The Snake Becomes The Key

Retro Gaming Humour

The ‘Grate’ Giana Sisters

Words:Stuart Hunt

The Great Giana Sisters, CPC’s biggest letdown. Look, somebody had to come out and say it.

If you’re going to try and improve an existing computer game, the last title on Earth you should probably have a swing at is the biggest selling of all time. I’m guessing that as you’re reading this review, there’s a better than probable chance you’ve played Super Mario Bros, so the premise of The Great Giana Sisters will be familiar and relatively simple for me to sum up. Just omit the plumbers for sisters, and growth-spouting mushrooms for mullet growing circles.

After the world went Mario mad, Nintendo announced they wouldn’t be porting their portly protagonists to home computers. This created a rather attractive gap in the market for a platform game to rival Mario and Luigis’ pipe warping antics and cause the cocky pair to sob into their flat-caps.

There are many people in this world who cite The Great Giana Sisters as one of the finest home computer platform games ever created. If I’m honest, the Amiga and (it kills me to say this) C64 versions were actually pretty good games; however, for us poor CPC owners, the whole Great Giana saga was about as pleasurable as stopping a bullet train with your balls and about as pretty as the impact.

Let’s begin with the difference in the game’s loading screens. The first screen we have here is taken from the C64 version. Although the character looks a lot like Limahl in a denim skirt, I think you’ll agree it’s a billion times better than the CPC loading screen (below), which to this day still causes me to wake from sleep screaming ‘why’ at my ceiling.

great_giana_sisters_01c641.jpg

limahl2.jpg

Top: A wack 80’s novelty
Bottom: See Above

I’m confused as to why any developer would select this particular image to represent their heroines, or, when I think about it logically why they would settle on two hideous harridans with sporadic hair follicles in the first place? Out of all the cool things in the world they could have chosen to play siblings, they went with two cheese-eating sisters who get warped to the weird Dream Kingdom in their sleep.

greatgianasisters3.jpg

etgilbert.jpg

Top: E.T and Gilbert
Bottom: See above

I guess after launching in with the visual child of garish and hideous the game’s creators felt the only foreseeable way graphically for the project would be up, even if they delegated the job of crafting the rest of the CPC conversion to a cat in a pregnancy suit – which it looks like they went and did.

When you start the game, the first thing you will notice is how unbelievably slippy your character is. You will probably spend the next 10 minutes staring at the foot of the screen trying to work out whether your character has started out in some kind of strange, frozen, orange world where snow and ice is oddly substituted with sunlight and bricks. It hasn’t, it’s just the game’s piss-poor controls introducing themselves to you.

Now, in a platform game, precision is the most important skill that must be channelled. With this in mind, making your character about as easy to control as a Mig-fighter does an enjoyable platform game not make. The sisters are blessed with the ability to jump high, ridiculously high, which the manual says has something to do with low gravity in Dream Kingdom and absolutely nothing to do with shoddy programming. In fact, the Sisters jump so high in the air that you find yourself swearing when you do it unintentionally, as you sign away another precious cheque of life-minutes to the game, minutes which could be better spent doing any number of things: writing a bestseller, teaching yourself to play the piano or licking the back of a cinema chair while you repeatedly smack the retractable part of the seat against your temple.

giana-picy.jpg

On the Left is the C64 version, on the right the cat in a pregnecy suit translation

Before you begin playing The Great Giana Sisters, it’s best to make sure every electrical appliance in your house is turned off, your Amstrad leads are welded into their ports and you’re well practised in the art of seeing into the future, because the time between pressing down on your joystick’s fire button and seeing your character’s reaction shares an odd correlation to the intermittence of reported basketball-playing werewolf sightings.

This pre-empting ability will also prove invaluable to you when trying to uncover the game’s secret areas. In Mario Bros, you collected coins and 100 of these awarded Mario an extra life, making it worthwhile hopping onto a green pipe and pressing down on the D-Pad. This same extra life for coins scenario exists in The Great Giana Sisters; however, instead of coins Gianas collect gems. Instead of pressing down on green pipes the Gianas have to fall into death pits and prey that instead of a game over screen they drop into a secret area containing gem booty. Deft? No, Improving on Mario Bros? No, Idiotic? Yes.

Ok, the Great Giana Sisters is by no way the worst game on the CPC, but it’s a hefty kick in my nuts when there’s a superior C64 version in existence. I remember my first play of the game on my mate’s Commodore after school. I was so impressed, I tried everything I could to get my hands on a copy for my Amstrad and when I finally got one I was giddy as Willy Wonka on Easter Sunday. I was stockpiled with so much unbridled excitement I didn’t even acknowledge its horrible loading screen and when it finally booted up I couldn’t believe I was playing the same game. When my friend came over to my house after school I made damn sure I hid the tape so he couldn’t compare graphics. I continued this odd ritual until one day I hid it, forgot about it and then lost it. Probably to my dad’s Datsun Cherry, were I imagine it now exists as a psychedelic rock compilation for long car journeys.

May 21, 2007 Posted by | Questionable Conversions, Stuart Hunt | 3 Comments