In the eighties, the now-deceased founder of Germany’s Black Forest Games (formerly Spellbound Entertainment) created The Great Giana Sisters, a Super Mario Bros. clone. Nintendo had the game pulled off the shelves for its similarities to their famed Italian plumber, and with the exception of an homage for the DS in 2009, it seemed the franchise would stagnate from then on.
Until now, that is…
Black Forest Games is at it again, designing a new Giana game for the PC with the working title “Project Giana.” Black Forest is currently seeking to finance development of the game via a Kickstarter page. Why now, you might wonder?
“Well 25th anniversary is a nice round number, but truth be told this is something we have been wanting to do for a long time,” said David Sallmann, Black Forest Games designer and Kickstarter project lead, “lately we’ve been doing a lot of contract work, and Project Giana is something that is our own, that we have full creative control over.”
The Black Forest team has taken the opportunity to flex their creative wings. On the surface, Giana may look like just another 2D platformer, but there’s more at work here than just your standard timed jumping and powerup collecting.
“The ‘twist’ is switching between two dreams. The trick is that this twist is present in all layers of the game,” Sallmann said, “Giana herself changes, her abilities change, as do the levels themselves and the way they behave.”
While the original Giana title featured an actual sister, Maria, this incarnation features Giana as two halves of the same girl: a “cutie” version trapped in a spooky nightmare full of demons and monsters, and a “punky” version trapped in a candyland paradise. Switching back and forth between each version of Giana and her dreamworld is controlled entirely by the player, and changes not only the aesthetics of the game but the mechanics. “Cute” Giana has a sustainable twirl ability that lets her dodge and hover around enemies, while “Punk” Giana has a fiery dash ability to power through them.
Giana level designer Stefan Schmitz credits Creative Director Jean-Marc Haessig with the idea of twisting the dream, what he calls the “core mechanic” of the gameplay. From there, the design team (initially only 4 or 5 strong) created a “magnificently long” document outlining the cool and creative things that could be done with the twist feature, Schmitz said.
For anyone interested in checking out Giana in all her modern glory, playable levels will be released Friday, August 24, Sallmann wrote in an email. Black Forest Games will be making the second level available, as well as one from the last third of the game, to provide a spectrum of everything the finished project will have to offer. According to Sallmann, public download links will be made available, so even those who aren’t currently backing the project through Kickstarter will get a chance to see what the game is all about.