It’s been a long time since The Great Giana Sisters came out for the Commodore 64. 24 years in fact. Clones were common even in those days, and it was instantly recognisable as a copycat of the Super Mario Brothers.
So blatant was the influence that Nintendo forced publisher Rainbow Arts to withdraw the game from sale.
But that was a long time ago, and platformers have come a long way since. Giana Sisters on Android is highly faithful to the original, which is what makes it so disappointing.
Same old, same old
The traditional platforming formula is applied with almost religious zeal here. If it wasn’t for the updated graphics – which turn the pixellated sisters into slightly less pixellated and better animated sisters – then you'd it difficult to see any difference from the initial release.
Playing as the blonde Giana, you hop from surface to surface collecting gems resting on boxes or floating in the air. There are also red gems to be found. Collect all of these in a world and you’ll unlock a single bonus level. As ever, the Xperia Play’s controls make for quicker and sharper reaction times than any touch-controlled D-pad.
At certain points you can find a red ball in one of the levels’ boxes. This releases the punk Giana, who can destroy ‘brick’ blocks by bashing them with her head, and shoot fire from her hand to dispatch the rather apathetic enemies.
The theory of (plat)forms
It’s all very familiar. And that’s the issue with Giana Sisters. While it is expressly designed to be a remake (and would therefore normally be exempt from being too harshly criticised in terms of originality) it's also a remake of a Mario clone. The ability to look down to reveal new areas is the only slightly interesting deviation from that blueprint. A couple of rare moments late on allow you to use a cola bottle as a water cannon or bubble gum as a flotation aid, but these aren’t incorporated as much as they could be. In other words, where it veers Mario the game falters.
Giana Sisters includes a Retro mode that houses the exact layout of the original game’s levels.
This mode, like the rest of the game, will only really appeal to those with a historical interest. And even they might be disappointed by the fact that only the level layouts are reproduced, and not the earlier game’s C64 aesthetic. If you're a diehard retro gamer and you don't mind living with Giana Sisters's deficiencies, this authentic remake is worth checking out. Otherwise, you can probably live without it.