had high expectations for Giana Sisters: Dream Runners but it has fallen short by a long way; mainly due to the issues of missing characters, dodgy control accuracy and an online side being about as busy as a graveyard. Then again, even finding humans to play against wouldn’t have fixed the gameplay problems I had. There was a point where I was in the lead in one round and all of a sudden I died, leaving the three characters that were nearly doomed to battle for my crown instead. For a game meant to bring fun, it just ended up causing frustration and misery.
If this is a dream, then someone please wake me up pronto.