Kickstarter has given budding game developers a chance to shine that never existed in the early days of gaming. Twisted Fusion is one of the most recent titles to be supported by the service, but does it fare well from its crowdfunded roots? Let's find out.
We're a little light on story in Twisted Fusion. The main character, Cora, is called outside to play with her friends when, suddenly, they're warped to another world called Evan. In Evan their toy squirt guns are useful as weapons, and they must use them to defeat the variety of monsters present. The goal is to recover the Sun Stones and return home.
Twisted Fusion ends up as a sort-of 2D action platformer with RPG elements, with aspects of the Metroidvania genre. The game takes place in an open world in the vein of Metroid, and you can team up with a few friends if you have the extra controllers. Once you start you'll try to go in multiple directions and find that you can really only go in one. This brings you to the first tower, and it's these that act as the game's dungeons.
As you defeat monsters you'll gain currency, which can be used to purchase new abilities and upgrades through an app on Cora's phone. Resembling a Windows 8 device, your phone serves as the main menu for the game. Aside from the shop it includes a variety of features, such as a difficulty slider, a clock that allows you to fast-forward time, and a list of tasks to complete in the game.
Even if you're playing alone, you can choose to play as a different character using a menu on the phone. Each player is essentially the same aside from their special abilities, which only require a one-time purchase to use for all characters. The special abilities are extra-powerful attacks that have no limit on their use. Cora drops a little rocket that fires three blasts of water up into the air. One of the other characters uses a stationary fire hydrant to fire huge blasts of water at enemies, while a third throws a water balloon grenade in an arc.
A special side feature of the phone is the My Monsters app, which allows you to raise monsters from eggs that you pick up from enemies. Defeating enemies will grant experience points to the monsters, and once you've assembled a strong team you can take them into battle and test their abilities. It's a nice optional distraction, though the menu to interact with it can feel a bit clumsy.
Once you're in control of Cora and start off for the game's first tower, the problems start to creep in. The first set of issues concern the graphics. The framerate is choppy and can become a little disconcerting after a while; this is especially true when coupled with the game's awkward camera.
The camera judders to your every move, even if you're just moving a step in a different direction. This doesn't jive with the game's zoomed-out picture (especially when playing on the TV) and makes the view jump all over the place. It's disorienting and makes movement more frustrating than it ever should be. Thankfully, the view is zoomed in when playing on the GamePad, which makes it easier to keep track of what's going on. However, the framerate isn't any better on the GamePad.
Speaking of movement, Cora's jump is rather floaty, as well. She abruptly moves up into the air and slowly descends back down, so the momentum isn't ideal. This is negated once you earn the must-have jetpack ability, but it's still a concern early on.
Unfortunately, some other aspects of the game don't fare much better. Combat quickly begins to feel like a chore because enemies take a lot of hits to defeat. We counted 47 shots to take down a plant enemy stuck on the ceiling. Frankly, this is overkill for defeating enemies and calls to memory the original Shantae, which also had enemies that felt like tanks. You have hearts representing your health, but many enemies kill you in one hit regardless, so it ends up feeling moot.
The special abilities discussed above do help with taking down the enemies, but they don't make fighting much more enjoyable. Especially on higher difficulties, you can still be killed (in one hit) using the stationary fire hydrant blast, which limits its use. Aside from the abilities, you can also use your loot to purchase attack and defense upgrades, making the combat a bit easier; you do have to grind some loot to purchase them, however, which can take some time.
The first boss exemplifies these issues; it's a dragon that simply moves back and forth and shoots you. You have to shoot him over 100 times to defeat him, and jumping over his movement requires exact precision, despite his hitbox being inconsistent. This is an issue with shooting normal enemies as well. One enemy, a green blob, bounces up and down in its idle animation. You can hit it when it's fully extended up, but your shots will go right over it when it's squished down. You can't duck to counteract this, so it can be frustrating to deal with.
The final overarching problem with this game is the navigation and map design. Unbelievably, there's no map, which makes navigation confusing. To make this worse, many areas of the game are hard to distinguish from one another. Every room in the towers looks identical, and the field layout faces the same fate. There are warp points to get around quickly, but screen-to-screen navigation suffers greatly.
Many parts of the game end up feeling like a maze. In the field, you often won't be able to tell that your current path results in a dead end until you reach it. In towers, you'll often have to head down a series of corridors only to find a locked door. Trekking back to find the key, then unlocking the door, can then lead to another long corridor and another locked door. This leads to a lot of tedious backtracking and trial-and-error gameplay in finding where to go.
The map and world, overall, feel rather empty. Enemies are sparsely scattered around and you'll want to avoid them most of the time, in any case, due to how many hits they take. The jetpack opens up more of the map, but the sky feels empty, with only a few platforms scattered about. The towers are also confusing to navigate due to the lack of a map or visual distinctiveness. On the plus side, the soundtrack isn't bad. It has an air of fantasy which is perfect for being lost in a foreign land, but can get repetitive after a while. The music also abruptly cuts when moving in and out of a town are,a instead of cleanly fading.
The game lacks polish in a lot of areas. Typos are fairly common in the dialogue, enemies won't appear in the same keyplaces after you die in a tower, you can be killed by enemies while you're paused, and you get no feedback on whether you're actually doing damage to a foe (or if you're being hurt). In the first tower, we were even able to walk right through a locked door without a key.
Twisted Fusion misses its potential. The skeleton of a solid game is here, but it falls short in various regards and is plagued with issues. What fun you might have from searching for secrets and gaining new abilities is completely marred by tedious combat, a shaky camera and movement, a lack of navigational help, and overall boring gameplay. The variety of technical issues suggest that perhaps this game could have used some more time in development.
If you really like action platformers and don't mind a game that's rough around the edges, this isn't the worst game on the eShop considering the price. However, most people should look elsewhere. Twisted Fusion's ultimate fate is that it feels incomplete, not plain awful, and that's sad considering its origins.