Giana Sisters is an odd thing. Generating controversy as a Super Mario Bros. clone for the Commodore 64 in the mid ’80s, pulled from shelves at Nintendo’s wish, then in the mid-2000s, earning a DS release. The fate and history of Giana Sisters, a distinctly European property in its computing origins, has character. As a game, not as much.
Peculiarities are few – two indistinct girls hop ‘n bop through their saturated fantasy world and are serenaded by grinding, mostly obnoxious Euro rock (in line with Turrican rather than a chipper platformer) There is no thematic interest. The two Giana girls switch between dark and light worlds without significant consequence. Switching helps their own progress, not their world’s. They’re poor heroines.
In the some 30 years since a German development team whipped up their Mario knock-off, Giana Sisters has no motivation. Development instinct still says to clone rather than elevate, leaving Giana Sisters handicapped by its passive and ambient creativity.
This genre tinkers with formula now. Maybe it fills a void. Shovel Knight played with the absurdity of 8-bit platformers to grand effect. No one can miss the parody. Updated 2D Mega Man entries have bite and spirit. Yet here are the Giana Sisters, helplessly floating in their own blandness and without a niche to fill. Super Mario Bros. has long since moved onward. No one let these girls know.