An interesting twist on the base game
Genre: Platformer, Action
Publisher: Screenwave Media
Release date: 28 May, 2021
Eagle Island Twist is a free DLC for Eagle Island that anyone who owns the base game will have got in a recent update. rgk reviewed the base game back in 2019, where he gave it a Save for Later, and what was said in that review about the games controls and quirks still holds true in 2021.
Where Twist differs from the base game though is the structure of the campaign. The base game had procedurally generated levels and was a very light rogue-lite, but Twist foregoes all that and creates a campaign with hand-crafted levels and lots of unique level gimmicks.
The story in Eagle Island twist is barely existing. You’re playing as a young girl who (not so) accidentally broke an artifact called the Manaroc Twist, and unleashed an evil doppelganger in the process. Now it’s up to you to find the missing pieces that are scattered through the land and restore the Manaroc Twist.
The story is in other words just an excuse to have you make your way through a bunch of different levels and find the pieces that are scattered through the world. Helping you along the way is also a really large kookaburra who serves the same role as the owl from the base game.
Have you’ve ever played Donkey Kong Country 3? If so, remember all the stage gimmicks that game had, with many stages having unique mechanics seen nowhere else in the game? Eagle Island Twist takes the idea of stage gimmicks and runs with it.
After a brief tutorial level you’re dumped onto a map with branching paths, similar to that in Super Mario World. At first you’ve got two levels to chose from, but as you beat levels new levels will unlock. Every level apart from Boss levels have a gem for the Manaroc Twist, and also a hidden green gem that you can use to buy upgrades for your trusted kookaburra. Boss levels on the other hand give you a special larger Manaroc Twist gem.
The levels themselves are the real star of this DLC though, as almost every single one has some kind of interesting stage gimmick. Some stage gimmicks are more interesting than others, but the further in the game you get the more varied they get. There are stage gimmicks that make you pogo jump, make enemies drop explosives when they’re defeat, or where you’re chased by electric bugs that will try to zap you. Those are the simple stage gimmicks, and some of the more complex ones borrow mechanics from completely different games. There’s for an example one stage that plays like a 2D SUPERHOT, where time moves slowly when you’re not moving, but once you start moving the game speeds up to normal speed. Another level has you fight a bunch of other characters with their own pet kookaburras, while the edge of the levels keep closing in on you, like a Battle royale game. Most stage gimmicks are only used once, so if there’s one you don’t like you don’t have to sit through several levels like that. With about 45 levels having this many unique mechanics is no small feat.
Most levels are designed to accommodates the gimmicks, although the level design is not always entirely spot on. It’s rarely bad or annoying, but they also don’t always have the most inspiring level design, and the difficulty curve can be all over the place. Some later levels can be quite easy, and some earlier levels surprisingly difficult. That’s not to say that the game starts hard and ends easy, there’s still an upwards trend in difficulty, but the difficulty curve is very bumpy.
The bosses are another highlight of this DLC. They’re big, imposing and varied, although not necessarily all that difficult. They tend to have predictable patterns or at least very clearly telegraphs that they’re about to attack, making them quite reasonable challenges that don’t feel cheap or unfair.
Similarly to the base game you earn health back by creating combos. Depending on the difficulty level you pick the number of enemies you need to kill in a row to earn some health back varies, and beyond the recommended starting difficulty (the second lowest out of 4) it can actually be pretty difficult to earn health. There are a few health pickups scattered through the levels, but these also get fewer as you bump up the difficulty. If the game is too hard, or too easy, you can change the difficulty level at any time you’re on the world map, something that frankly should be standard in any game at this point, but isn’t.
For those who care about such things there are also medals you can earn on every level. Ending a level with more coins will earn you a higher score, and if you’ve got enough you’ll earn a higher level of medal. If you at any point die during a level you’ll start at the latest checkpoint with 0 coins, so in order to get the gold medal you’ll generally need to beat the levels without dying. The levels are not overly long though.
Eagle Island Twist is one of those rare DLCs where I can say that even if you did not like the base game, you might still want to give this one a try. Going from a light rogue-lite Metroidvania to a more traditional 2D platformer with hand crafted levels and a lot of varied mechanics gives it a completely different feel.
Had this been a 15€ standalone game I would have said that it’s a decent purchase. A few rougher edges might put it in “wait for a sale” territory for those who don’t love 2D platformers. But it’s not a 15€ standalone game, it’s a free upgrade to an 11€ game, with enough content and new stuff that it could very well be sold as a standalone game. If you already own Eagle Island, then check this one out, it’s free after all, and if you don’t own Eagle Island, and was put off by the rogue-lite mechanics then the game might well be worth a second look. This free DLC is worth the price of the base game all on its own.