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We enjoyed Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet here at Player Affinity; its visual style, familiar-but-challenging gameplay and clever puzzles made it worthy of being one of the games featured in Xbox’s Summer of Arcade. It’s primarily focused on a single-player, but came with a simple co-op multiplayer mode called Lantern Run that had players working to drag a fragile “Lantern” away from an unstoppable wall of death. The new DLC, Shadow Hunters tries to combine elements of both game types into one experience.
While Shadow Hunters is a well-made product, it suffers from several problems. The DLC was slated to release in September, but ended up arriving in October, over two months after the main game was released. This means that many Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet fans already had their fill of the game by the time this DLC became available. At present, the online multiplayer for Shadow Hunters is a ghost town, and it is extremely difficult to get an online game going.
Over two weeks after it hit XBLA, there still isn’t a functional community available, and during my time with it, I failed to ever fill out a full team of four players. Shadow Hunters does have local multiplayer, so it can be used as a party game when several ITSP fans are in the same room, but that’s poor consolation for many gamers.
The difficulties in getting a team together magnify the next problem; it’s quite difficult. This mode gives the players a large glowing bomb, and requires them to drag it into the center of a maze-like asteroid filled with enemies. You can’t shoot and carry the bomb at the same time, so teamwork (Or a great deal of patience) is required. The tiny spaceships begin with just the Claw and basic gun, so it is very difficult to complete even a single level alone, and even working as a duo is a frustratingly-difficult experience.
Another issue is price. At 400 Microsoft Points (Five dollars) it’s a big investment in something that most players are not even going to be able to play properly. This creates a spiral in which the fewer people willing to make the investment means the harder it becomes to get a full team, which in return reduces the value of the DLC.
The designers shouldn’t be
blamed for these problems, they’ve done a good job in putting the exploration
aspects of their game into a co-op experience that genuinely requires the
players to work together. It also
has story segments that use more of Michel Gagne’s impressive animation.
Falling into the category of “I wanted to like it”, Shadow Hunters is a game that can’t be recommended except for fans of the game who happen to have friends, family, roommates or neighbors who are available to play in a Local match. This might change if the price is reduced, or if a fan community develops over time. You can see the DLC in action below, and read our review of Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet.