For those whose fondest memories of growing up in the 80s and 90s involve playing through the various iterations of Super Mario Bros, platforming never seemed sweeter. For a handheld device especially, that never looked like changing-- the 80s spark that created the Mario fever isn't easily replicated and Nintendo will never share its magic. It is fortunate then that the 80s also saw the birth of an infamous title known as The Great Giana Sisters, a title that attempted to challenge Nintendo's platforming dominance.

Now on the iPhone after a re-imagination on the DS in 2009, Giana Sisters [App Store] is an enhanced version of a tongue-in-cheek attempt in 1987. The levels have everything you would expect of a Mario-inspired game-- refined run-and-jump platforming, fireball power-ups, brick smashing, coin collecting and even castles with Bowser at the end (well, a look-a-like cousin at least). In fact, it is not until well into the second world that Giana Sisters even hints at an identity of its own.

By the third and fourth worlds however, an attitude easily rivalling that of their plumber pals shines through. And the sisters will need every bit it as the game is rife with pitfalls and dangers. Crumbling platforms, deadly waters and razor sharp stalagnites-- as well as a battalion of terrifically crafted enemies, some of whom would as soon run you down as fire a bazooka at you-- are all thrown at our heroines. Not all enemies can be defeated by fireballs and head-stomps either, often needing deft and precarious jumping to avoid. The sisters do have a little help though; dispensers spit out shakeable soda bottles to clear brick obstacles or put out fires and dispense man-sized, floating bubble gum balloons to fly around in. A handy flower pot check-point is also available in most levels to save your progress.

The original title featured 32 levels all up, which are all playable after completing the game, but it's the whopping 80 newly crafted levels that will keep you most occupied in Giana Sisters. Negotiating your way through these levels is a breeze, with both a Classic and Touch scheme available. The Classic mode works a treat and is the recommended setting, the finely-tuned left and right movement and jump and attack buttons are well-placed on the screen. As in our early impressions though we had difficulty getting used to the Touch scheme, particularly the jumping mechanic which proved too tedious. Both settings have a swipe feature for looking below or above your current platform.

The production values in Giana Sisters go beyond just a carefully crafted platform game however, as it both looks and sounds superb. The artwork is crisp and detailed with gorgeous, layered backdrops and themed levels really setting the scene to distinguish each area. The soundtrack is really something to write home about too; layering on that nostalgia thick with keyboard-heavy midi-esque tracks that run the gamut of upbeat to dark and ominous.

Giana Sisters is certainly deserving of its tremendous cult following. As a widely appealing game, it is easily recommended to all as a fresh take on classic platforming. It draws its strength from its unashamed inspiration, offering a tight, fully-featured and excellently crafted platformer that really raises the bar for the AppStore. Achievement hunters and competitive types will also be glad to know that Giana Sisters comes packaged with OpenFeint support for both achievements and leaderboards.

Impressions from our discussion forums have been wildly positive. Be sure to check out the developer's trailer above for a closer look.

App Store Link: Giana Sisters, $4.99

TouchArcade Rating

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  • http://www.mentation.nl/thanatist/ Thaurin

    Excellent platformer. Instantly reminds me of the hours and hours spent on the Commodore 64 version in the '80s. :) The appreggio sounds that were commonly used on the 3-channel SID sound chip really take me back. I wish I could access the old levels from the start, though. I know them intimately.

    Still, platforming on a touchscreen doesn't compare to using a joystick at all. In other words: I suck. :P

    • http://zombiesmash.gamedrs.com Matthias

      If you like the Chris Huelsbeck inspired soundtrack in Giana Sisters for iPhone (I love it!), stay tuned for ZombieSmash! with all music/sfx executed by the master himself ;)

  • http://www.mentation.nl/thanatist/ Thaurin

    Excellent platformer. Instantly reminds me of the hours and hours spent on the Commodore 64 version in the '80s. :) The appreggio sounds that were commonly used on the 3-channel SID sound chip really take me back. I wish I could access the old levels from the start, though. I know them intimately.

    Still, platforming on a touchscreen doesn't compare to using a joystick at all. In other words: I suck. :P

    • http://zombiesmash.gamedrs.com Matthias

      If you like the Chris Huelsbeck inspired soundtrack in Giana Sisters for iPhone (I love it!), stay tuned for ZombieSmash! with all music/sfx executed by the master himself ;)

  • munkee

    No mention of controls? It sucks.

  • munkee

    No mention of controls? It sucks.

  • Badboy

    is it a joke? that's a clone, the dev should be ashamed to make money with it!

    • http://www.mentation.nl/thanatist/ Thaurin

      Pwah. The game has built up enough of its own following and identity over the last 23 years that this bullshit can stop. I played Giana Sisters when I was a teenager, not Mario. I have nostalgic feelings towards this game, not Mario. To me, Mario is a clone. :)

    • U4iA

      You mean it's a direct port of the Nintendo DS game from last year. Besides it's the best C64 ever. :)

  • Badboy

    is it a joke? that's a clone, the dev should be ashamed to make money with it!

    • http://www.mentation.nl/thanatist/ Thaurin

      Pwah. The game has built up enough of its own following and identity over the last 23 years that this bullshit can stop. I played Giana Sisters when I was a teenager, not Mario. I have nostalgic feelings towards this game, not Mario. To me, Mario is a clone. :)

    • U4iA

      You mean it's a direct port of the Nintendo DS game from last year. Besides it's the best C64 ever. :)

  • Rudi

    A brilliant game.The best platformer on the Iphone.
    Am I the only one who noticed, that the scrolling is a bit jerky?
    Yes it is a clone, but who cares, if nintendo refuses to release the real mario for the iphone.

    • ydna

      Jippy! I'm not the only person who noticed the jerky scrolling. In another forum i was stoned for this comment. Without this mistake the game could be much better.
      Another Point is the missing extras of the original.

  • Rudi

    A brilliant game.The best platformer on the Iphone.
    Am I the only one who noticed, that the scrolling is a bit jerky?
    Yes it is a clone, but who cares, if nintendo refuses to release the real mario for the iphone.

    • ydna

      Jippy! I'm not the only person who noticed the jerky scrolling. In another forum i was stoned for this comment. Without this mistake the game could be much better.
      Another Point is the missing extras of the original.

  • JJ

    What's with the suggestive title?

  • JJ

    What's with the suggestive title?

  • Appaholic

    This makes me yearn for a port of Kid Chameleon.

  • Appaholic

    This makes me yearn for a port of Kid Chameleon.

  • http://www.spizak.com Spizak

    surprised you didn't say anything about unresponsive controls - in the classic mode you try to jump - hit the button and nothing, you fall to your death.

    The jerky scrolling is also annoying.

    Except that i like the game, played the amiga version so many times, i would love if you coluld switch to the retro look as i find the new updated look slightly childish.

  • http://www.spizak.com Spizak

    surprised you didn't say anything about unresponsive controls - in the classic mode you try to jump - hit the button and nothing, you fall to your death.

    The jerky scrolling is also annoying.

    Except that i like the game, played the amiga version so many times, i would love if you coluld switch to the retro look as i find the new updated look slightly childish.

  • http://www.silentrocco.com Silent Rocco

    Right now, this is the best platormer on the idevices.
    I don't see any single flaw. And boy, it gots content.
    Full console gaming here. Perfect game. I love it.

    • Rudi

      I agree, it´s the best platformer-but not perfect! Didn´t you notice the jerky scrolling? That should be fixed in an update!Than it would be really perfect!

    • http://www.squarezerostudio.com squarezero

      After I first read the comment about "jerky scrolling," I went back to the game to check it out. Frankly, I don't see it, at least not on my 3Gs.

      • Rudi

        I´ve got an Ipod Touch 2G, maybe thats the problem.

  • http://www.silentrocco.com Silent Rocco

    Right now, this is the best platormer on the idevices.
    I don't see any single flaw. And boy, it gots content.
    Full console gaming here. Perfect game. I love it.

    • Rudi

      I agree, it´s the best platformer-but not perfect! Didn´t you notice the jerky scrolling? That should be fixed in an update!Than it would be really perfect!

    • http://www.squarezerostudio.com squarezero

      After I first read the comment about "jerky scrolling," I went back to the game to check it out. Frankly, I don't see it, at least not on my 3Gs.

      • Rudi

        I´ve got an Ipod Touch 2G, maybe thats the problem.

  • Hanes

    Great review, I fully agree!

  • Hanes

    Great review, I fully agree!

  • jaytee

    what the hell is the difference between classic and touch control modes? how would you control this game with anything but touch controls?

  • jaytee

    what the hell is the difference between classic and touch control modes? how would you control this game with anything but touch controls?

  • Cowgba

    This is one of the better reviews I've seen on this site; good writing, Windburn!

    JJ, how is "The Giana Sisters" in any way suggestive..?

    • http://www.twitter.com/thewindburn Windburn

      Thanks, glad you enjoyed it ;)

      And I think JJ has too vivid an imagination if he thought that was suggestive-- I just don't see it!

  • Cowgba

    This is one of the better reviews I've seen on this site; good writing, Windburn!

    JJ, how is "The Giana Sisters" in any way suggestive..?

    • http://www.twitter.com/thewindburn Windburn

      Thanks, glad you enjoyed it ;)

      And I think JJ has too vivid an imagination if he thought that was suggestive-- I just don't see it!

  • Mister Mumbles

    I'm very much considering picking this up. I played the crap out of the original on my C64. The touch controls look similar to Soosiz, which worked perfectly.

  • Mister Mumbles

    I'm very much considering picking this up. I played the crap out of the original on my C64. The touch controls look similar to Soosiz, which worked perfectly.

  • Alex.B

    I really like this game a lot.

  • Alex.B

    I really like this game a lot.

  • http://oddyoh.blogspot.com OddyOh

    I would buy this, but I've sworn of platforming on the iPod for a little while...it never ends well. Maybe if the icontrolpad ever gets Apple's approval.

  • http://oddyoh.blogspot.com OddyOh

    I would buy this, but I've sworn of platforming on the iPod for a little while...it never ends well. Maybe if the icontrolpad ever gets Apple's approval.

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  • Graf Orlock

    When will the iPhone game become the HD graphics of the iPad- and Android versions? And when will it become support for the iPhone 5 4" screen?