Giana Sisters – How a C64 Platform Game Banned By Nintendo Came to iPhone and iPod touch


Giana Sisters for iPhone and iPod touch.

In the 1980s, a Mario-like platformer was reportedly brutally slain by Nintendo lawyers. Two decades later, the game has made its way to iPhone and iPod touch (and, presumably, Nintendo’s lawyers have chilled out a little). The game in question: Giana Sisters. Cult of Mac spoke to Nico Kaartinen of developer Bad Monkee about how and why a cult 8-bit classic was remade for Apple handhelds.

The C64 version of Great Giana Sisters, banned by Nintendo laywers of doom.

Cult of Mac: For people who know little about Giana Sisters, what kind of game is it?
Nico Kaartinen: Giana Sisters is a classic 2D platform game from the 1980s that has its roots in a C64 version, but was later brought to other platforms. It became famous due to a dispute with Nintendo based on their Mario Brothers games. Giana Sisters for iPhone is the game from the 1980s but grown up a bit. Giana needs to jump through 80 new and 32 classic levels where she encounters various difficulties.

Why did you decide to create an iPhone version of Giana Sisters?
Part of the team involved with Giana Sisters for iPhone also created the Giana Sisters 1 and 2 mobile phone versions. Together with Armin Gessert and Andreas Speer from Spellbound, we decided to bring this classic to the iPhone because we’ve been missing a really good platformer on ‘iDevices’. Also, we could integrate Giana-specific music and sounds at a high-quality level on Apple’s platform.

Giana Sisters offers two control methods.

How did you develop the game? How easy was the iPhone to develop for?
The basis for the iPhone game was the Nintendo DS version. Taking it from there, we looked into every detail of the game, and recreated many graphics. This was not only based on some graphic filters as rumoured on various internet forums. If this had been the case, Giana Sisters for iPhone would have been on the market three months earlier! We recreated Giana and punk Giana from 3D grapics and worked lots on the other graphic sprites. In the end, it was a bit like ‘pixeling’ the original Giana back in the 1980s!

We also needed to find a suitable control mechanism for the game. We added up to six different controls to some development game versions—for example, using the gyro sensors to make Giana run. In the end, we decided to include the two control methods you find in the final version. The four we left out were not precise enough for a platformer like Giana Sisters or lacked other usability features.

The dangers of blowing too big a bubble with your bubblegum are plain to see. Be warned, kids!

How does the game compare to the withdrawn C64 release?
When you compare both versions you have huge graphical and sound differences. We are all retro lovers at Bad Monkee and highly respect the original Giana Sisters version from the C64 that we played for so many hours. Armin helped us to recreate the original spirit of Giana on the iPhone, but Giana had to grow with time as well. We believe that all people who’d like to see the original Giana on the iPhone would not have as much fun with it as they’ll have with our version.

Giana Sisters costs $4.99 on the App Store, and there’s also a free soundboard app.