A short time ago, Bitmob Writer Rus McLaughlin told us how Bastion takes a unique approach to storytelling through an interactive narrator. Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet (the next release in Xbox Live's Summer of Arcade) takes narrative in an even more daring direction by telling its story completely without dialog of any sort.
A new game immediately graces the player with an introductory scene that seems to draw inspiration from Disney's Fantasia. Powerful classical music accompanies smooth, animated sequences that seem to perfectly rise, fall, and explode with the melody. In mere moments, the game successfully establishes the setting, art direction, the source of trouble, and motivation of the main character…all without using a single spoken or written word.
In a brief tutorial, the game does provide one (and only one) onscreen instruction: It tells you how to select which tool your ship currently utilizes. This truly is the one and only piece of information that Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet needs to explicitly provide to the player. Movement of your vessel and aiming your various accessories happens through a basic twin-stick configuration that should be familiar to most gamers by now.
After that, the first tool you obtain enables you to glean any other necessary information from the environment and enemies around you. This scanner, when aimed at objects and enemies, gives you clever and easy-to-understand cues in the form of expressive symbols. Anything that can hurt you displays a picture of your ship surrounded by an explosion. Any object that you can affect with one of your tools displays the icon of that particular upgrade.
The story itself progresses in the form of cut-scenes that appear in preset intervals after you collect a certain number of artifacts. Each links to the next and provides just enough information to keep you interested in seeking out subsequent artifacts (which are often tucked into out-of-the-way nooks and crannies.)
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet provides a welcome reprieve from many recent, dialog-heavy releases. It provides a stark contrast to things such as verbose BioWare role-playing games and gives us a much needed reminder that the most important feature is not necessarily the number of spoken or written lines. Truly good video games don't need hours of exposition because the experiences of playing them speak louder than any words ever could.
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet releases on Xbox Live Arcade on August 3. It can be yours for 1200 Microsoft Points ($15).