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Giana Sisters photo
Giana Sisters

Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams gets physical, physical

bitComposer to publish boxed and digital console versions
Dec 23
// Audun Sorlie
It's not been that long since Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams saw release, thanks to the massive support it gained, through the Steam Greenlight system. The good word keeps rolling in for the German indie title, while it enjoys...

Pro Wrestling X: Uprising makes a surprise release

10 years of development and more to come
Dec 21
// Audun Sorlie
Pro Wrestling X has been a distant dream for Dave Wishnowski, the independent game developer who wanted more out of his wrestling videogame experience than what the big-budget titles were offering. Inspired by games like AKI'...
GamesMaster photo

The GamesMaster sadly passed away

Sir Patrick Moore dead at age 89
Dec 09
// Audun Sorlie
For those growing up in Europe and old enough to remember, GamesMaster was an absolutely awesome show with cheesy screen effects and crazy kids being dealt gaming challenges in order to get their hands on the coveted golden j...

Journey gets nominated for a Grammy and seven VGAs

Journey takes on Tintin, Hugo and Batman
Dec 06
// Audun Sorlie
Journey composer Austin Wintory is a busy man these days. He recently spoke at SC9.0 in Germany to great success and media attention where he was able to share that Journey had received seven nominations for the ten...

Final Symphony brings Final Fantasy to London in 2013

Final concert in Thomas Böcker's "Symphonic" series
Nov 26
// Audun Sorlie
Final Symphony, the latest and last grand Final Fantasy concert in German producer Thomas Böcker's critically acclaimed series, has received a second show date. Two weeks after the premiere in Germany, the second stop wi...

Turrican Soundtrack Anthology delayed to spring 2013

It should be well worth the wait
Nov 26
// Audun Sorlie
Germany's own Chris Hülsbeck was honored by fans and colleagues at Soundtrack Cologne 9.0, with the 25-year veteran being the guest of honor at the conference event and concert celebrations. But with his presentation did...

Final Fantasy XIII composer reflects on career and future

More concerts are ahead for Masashi Hamauzu
Nov 23
// Audun Sorlie
Masashi Hamauzu is not only one of the most popular videogame composers, he is also one of the most unique. His work on Final Fantasy XIII is regarded as one of the finest in the series, though I personally hold a soft spot f...

Catch East meets West concert stream on November 24

Legend of Zelda, Turrican, Unlimited SaGa and Journey on radio
Nov 21
// Audun Sorlie
The WDR Radio Orchestra performed the newest concert from producer Thomas Böcker and his team at Merregnon Studios on just last week on November 16. Being in attendance, I can tell you it was a truly fantastic show, feat...

Exclusive: Zojoi talks Shadowgate history and future

Nov 20 // Audun Sorlie
On Dave and Karl’s inspiration and story behind becoming videogame designers. Dave Marsh: Back in 1985, I became friends with a programmer at ICOM Simulations -- a small gaming company that had just put out a remarkable game called Déjà vu: A Nightmare Comes True. He told me about the games they were working on and on how there might be an opportunity to create a new game -- perhaps a fantasy one. So, he lent me one of their Macs and I enlisted Karl to help with the creation of Shadowgate. Karl Roelofs: I had always wanted to be a writer and the timing couldn’t have been better. I jumped at the chance to write and design a fantasy adventure for their new MacVenture platform. On top of that, they gave us as much freedom with the game as we wanted. Discussing what it takes to create a good adventure. Karl: At its core an adventure game needs to tell a compelling story. It needs to draw a player in right away -- making them care about what is happening. Additionally, it needs to have little victories to keep a player interested in progressing through the game. For Shadowgate, we took a page from Déjà vu -- the player was thrown into a situation that they had little background on and told to accomplish a daunting quest. This intrigue provided the motivation needed to keep going." Dave: Right. I think a good adventure is a bit like a movie -- it feeds the player information as they go, allowing them to discover and unlock the story. The story then evolves as the player enjoys solving immediate puzzles at hand, and discovering new information that helps solve larger and larger puzzles. The challenges of creating an adventure in videogame form and working with point-and-click gameplay. Dave: Karl and I weren’t on board when ICOM created the first point-and-click game, but I do know that the process was heavily programmer-driven. They wanted to exploit this new windowed-based OS while, at the same time, creating a game that allowed the most amount of freedom. Doing more than clicking (like being able to drag objects into an inventory, for example) was a big deal at the time. The key was to make it feel as intuitive as possible. Remember, it was a whole new experience to work with a mouse, so the player had to feel comfortable right off the bat. On the conception of Shadowgate in 1987. Karl: Making adventure games was a relatively new thing at the time so we just concentrated on the main quest and on various puzzles that we thought would work to complete that quest. We also had concentrated on what the company had accomplished with Déjà vu and the new title Uninvited. More specifically, how did they use the command system to accomplish solving puzzles." Dave: Also, Karl and I were avid fantasy readers so we pulled inspiration from a lot of the books we had read as well as hundreds of hours of playing Dungeons & Dragons. The reception to the game and original plans for future Shadowgate titles back then. Dave: To be honest, we had our heads down doing ports for these games. So I have to say we were a bit oblivious to the reception. Mindscape (our publisher for many of the titles) provided some information and I guess the fact that they kept publishing them on new platforms was a good sign! It was just cool to see the product on the store shelves and people buying them. I remember that we would go into Egghead Software and put Shadowgate across the front rows. Karl: And we certainly had plans to continue on with the Shadowgate narrative. We put together a full design for Beyond Shadowgate as a MacVenture title, which was to take place some hundreds of years later in the universe, but then sidescrollers came into fashion and ICOM got a big contract with NEC and the company moved away from the adventure space. On their time with ICOM. Dave: Awesome time. It was a small company that trusted us to make games and provide a great atmosphere. We were more than happy to work on any type of project really and were always grateful for the opportunity ICOM gave us to get started in our careers. I mean, we would get there at 9am and leave a 10pm... although I think we played Robotron and Joust from 6pm on... Karl: ICOM was a great time in my life. I got to do things I loved -- create and design games and do artwork while working with my best friend. I count my time at ICOM Simulations as some of the best years of my life. On loss of control over the brand with Beyond Shadowgate and Shadowgate 64. Dave: Like I mentioned, ICOM had gotten a large contract with NEC and they weren’t that interested in adventure games. They wanted sidescrollers and top-down action games. So, for the TurboGrafx version of Beyond Shadowgate, ICOM decided to move to a hybrid sidescroller/adventure. The Shadowgate license then went to Infinite Ventures who revived the brand by working out a deal with Kemco -- the developer of the NES port. Kemco pretty much developed all of Shadowgate 64. We are obviously pretty excited that we have reacquired the rights to work on the designs again. The evolution of adventure videogames and the decline of point-and-click gameplay. Karl: I think adventure games have definitely evolved with the technology. It started with pencil-and-paper adventures and choose-your-own-adventure books. It then moved to text-based adventures on computers then on to first-person point-and-click and then settled for a long time on the isometric view. Obviously, over the past 10-15 years, the FPS style of game has dominated the market, but I think we are moving towards a resurgence of both first- and third-person adventure games with the proliferation of devices like the phones and tablets. Founding Zojoi and reviving the Shadowgate brand for the 21st century. Dave: I had been looking at the game landscape and new devices for some time and noticed that there were some great opportunities for a small company to publish games again. I really wanted to see if there was an appetite for the first-person adventure game or mystery adventures. It took a while but I was able to reacquire the rights to most of the games Karl and I had worked on and found like-minded people that wanted to either port or remake them. Karl: Right. We started with porting a number of our Sherlock Holmes mysteries before launching into Shadowgate. On how to retain the classic feel of Shadowgate while still innovating the game for a modern audience. Dave: So the thing is, while there are some puzzles that don’t hold up, we love the original game. We love the atmospheric environments -- the way that death was just around the corner. We loved the inclusion of the NES type of music and how that built such an edge-of-your seat ambiance. Karl: But we didn’t want to just create a port. We’ve done it a ton of times. However, we wanted to use the original game and many of its environments and puzzles as a foundation but update and re-imagine it with new puzzles and rooms. We also wanted to incorporate a sleeker UI, tons of animations and music -- including a digitally orchestrated soundtrack and the original NES score. Talking about the decision to use crowdfunding. Dave: Well, when it really comes down to it, it’s expensive to make a game, especially across multiple platforms and without any publisher support. Art, audio, design, programming, testing -- it’s daunting. We’ve been knee-deep in pre-production and put a lot of time and money in but at some point you need to look for other alternatives. We didn’t approach this campaign lightly and have been very straightforward with our pledgers about where we are at and the minimum we need to get the game done. Working with composer Rich Douglas (Orcs and Elves) and artist Chris Cold. Dave: I found Chris on Deviant Art and immediately loved his style. The rough tones and moody, dark look was exactly what I envisioned for the re-imagining. It brings a real edge. And on top of being wickedly good, he’s the easiest guy to work with. Rich was an amazing find as well! He’s a fan of the game and loves the original NES music and his music brings a wonderful sense of atmosphere while paying homage to the earlier work of Hiroyuki Masuno. [embed]238512:45766:0[/embed] On the potential of bringing Shadowgate to consoles through digital download services. Dave: Certainly that is an area to explore. We’ve talked about the other consoles as well as the upcoming Ouya but really, we would need to complete the game on the promised platforms first. We can always move it to other platforms if the audience is there and demands it. On the future of Shadowgate. Karl: I think the skies the limit for Shadowgate. We have about 25 years’ worth of stories stored in our heads as well as binders of design documents. We would love to bring those tales to both long-time and new Shadowgate fans! ----- The campaign is nearing its end on November 25, 2012. You can venture over to the campaign page and fetch yourself some nice rewards by contributing.
The original creators return to Castle Shadowgate
Man, there was nothing more nerve-wracking than getting stuck in Shadowgate on the NES and seeing those torches fade one after another. It's one of my most vivid gaming memories, though I got stuck mostly due to the quite con...


Take a ride with Ubiktune's Motorway and Interlude

Ubiktune's newest fantastic fusions
Nov 19
// Audun Sorlie
Fancy a swing on the funky road of chiptunes this week? Ubiktune's got you covered with another excellent set of releases on their never-ending chiptune label. Motorway is a jazz-funk chiptune album composed with changing tim...

Review: Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams

Nov 03 // Audun Sorlie
Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams (PC [reviewed], PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade)Developer: Black Forest GamesPublisher: Black Forest GamesRelease: October 23, 2012 (PC) / Early 2013 (PSN, XBLA)MSRP: $14.99 Black Forest Games has kept a firm stance on its approach since launching the campaign to have the game formerly known as Project Giana released: to create something unique and exceptional, giving Giana a game that truly feels like her adventure. Giana, now a teenager, is drawn into her dream alongside her sister Maria, and they have become separated. It’s up to Giana to save her sister and escape her dream, but Giana is now grown up -- she is no longer scared of her nightmares and hates the cute, sugary dreams she once used to love. [embed]237125:45511[/embed] So in the center of Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams, you’ll find the dream-change mechanic. At the touch of a button, Giana will switch between her twisted nightmare and cute dream, and depending on which she inhabits, she’ll also change her persona. In the twisted dream, “Cute” Giana will twirl and dance her way through the scary world filled with demons, while in the other, “Punk” Giana will bring her fire dash and aggressiveness out to combat the cute owls and sunshine. Switching between these personas is essential. As the dreams mirror each other, obstacles and routes will appear depending on which dream you inhabit, requiring you to switch on the spot to progress or figuring out the best approach to switching between the abilities of the different personas. Some spots call for “Punk” Giana to dash and bounce off walls and enemies, while others call for “Cute” Giana to twirl and glide through the air; there's a good amount of puzzles to solve. At certain intervals, boss battles will appear, also requiring things to be switched up to defeat them. Think Donkey Kong Country 2 and its tag system, just with less monkey business. The difficulty increases steadily as progress is made, and Twisted Dreams also allows for players to go at their own pace. For those who enjoy exploring and treasure hunting, the stages are vast and feature numerous routes. For those who just wants to jump and run, the game still packs a challenge. On a standard run through, it's about 5-6 hours to get to the very end, so it feels a bit on the short side despite its 23 levels however. Throughout each stage, there are also several hundreds of crystals. The blue ones can be picked up by either Giana while red are obtainable by “Punk” and yellow are specific to “Cute.” Reaching these different colored crystals often requires some strategy of interchanging the worlds to reach. Giant mega crystals are also scattered around to be found and collected for secrets. Stages are also able to be replayed after completion to find all the crystals, and extras are rewarded after each stage depending on how many you found and the number of times you died. Some of the secret crystals are damn hard to find, so expect to revisit quite a few of the stages if you want a perfect score. Several new modes can be unlocked based on your completion rate -- "Time Attack," "Hardcore," and "Uber-Hardcore" -- upping the ante and giving you only one shot at clearing a stage, or be sent back to the beginning. A gallery mode is also unlockable. The controls are very responsive, and feel natural once you pick the controller up. Using an Xbox 360 controller, the button layout is properly balanced out to make all the abilities accessible without too much thought or practice, and sign posts on the first few stages will help you get the hang of things. With a keyboard, it's a bit more tricky to get the timing down however, and several sections require some finicky maneuvering that'll bring back memories of the submarine stages of Earthworm Jim so you're really better off using a gamepad to fully enjoy the game. Great Giana Sisters was most famous for its soundtrack by Chris Hülsbeck back in the day, and they brought him back for this to go full circle. Like the dreams, the music will also change when the switch is made. The twisted world features Chris Hülsbeck’s new arrangements and compositions, while the cute features a metal rendition of these tracks by the band Machinae Supremacy. It’s a bit of a risky move to constantly have music change on the fly, but thankfully, they spent time balancing out the arrangements -- the switch is done with a subtle cross-fade. It’s a really great soundtrack, made all the more interesting by it being dynamic and interactive, though it would have been nice to see some more new compositions. Overall, the quality of the soundtrack isn't too hampered by this due to the strength of the music that is in the game. Graphically, the game packs a visual punch and is really aided by the dream-twist mechanic. At the touch of the switch button, the scenery will come alive and transform itself before your very eyes, and changes are made as far as the eye can see. This attention to detail makes the game very fun to interact with, as castles and mountains will grow from the ground in the twisted world, while nature and rivers will flow through the screen in the cute world. The later stages feature some very nice lighting effects, and the textures are clean throughout. The art style is a tad inconsistent between some of the enemies, however, and can range from strangely realistic to overly cartoony. The graphics also introduce some of the game’s more frustrating points, the most apparent being the lack of distinction between foreground and background. Enemies don’t always stand out from the vivid scenery, leading to deaths that feel cheap. Another issue is the fact that certain hazards come to life when the switch between the worlds is made, and might spring up right beneath you, or remain hidden behind a piece of foreground objects. Although it's not too often this happens, it certainly will at certain moments, which will undoubtedly cause some gritting teeth. But issues aside, it is a rather wonderful little platformer at a great price that brings back the joys that were had some 20 years ago. It might not satisfy the needs of action gamers, but for those who appreciate a classic style platformer with plenty of challenge and responsive controls in the vein of Donkey Kong Country and Genesis-era Sonic the Hedgehog, it’s an essential purchase, with plenty of history attached and an ironic twist of fate by breaking new ground with Steam Greenlight and Kickstarter.
Giana Sisters photo
Project Giana finally realized
Giana Sisters is a game that generally incites one response: plagiarism of Super Mario Bros. When Black Forest Games launched its Kickstarter campaign for Project Giana back in July, the intention was to provide gamers the ...


Chibi-tech releases the insane 8-bit Moe Moe Kyunstep

Chiptunes, ponies and Japan
Nov 03
// Audun Sorlie
Some might be familiar with chibi-tech from prior projects such as Chiptuned Rockman where the ever-impressive chiptuner offered a spotless melodic arrangement of "Roll's Theme" that included dialogue constructed entirel...

Epidemic Deluxe rises from the grave

Jay Tholen casts his epidemic on Halloween
Nov 01
// Audun Sorlie
Jay Tholen released an album in 2008 called Epidemic which featured an homage to classic horror movie soundtracks by combining eerie atmosphere and sudden chiptune interactions. But feeling the experience was a bit incom...

Soundtrack Cologne bringing the VGM party to Germany

To health and game music, prost!
Oct 28
// Audun Sorlie
You can be sure a lot of beer will be consumed as Soundtrack Cologne 9.0 is preparing to bring some esteemed videogame music legends together for a round of panels and an exclusive concert over the weekend of November 15-18 a...

Shadowgate opens the castle gates once again

The classic adventure returns with Kickstarter
Oct 24
// Audun Sorlie
It's not the first time, nor the second, but a timeless adventure such as Shadowgate is always welcome to be remade again and again. At the helm of this new version is Zojoi, a company founded by Dave Marsh and Karl Roelofs w...

NYCC: The samurai bunny returns in new Usagi Yojimbo game

Happy Giant brings back the ronin warrior
Oct 13
// Audun Sorlie
Most people know him from his cameos in TMNT, but Miyamoto Usagi has been the star of his own comic book series for a long time. His first and only game, Samurai Warrior: The Battles of Usagi Yojimbo, came out in 1988 for the...

Project Giana gets official name and release date

Oct 02
// Audun Sorlie
We detailed six reasons to support the Project Giana Kickstarter just over a month ago, and it seems many agreed as Black Forest Games raised nearly $200,000 for the game, well over the goal set by the company. Those wh...

Exclusive: Sonic ASR Transformed music preview

Sep 28 // Audun Sorlie
The team's approach to sound in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed "I’m sure a lot of people have seen we’re busily cooking up a new All-Star game, but one thing that we’ve not really talked about (until now!) is what we’re doing musically!Originally I sat down and had a rough inkling of what we wanted to do, I knew with the transformation aspect we should do something that complimented it musically, but as a mere producer, I needed to call on the experts! So for the soundtrack to All Stars Racing Transformed, we’ve signed our good friend Richard Jacques and his team to work on the music, creating both remixes of classic tracks to race and original music to tie the game together from the opening FMV to the end of game credits! Again, due to the fact that the vehicles in the game can transform between, cars, boats and planes, we also wanted to emphasize this with the music."Working with Richard Jaques"It was clear Jacques knew and understood right away what was needed for the game and its core audience, plus he’s got the technical know how regarding interactive music to make it all work together in the game. The second we heard it, it was an easy choice for us! Plus with excellent timing, he’d just setup a fantastic new studio facility right in the heart of London where he and his team could work on the soundtrack. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s surrounded by some excellent pubs! We began the process by sitting down and discussing the various characters and IPs that were going to be featured in the game, and how the various circuits would look and feel.Once the remixes were largely complete, we tested out the implementation that we had planned for when the vehicles transform during a race.As this is a key game design mechanic, Richard and his team felt that he could do something very cool with the music that would really impact the vehicles transformations. So after some technical testing, Richard created an additional set of ‘transform’ files, which feature various processing and additional production methods of the music tracks, giving us a superb effect to highlight the transform maneuver before continuing with the music.Finally, if this wasn’t enough, the final step was creating brand new front end music and themes to tie the whole soundtrack together. Richard and his team then worked on the final production and mixes of all the music tracks, adding live instruments where appropriate, and giving each mix a final layer of polish. I can safely say he has done the fans and the classic original tracks proud. There is a huge amount of variety in the soundtrack, some classic old fan favorites as well as some new tracks and a few surprises." Picking the right music for the game "So we created a short list (which was incidentally very long!) of tracks that we all thought would be a good pick for the game. Our main criteria were finding tracks that would be purely iconic to each franchise, and that would please the fans, and also tracks that would be very suitable for remixing. We have also thrown in a few surprises for good measure too! After creating our shortlist, Richard then created various temporary edits of the original material to ensure it would work within the game.After a period of licensing and music rights clearance issues, we set about trying to obtain some of the original assets, so the remixes would be faithful to the original. This proved quite a challenge as some of the original music tracks are now quite old and were stored and backed up on various kinds of now obsolete storage media. Thankfully, the sound team at Sega of Japan was a great help in getting as much of the original material that existed.To give you and the readers an idea of both the process involved and a sneak peak at the final results, here are some explanations about a few of the tracks, featuring the original and the new ASRT remix:OutRun Bay[embed]235342:45140[/embed]The OutRun Bay circuit in ASRT features a remix of 'Splash Wave,' one of the original music tracks from the original Outrun arcade game, created way back in 1986.  This is probably one of the most iconic Sega tracks to date, and has been remixed many times before, not least by Richard for OutRun2!As there was no original music data available, Richard and his team had to re-create the music from scratch, simply by listening to the reference WAV file that we provided. As for all the remixes in ASRT we requested that the music and remix style was updated whilst remaining faithful to the original track. We didn’t know exactly what Richard was going to do with this track, but upon visiting his studio he played us a work in progress version, which featured both some awesome dub step and drum ‘n’ bass influences.It just seemed to WORK! Richard told us 'I had to be sympathetic to the original, and choose styles and influences that work not only with the instrumentation of the original track, but also the tempo is quite a big factor, and being a racing game I wanted to make sure that the track had enough energy to work with the game. Working with a 26 year old piece of music was certainly a lot of fun as I remember playing OutRun in the arcades way back in the day.' Jet Set Radio [embed]235342:45141[/embed] For Jet Set Radio, and in true style of the original soundtrack, Richard created a mashup of Hideki Naganuma’s 'That’s Enough' and his own track 'Everybody Jump Around' from the original Jet Set Radio soundtrack. 'Each track needed beatmatching and then there were some extra samples thrown in and additional production put onto each track, giving them a new twist,' Jacques told us. Golden Axe [embed]235342:45142[/embed] This soundtrack is now getting on a bit but is an incredibly iconic part of the original Golden Axe franchise, and so it was important we included the main theme. 'We had to reprogram all the orchestral elements from scratch and provide some additional orchestration before we could begin the actual remix work, adding various layers of electronic elements. It was no easy task,' Jacques noted.You are not going to believe some of the music we’ve managed to get into the game and I am sure the fans will agree this is without doubt, the best soundtrack we’ve included in an All-Stars game to date!"__  Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed releases on November 20, 2012 on all major platforms and handhelds. A soundtrack releases is rumored, so cross your fingers!

One of the greatest things about all these crossover titles and all-stars games is the chance to revisit some of the most memorable pieces of game music history and have it presented in a new light (nobody mention Turtles in ...


Pick up seven chiptune albums from Ubiktune for just $1

Sep 22
// Audun Sorlie
We've mentioned the Ubiktune netlabel a few times over the past year when discussing virt's FX4, the FM synth super compilation SOUNDSHOCK 2, and coda's retrotastic tracer. The netlabel has become well known fo...

Six reasons to support the Project Giana Kickstarter

Aug 27 // Audun Sorlie
#6: Creative take on a classic genreThe name of the game is still collecting crystals and avoiding danger by stomping on your enemies, but the sisters’ arsenal of moves has greatly increased. As “Cute Giana,” you have the ability to twirl into a glide to cover long distances and maneuver more safely and precisely, while “Punk Giana” has a much more aggressive wall breaking/bouncing dash attack, handy for navigating tight spaces. It is the interplay between the two personalities and the worlds that make Project Giana unique as the rapid change between worlds and calculated use of the individual skills makes for an exhilarating experience.  Vladimir Ignatov, Senior Producer of Project Giana explains the fresh take on the franchise as follows:“In the original game, the Giana sisters are two girls who found themselves trapped inside a nightmare. In order to get out, they needed to find the giant diamond. Now Giana is a teenage girl who is again trapped in a twisted dream. Because she is in a stage of her life that is all about transformation she learns how to manipulate her dreams. Through the legacy of the previous Giana games, we tried to emphasize that aspect, symbolizing the transformation of a teenager as she comes of age. This stage in life is all about the inner conflict of rage and self-confidence.” “For our new Giana game, we really wanted to bring something fresh and new. Doing another clone wasn’t an option for us,” notes Creative Director, Jean-Marc Haessig. The team started by thinking about what made The Great Giana Sisters outstanding and different from the game it was trying to emulate at the time, Super Mario Bros.After the idea of her transformation into a punk girl version of herself was settled, they toyed with the idea that, in addition of the dream world around her changing, how that might affect gameplay. They started prototyping the environment morphing and thought about switching Giana’s abilities, the enemies and obstacles. With the first playable version, they realized that it turned out being really fun. Ignatov further explains, “We decided to expand Giana’s duality to everything in the game, and to make both facets equal instead of one being the upgrade of the other. Then we experimented with that concept, trying out what different things we could do with the dream twisting, while keeping it true to the original gameplay. This was the point where the Giana prototype drifted dangerously far into puzzle territory at some point, because the world warping lend itself well to that kind of gameplay. But we managed to pull back. Being a platformer is part of Giana’s identity after all … even though she started out as a clone once, we wanted to focus on what made Giana unique.”#5: Inspired artistic directionThe world of Project Giana feels truly alive. It oozes charm and detail that makes her every step as interesting as the next. The demo we played shows off some lavish landscapes, full of vibrant colors and accentuated animations, hearkening back to the days of truly inspired sidescrolling platformers. Regarding the freedoms afforded the team when self-publishing a title, Haessig explains: “Giana is our baby, and because it’s self-funded so far, we’re not restrained by publishers. I think that is the best part on creating a game independently. There is no one telling you how you should do it. We know that other famous platform franchises don’t evolve that much these days because of IP limitations. In our case we knew in advance that the game will play unlike anything you have played before. That and the chance to work on the game for the core audience, players like myself, who grew up on the classic platforming games that were truly awesome Some loyal fans have noted the art style has seen a drastic change from the DS game in 2009, but when asked about this, Ignatov gets right to it: “Our artists were very vocal about that. They tried morphing between the dreams with 2D art and didn’t like the result.”  Haessig further adds, “When we started thinking about the twist, we really wanted to support the concept by a gorgeous morphing world. While it would be possible doing that with animated 2D graphics, 3D allowed us to implement a real-time morphing based on a technology we developed earlier for other projects and the experience of our artists.”  #4: A high quality production from start to finishPlaying Project Giana, you really get a sense that a lot of thought has gone into the game, be it the spot on swap system of the dual dream worlds, the seamless transition of the music, or the stylized art direction and graphics.Ignatov touts, “For the engine, we wrote almost everything ourselves. The framework is completely our own, including most of the rendering, sound and animation. Generally, we split the game into the separate game systems (rendering, physics, audio, input, game logic, interface, tools, etc). The game logic library drives the core of what the game ‘is.’ We try to isolate this area from the others and have people focus on as much ‘pure’ gameplay without having to worry about things like how to draw the objects.The biggest challenge for writing a game like this is to make it properly multiplatform. Since every platform has a different set of demands on the game, a specialized binary exporter pipeline allows to do fast and efficient loading of data on all platforms. We can also load/unload select assets on the fly to allow for faster turn-around times during production. We’ve designed most game systems to be mostly platform-agnostic, which frees most programmers from dealing with the common headaches of multiplatform development (such as endianness swapping, threading issues, etc.)” #3: Music from a legendOne of the best aspects of this game is the music. Giana Sisters has one of the Commodore 64’s most legendary soundtracks, composed by game music legend Chris Hülsbeck, who returns to score this new game alongside his longtime friend Fabian DelPriore and Swedish C64 rockers Machinae Supremacy. The dual layered sound of the dual dream world doesn’t just make for an excellent soundtrack, it also makes the music an interactive part of the game itself.“[Hülsbeck’s] music is highly recognizable and was one of the most appealing and memorable elements of the original game. We’re also very excited to have Machinae Supremacy on board: their chiptune metal is ideal for Giana’s angry ‘punk’ side,” says Ignatov of the game’s music. DelPriore adds “Chris had the idea of switching the music seamlessly from mild to wild and back, using the typical cute Giana melodies and the melodic heavy metal sounds of Machinae Supremacy. The way it is done is to produce both music pieces, and layers, at the exact same tempo and arrangement structure. During gameplay, the layers are running side by side in perfect sync and speed and are cross-faded from one to the other when switching worlds. This ensures that the switch is as smooth as possible. Some elements of the music, like similar or even the same chords and melodies, are being mixed into both layers to further blend the two styles.”[embed]233789:44842[/embed]#2: Awesome Kickstarter rewards are still availableLet’s face it, the key to a successful Kickstarter campaign is awesome rewards, and the Germany-based team at BFG truly know how to throw a party. From the simple pledge of the digital release of the game, to an art book by the incredible artist Pikomi, original soundtrack albums, and even a "pillowl" plushie, there is a pledge for every level of interest, ensuring a happy costumer. You know it’s a good deal when the cheapest option lands you the game itself.#1: Brush up on your your gaming history!Giana Sisters is a game with a legacy of great nostalgic memories. A lot has changed since Giana’s first appearance in 1987, which is today a fabled tale of both unquestionable plagiarism and undeniable charm.Ignatov wanted to conclude with this reflection:“How do you retain a game’s history and identity? The first step would be to determine what made Giana Giana. We also checked whether those key elements would be distinctive from other platformers. Even when she started out as a clone once, we wanted to focus on what made Giana unique.”Adrian Goersch, Managing Director at BFG adds, “There are not many well-known German brands from the beginning of the gaming era. The Great Giana Sisters is one of those. In a way that is our legacy. To honor it, we think our task is to create a state of the art game with the same fun factor that the original Giana Sisters had. The potential is there, because we didn’t want to continue that particular Giana legacy by copying current platformers. We wanted to bring something new to the genre.”   ----- So there you have it, Project Giana is truly a labor of Euro love. If you’re still on the fence whether you should fund or not, the public demo is out now to spike some last minute interest. The game is scheduled for release on PC, Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and OUYA, though a Nintendo Network release is not ruled out entirely. According to Ignatov, “To be honest, we've been tempted by Nintendo’s new hardware and put some thoughts into a Wii U port. With a handful of core third party titles that are already confirmed for Wii U, the console positioning seem to be in-line with Giana target audience and it would be reasonable for us to release it there. It goes without saying it would be great honor for us to stand shoulder to shoulder with these great Nintendo platformers. Right now we are focusing on the other services however.”The Kickstarter campaign is still running for a few more days. So far, the game seems to be shaping into what could be one of the most unique and original platformers in several years.

Hailing from Norway, Audun Sorlie is passionate about game music as an editor on OSV and writer for various magazines around the world. Following up on his post earlier this month about Project Giana, Audun's been able to spe...


Spelunky's soundtrack of death and red noses released

Aug 06
// Audun Sorlie
There comes a day when we must all pass away, but it just so happens that in Spelunky you die every day, all the time. The homicidal dungeon crawler has enjoyed success this summer on the Xbox Live Arcade service even th...

Two girls, one Kickstarter: Project Giana Sisters

Aug 03
// Audun Sorlie
At the tender age of four I sat in my best friend's basement playing her brother's Commodore 64. My friend, a girl, enjoyed watching me play, and offered me a challenge: beat any game, and she'd kiss me. My game of choice wa...

Exclusive: Meet the Kingdom Hearts 3D sound team

Jul 26 // Audun Sorlie
Yoko Shimomura (studio midiplex)Role: ComposerSelected Past Works: Street Fighter II, Parasite Eve, Legend of Mana, Radiant Historia, Kingdom HeartsOn ten years of Kingdom Hearts and the vital role her music has playedI am delighted to hear my music has been vital to the success of the series. These ten years flew by very quickly. Kingdom Hearts has allowed me to experience lots of moments both sweet and bittersweet. Despite the different circumstances, I was always involved with Kingdom Hearts one way or another during these ten years. Kingdom Hearts means a lot to me and it is a huge part of my life. On reuniting with composers Tsuyoshi Sekito and Takeharu IshimotoPerhaps the director chooses which songs work best for each of us. But sometimes I can be selfish and request if I can work on specific songs (laughs)On the challenge faced when creating new songs versus referring back to fan favorites I put a lot of care into keeping the overall image consistent, even if the song’s arrangement changed drastically. So when working on the song, if I felt something was not right I started all over without hesitation (laughs). I always try to put myself in the players’ shoes and try to be mindful of how people would want to hear past songs.On the impact of the Nintendo 3DS hardware on her approach and compositionsThe 3DS hardware is truly brilliant. In the past for Nintendo handheld games I’ve always used the internal sound source to compose. This time, I was able to use a streaming source which enabled me to compose music in a higher quality, which I am very happy about. I didn’t particularly change the way I used sound in the game at this time, but I think it will be a good idea to pursue trying out new types of BGM in the future.On her favorite pieces from the Dream Drop Distance soundtrackI hope you’ll forgive me for saying this, but I have a difficult time answering this type of question. For me, all songs are like my children, and it’s hard for me to pick just one song and talk about it. Sorry.Tsuyoshi Sekito (Square Enix)Role: ComposerSelected Past Works: Chrono Trigger (PlayStation), The Last Remnant, performer in The Black Mages and many Square Enix releasesOn ten years of Kingdom Hearts and his experiences with the seriesI worked on some of the songs for Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep and Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance. I am happy to hear that this year marks the ten-year anniversary of the Kingdom Hearts series and at the same time I recognize how widely the series has been supported by fans around the world. I would be honored if given the chance to work on the series again, and I would like to engage in the project with this great responsibility in mind. On being reunited with composers Yoko Shimomura and Takeharu IshimotoWith regards to delegating work, I didn’t have any meetings with Shimomura-san. Primarily, decisions were made during my meetings with the team. In these meetings, depending on the situation, I also discussed things like “Do I write new songs?,” “Should I do any music arrangements?,” and “Will it be better to have additional songs?,” etc. On the impact of the Nintendo 3DS hardware on his approach and compositionsIncluding 3D visual effects, there was so much expressive power that it was difficult for me to believe it was for a handheld game device. As such, I also tried to create songs with a fair amount of scale sensitivity. In this particular project, this is especially true of colorful and speedy songs for Dream Eater battles and Dive Mode. I feel that I was able to better emphasize a larger scale of the world without worrying about the the small game screen on the portable device. So far, there have been no unforeseen challenges (laughs).On his favorite pieces from the Dream Drop Distance soundtrackSince I am emotionally attached to all the songs, it’s difficult to choose one song … but if I had to choose one, I’d say I enjoyed ”Ice-hot Lobster” the most in the beginning. Now with the game released, after listening to all the songs, “Majestic Wings” is one of my favorites. When listening to it individually it sounds simple, but after listening to a series of several other songs it sounds more free and bold and it gives me energy (laughs).Takeharu Ishimoto (Square Enix)Role: ComposerSelected Past Works: The World Ends With You, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, Dissidia series, Kingdom hearts: Birth by SleepOn ten years of Kingdom Hearts and his experiences with the seriesWhen you say it’s ten years, I realize time flies. The Kingdom Hearts series has played a big role in my personal growth since I’ve been involved with it, even before I started working on the music composition for the series.On being reunited with composers Yoko Shimomura and Tsuyoshi SekitoThe project team sent both Sekito-san and me a list of songs ahead of time. When I saw TRON on the list, I told them I would work on it. As for THE WORLD ENDS WITH YOU, it’s not like we could’ve had Sekito-san work on it, so I’ve gone ahead and handled it myself.On his arrangements of the three tracks from The World Ends With YouIt wasn’t that I tried to fit them into the Kingdom Hearts sound. They’re pop songs to begin with, so I figured I would arrange in a way that’s right for everyone. On the impact of the Nintendo 3DS hardware on her approach and compositions I actually didn’t really think about it (laughs).On his favorite piece from the Dream Drop Distance soundtrackI would say “TWISTER.”__You can read our review of the Dream Drop Distance soundtrack here and purchase it from CD Japan. 

[Editor's note: Hailing from Norway, Audun Sorlie is not only passionate about game music as an editor on OSV and writer for various magazines around the world, but he's also a big Kingdom Hearts fan. To commemorate the relea...

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