Well, it’s time to close off femme-month. I’m sorry that I didn’t get a chance to speak about more original video game characters (Lara Croft being the most obvious one missing from the theme), but to make up for that, here’s a video game character that comes specifically from the fact that the company couldn’t get a license for what they wanted to do. Here’s the Giana Sisters for the iPhone.
Playing this game for any amount of time it’s clear to see that it’s a Mario clone. That is almost no exaggeration, and with good reason: the creator wanted to port Super Mario Bros. to the commodore 64 but couldn’t get the rights (which is a good business move on Nintendo considering how big of a system seller it was). How much they actually tried to obtain it is up for debate, but the… “inspiration” is not hard to see. Just look up a screen shot of the original game “The Great Giana Sisters” and you’ll do a double take. Not surprising, but there was a lawsuit and the series remained dead until this game. Which, shockingly, was first released on the Nintendo DS!
This may partially be due to the graphics. Yes, it’s easy to see how this game could be a sequel to the original Commodore 64 game, and many Mario inspired elements have stuck (brick blocks, the star blocks that look like question mark block, pipes, etc…), but if you look at this game and a Mario game that came out at the same time, there is a clear distinction now, especially in scale (as Giana seems tiny) and the look of the main character.
The original creator of the game Armin Gessert passed away soon after this game’s released, but there has since been another Giana game that came out about 3 or 4 years after this one from the company that now owns the rights. It’s a much more different game that I’ll get into some other day, and was even created due to a successful kickstarter campaign. Perhaps what was pretty much a glorified Mario bootleg is going on to be its own series now.
Despite the changes to the look, there are still many game play similarities between the Giana Sisters and the Mario Bros. It’s very much the same platforming game with a more child targeted coat of paint on it. With that in mind, I’ll go into specifics and small details, as that’s what separates this game from the other ones you might get (appropriately enough, this game sits next to Lep’s World on my iPhone).
First off, you run and you jump like in Mario, but the jump button in this game is an auto fire (handy when you’re under blocks that give you gems). You have a “punk” form in this game too, which allows you to take an extra hit and throw fire balls. They don’t bounce, and while the arc is wider than Mario’s fire, I’d prefer it to go straight forward. Also, despite having an extra form, Giana can only take one hit out of punk mode: no tiny version and mushroom rip off. One cool thing for the platforming is that after you hit some blocks, they fall to the ground and act like a step for you to get higher.
There are also a few things added to the game, though again, they are very small aspects. Like many modern platform games, there are items to find for completion and unlocking extra levels (in this game: red gems). There’s also a bubble gum item which allows Giana to float up as long as you don’t hit an obstacle. This isn’t the first game to do anything like this though (and it might be another Mario rip off, as it’s like the P. Balloon from Super Mario World). The most original thing might be the Soda Bottle. Giana will lock her position and release a stream of soda able to break blocks and push back enemies. I’m surprised this gimmick isn’t used more often or there wasn’t a level based using it excessively.
That’s really all to say about the Giana Sisters: if it weren’t for the history behind it, there really wouldn’t be any reason to talk about the game or series. Not knowing anything about its past, it would still be easy to play this game and label it a Mario Clone… but it’s a good quality clone. The graphics and music are actually really good (though the music is more mystical than appropriate), and while some games trying be Mario have weird physics, this one is smooth. As one of the more expensive games I’ve bought on the Apple Store (though apparently the price has gone down), it’s hard to recommend the game, even though there is a lot to play through. It’s of great quality, but it doesn’t do anything impressive. I give the Giana Sisters for the iPhone 8 levels out of 10, and that ends femme-month.