If you like the Twisted Lands series but have not played Shadow Town, we are going to tell you right now: stop, and play that game first before jumping into the world of Insomniac. This game is fun and cool and stands well on its own, yes. But it is still best appreciated if you have already finished Mark's storyline. While the events in his game run alongside that of Angel's her plight, and the horror that surrounds her, makes a lot more sense from the perspective of a player who already has the whole background info on the gameworld.
Side by Side, Yet a Whole Universe Apart
One cannot help but feel a bit of sympathy for Mark and Angel -the two lead characters of Insomniac and Shadow Town as they are literally kept apart by a dark dimensional barrier. And as if things could not get any worse, Angel keeps moving in and out of two distinct realities. The first is the open, yet surrealistically ominous land of the Shadow world. The second is in the paranoia-inducing confines of what appears to be a laboratory with its own dangerous denizens -all of whom seem intent on keeping her captive. Angel has to survive her way through both worlds by solving the puzzles and obstacles that get in her way, and it is up to you, the player, to help her do just that.
The starting scene alone is enough to make a lot of players cringe -our lead character Angel has been lined up for a lobotomy. Not exactly the most ideal procedure that anyone would want to have. So it comes as to no surprise that your first objective is to get the heck out of dodge in order to survive in one piece. However, things are not as easy as they look and Angel has to figure out the true nature of the place she has found herself in. Of course, the problem does not end there. As we mentioned, Angel is present in two concurrent realities, and being able to escape from both is not going to be an easy task.
Hidden Objects and More
In keeping with the game's dual-natured horrors, the puzzles for the Shadow World and the hospital-slash-laboratory are thematic to their styles. While you will encounter similar approaches to the puzzles (especially with the HOG sequences), there are also a lot of points where you must solve visual challenges and make use of items that you store in the inventory. This is all standard point and click fare of course, and what makes it satisfying is the whole storyline that you just cannot help but want to push forward.
As expected, the vast majority of puzzles in the game are HOG style events so you will want to keep an eye for all the important things on the list. The visuals are grand, nicely drawn, and incredibly detailed -expect to spend a lot of time trying to find tiny little things in the middle of big messes. There is a nice hint system in place for players who do not wish to waste too much time with the puzzles, but for those of you seeking a bit of a challenge, expect that Twisted Lands will certainly deliver. Veterans of the series will want to turn on expert mode if they want something a little more exciting.
As good as the puzzles are, the game can be finished in one (long) sitting, so do know that turning on the hints or game guide will significantly cut your game time (unless you are just really after the narrative of course).
As with the rest of the scary escape games in the Twisted Lands series, the sense of horror never fades away in the game's delivery. From the music to the artwork, players are plunged headfirst into a bizarre universe where things seem to be initially bound by the laws of physics and yet manage to seemingly defy all logical thought. Passages once open quickly disappear. Empty corridors sudden gain new clues or items. And players will drift in and out of two existences as the lines between the two realms gets blurred.
The isolation of Angel in her world is a stark contrast to the fact that you can actually see Mark's progress on his side of the story. If you played the previous game, there are key points in the story where their paths almost converge, and this makes for not only a great storytelling experience, but also increases the desperation factor as players lay witness to the hardships that Angel has to endure.
The music, despite not being particularly unique, is one of your favorite elements of the game. Each scene is punctuated by the BGM, creating specific moods and emotions that quickly push the player into the frame of mind of the narrative. This effective use of music in the narrative deserves a lot of praise, especially with the way that the music itself does not draw too much attention and allows you to still focus on the plot that is unfolding before you. Twisted Lands: Insomniac is a beautifully created HOG title that we highly recommend to anyone looking for a good horror gaming experience.