Essentially, Giana Sisters: Dream Runners is a game in which you race against a handful of other players across a looping stage, with the goal being to try and stay in first place until the current 'lap' comes to a close. If you're in the lead when it does eventually end, then you'll be awarded with a gold star. Collect three of these, and you've won the match. It's a simple enough premise, and, admittedly, a rather creative one – that is to say, it's creatively devised. The execution of the concept, however – along with a few other shoddy design choices that the game ham-fistedly puts forward – fails to make the title an enjoyable one.
The first thing that you'll notice is the release's colourful, if not a little familiar, art style. While it's certainly reminiscent of the sort of uninspired mobile games that you might've picked up for the odd buck a couple of years ago, it can still have its off moments of prettiness, and the sound design that accompanies these fleeting instants – again, if not a tad generic – is at least appropriate and tasteful in its application.
There's only a small selection of playable characters on offer, with four unlockable personalities being obtained through online play and the like – but these don't provide any real variation besides looking different from each other. Subsequently, there are nine levels to traverse in total, and each one of these is effectively an obstacle course that's been fleshed out with multiple critters, blockades, and platforming sections for you to test your mettle against – perhaps too many at times, as levels can often end up appearing and feeling a little convoluted. This is only made worse by the ensemble of wacky weapons that item containers grant you, too, since there's no in-game tutorial to tell you what any of them actually do.
As if things didn't already seem frustrating enough, there's also the matter of each race dragging on for uncomfortably arduous periods of time, especially if the competitors are all similarly skilled. It's these types of matches that can expose the release's more niggling weak points, like its irritatingly unpredictable and awkward controls. Characters occasionally get stuck when attempting to jump above objects, slide and float around the terrain wildly, and just generally feel like they've got a mind of their own. The locations that you'll respawn into after a round is won can sometimes crop up in unfair or unprecedented areas, too – such as on top of conveyor belts that will pull any unlucky contenders backwards before they even have a chance to move.
With that aside, let's focus on the issue at the very core of the product: the ability – or a lack thereof – to play it with other people. In our whole time spent indulging in its more-than-questionable content, we couldn't manage to find a single online lobby to join. In a title that derives its value almost entirely from its competitive nature, Giana Sisters: Dream Runners falls flat at the first hurdle. With only local mutiplayer available and some overly tough AI opponents to face off against, the game is left stripped of its primary attraction, and simply doesn't give you a good enough reason to comply with the asking price of £7.99 – that's $9.99 for you North American customers out there – because of this.
Giana Sisters: Dream Runners is a hot mess to play, contradictory to its run-of-the-mill appearance. Even if you can manage to grasp what's happening and why it's happening long enough to delve into its online multiplayer, then you'll be hard-pressed to find any actual activity to take part in. A mashup with good intentions, the title falls a long way short of its admirable aspirations.