Gender Bender DNA Twister Extreme Review

Oh boy… This is going to be a long one.

Notice: This review was re-edited on January 23, 2022 for quality purposes. This revision did not substantially change any content or opinions, but it did change the tone to be less hostile and confrontational, in addition to adding more images. If you wish to read the original version of this review, you can view an archive here.

Back in early 2013, an Indiegogo campaign for a visual novel by the name of Gender Bender DNA Twister Extreme was launched. It was both an ambitious and curious little title that sought to bring the ultimate “gender swap” experience that would surpass those featured in many similar stories and games. The game was quite successful, hitting several stretch goals, and over the course of three years of development, it’s two creators, Lachlan Snell and David Kerr, were able to shape this project into something far more robust than its modest budget and lower production values would imply.

However, as it’s popularity rose and the game eventually found itself on Steam Greenlight, before hitting Steam itself, it fell under fire. With forums of toxic posts and negative discussions in the sort of communities the game was being made for. The creators were threatened, hacked, and insulted aplenty when the game was in the public eye, but the game was completed in spite of this.

As for my side of the story, I was incredibly excited for this game upon first hearing about it, and followed its development accordingly. Almost a year afterwards, I finally checked out the game for myself via a publicly available demo, and was gravely disappointed with what I saw. Despite my hopes in the project being slashed considerably, I still kept an eye on the game and promised myself that I would get to it eventually. Now, nearly four years since the game was announced, I guess it’s finally time to review Gender Bender DNA Twister Extreme.

Gender Bender DNA Twister Extreme Review
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), Mac, Linux
Developer/Publisher: Transcendent Games 

Before beginning the review itself, I feel that it is necessary to address the subject matter of this game. TG, gender bending, gender swapping, whatever you want to call it [I like to call it TSF (Trans-Sexual Fantasy)] is a narrative element that centers around a character changing their sex through some impossible means. With the ensuing story narrative, assuming there is one beyond the initial transformation, centering on how they adapt to this new situation.

It has its own various tropes and trends, and has garnered a sizable niche fan base, with a wide variety of people creating stories, art, comics, and games that fall into this genre. Some of them take a more mature and serious route in order to tell interesting stories, some of them exist for the sake of satiating fetishes, some of them serve as a sense of wish fulfillment for the creators, and most of them are some combination of the three.

Gender Bender DNA Twister Extreme, or GBDNATE as I will be calling it for the sake of convenience, is no different. It exists to fulfill those three primary goals by telling a story about a gaggle of men who are caught in a lab accident that transform them into women, how the ensuing transformation affects their lives, and how this scientific discovery affects the world at large.

It is a fairly simple concept with a lot of room for the story to evolve, alter, and grow over the span of 13 unique character specific routes. One enhanced by a variety of other transformations introduced later on in the story, most of them being anthropomorphic in nature, along with a sense of playfulness and enthusiasm that persist across all these varied stories.

For as much as I would like to get behind that concept however, GBDNATE does a lot wrong. As in, there are probably more things wrong with GBDNATE than any game I’ve ever covered. It is a fundamentally amateurish effort on nearly every front, and the lack of experience among its two man development team shows across nearly every facet of the game.

Starting from the top, despite being a game extensively about gender exploration and transformations of biological sex, GNDNATE fails to make a distinction between sex and gender. Gender is a mental and social concept that relates to how one expresses themsleves, while sex is physical and biological, determined by one’s appearance and body. This kind of oversight can be seen in the terms gender bender, gender swap and TG themselves, as whoever coined these terms was likely not aware of the distinction. Despite this, most of the TG/TSF community is aware of the distinction between the two, making this oversight all the more glaring.

In addition to getting something as simple as that wrong, GBDNATE also fumbles at being a TSF story. Instead of aiming to be something more in-depth or detailed, it often regales in tired tropes associated with the genre. For one, the actual transformation for the characters, and description of how their new bodies compare to their old ones, are lacking.

When describing their new forms, characters often focus on obvious things like breasts and hair, while rarely commenting on less obvious differences between men and women. Such as the softer skin, different proportions, different vocal cadence, and even different genitalia. With the latter being especially surprising, given how horny this game is.

Character’s reactions to their new bodies feel remarkably simple, and only seem to fall into three categories: adoration, disdain, and cautious curiosity. Despite this though, every character winds up preferring their new sex more than their old one, and adopting the opposite gender with it. The only exception to this rule is a character who ends up being genderfluid… and I guess “sexfluid” as well. This is further emphasized in the appearance of these characters, as most of them look far more attractive as their opposite sex, though that’s partially due to how the artist draws male sprites compared to female sprites.

Romance is also handled strangely, as most of the sex swapped cast ends up being bisexual, and are comfortable enough to pursue a full relationship within a week of their transformation. While I understand this is not uncommon among TSF media, it makes almost every character seem sexually promiscuous and generally shallow. As if they don’t really care about actual romance and simply want to feel what it’s like to shove stuff up their spiffy new vaginas. 

I would say that this is to facilitate sex scenes, but that is not the case. Despite being such a perverted and horny game, there are no sex scenes or masturbation scenes in GBDNATE. At all. I would understand if this game wanted to be ‘clean,’ but the amount of cleavage on display and multiple instances of female frontal nudity make it hard for me to accept that theory. 

As for the writing itself… things are not that much better, as this is easily the worst written commercial visual novel I have ever played. Many conversations early on in the game are bland and bereft of character. The language can be incredibly repetitive in places. Exposition is often hard to follow or confusing with how things are stated. While the characterization for most of the cast seems rather lacking, with most having inconsistent, basic, or hard to ascribe personalities. The script in general is in dire need of alterations, punching up, and edits, as the number of errors here is simply staggering.

I’ll admit that I can be a sloppy editor, and have been for years, but for a commercial product, the editing on display here is just abysmal. It goes beyond just typos, spelling mistakes, and grammatical errors, and extends to full on contradictions. The sort of thing that a writer should typically spot when proofreading their work. Characters express opinions that they later go against for no justifiable reason. Timeframes are redefined on a whim, and make the overall timeline of this game genuinely confusing. And transformations are described inconsistently depending on the route. Sometimes they’re painful, sometimes they’re not, and nothing seems to dictate when and why this is the case.

If I were to go through the 370,000+ word script and point out every single instance where I found something wrong, I doubt that a single page would be free from scrutiny. Which is saying something considering my limited writing skills and grammatical understanding. Mind you, I would also comment on the minor things, such as many of the running gags employed throughout the game, which both outstay their welcome and aren’t all that funny to begin with. 

There is also a perplexing tendency to refer to all female characters or women in general as “girls,” to the point where girl is used about 70% of the time in comparison to words like woman, lady, female, chick, and so forth. Curse words are bizarrely prevalent in the second half of the game, which just feels inappropriate given the more lighthearted nature of the game up to that point. And it is clear that the writer did not think out the structure, purpose, and layout of the setting of the small college town of Siren’s Point. It is so bad that the in-game characters mock it for being nonsensical, because I guess the developers would rather acknowledge criticism instead of addressing it.

This is all so frustrating for two reasons. One is that I know Lachlan Snell could have done better. The game he developed and wrote afterwards, Max’s Big Bust, featured superior writing in just about every conceivable facet. Two, is that I really, really, really wanted to enjoy this game.

Despite all of the structural and foundational issues that exist within GBDNATE, and there are a lot of them, there are flashes of excellence sprinkled throughout the game. The game can be lovably insane with its rampant transformations, thought-provoking with some of the concepts it toys with, and genuinely funny during rare moments. But whatever good the game has to offer is overwhelmingly outmatched by the bad.

The exact ratio of this depends heavily on the route. Some routes are decent to good, as the story is better able to focus on its zany tendencies and ‘transformation funsies.’ While others are trite, uncreative, and genuinely tiring to go through. I expected things to get better as the routes went on, as they were all developed consecutively, but that’s not the case, as the quality fluctuates seemingly at random, and results in a lopsided campaign. 

Before talking about each of them specifically, I should probably clarify the structure of the game. In most routes, the game offers the player several story shifting choices that alter scenes and determine the ending the player receives. However, only one of these endings is the canon one. This both makes me question why bother with the alternate routes to begin with, and makes successive routes confusing, as it is not always clear which ending is canon. Personally, I would have preferred that each route had an obvious true end and a series of bad ends, as seen in the Nadine route.

Meanwhile, in the Russell and Scarlett routes, the game adopts an adventure game style framing, allowing the player to traverse around Siren’s Point, and it has both the boons and banes of a classic adventure game structure. Navigation can be confusing at times due to the prevalence of adventure game logic, meaning that there were some puzzles I only got through thanks to trial, error, and brute force repetition. However, by giving the player so many variables to interact with, it is easy to stumble onto bizarre situations where the player does something that warrants a shocked, horrified, or otherwise humorous response from another character. While I am not big into this format, I did enjoy fooling around during these routes, transforming into people, and testing the patience of every other character in the game until the dialogue options ran dry.

Now that I’ve covered the general narrative and gameplay, let’s finally move on to the routes themselves.

Yael’s route follows an obnoxiously lackadaisical lab assistant as they go on a trite tale of a man being transformed into a woman, disliking it, and trying to hide the fact that they are a woman from the world before eventually embracing it. Depending on the player’s decision, Yael will accept the change better by confining in a lesbian girlfriend who, even if the player goes out of their way to reject, will ultimately become Yael’s significant other. There’s really no meaningful variance between these endings other than how big Yael’s boobs are by the end.

Bri’s route focuses on an underutilized employee of the lab as they quickly become enraptured by their new female body, and whether they wants to pursue a romance with a boring guy with no discernable traits, a boring punkish blue-haired girl, or the “moeblob” Dan, another playable character. Regardless of the player’s choices, the romances are rapidly paced, the characters rarely do anything meaningful as a couple, and everything devolves into a series of ‘sex scenes’ where sex happens, but is neither detailed nor shown. Despite seemingly being a story about romance, the lack of depth makes the story feel more like a tale of lust. Which is not a good look, considering Bri is the sole black female playable character, and the route (likely unintentionally) feeds into the the stereotype of black women being sexually promiscuous.

Lynn’s route shows how the talented second-in-command scientist handles the grief that comes with accidentally transforming a group of people into women, all because she didn’t check the bloody centrifuge… but after addressing the grief for a moment, it divulges into a story about her instant and growing lust for her new form. A form that she can alter by becoming a fox-human hybrid or a mermaid. It is definitely one of the more playful routes, but its fixation on unique endings kind of bites the story later on as, instead of picking a single canon ending, the game rolls all of them together into one super ending. Yeah, like I said, it’s confusing.

Dina’s route is where the game starts getting weird, as Dina is both the scientist most responsible for all of this, and a genuine sociopath. She disregards the feelings of others if they contrast with her own, forces them to transform their bodies against their will, and alters her own body in ways that seem especially selfish and fetishistic. Which stands in contrast to the comparatively tame fascination-driven transformations in Lynn’s route. She turns herself into a glob of slime, an octopus mermaid, a lamia, and a super powered cat girl with what I could only describe as an absurd level of ease. She embodies pretty much every vice of a mad scientist, and is a truly unnerving individual given her behavior. …But that also makes her a genuinely enjoyable character to watch, as you never know what kind of nonsense she’s going to get into.

Steph’s route is set several months after the initial lab incident depicted in the prior routes, and chooses to focus on a female to male transformation as Steph, a security guard, is transformed into a man for three days. During which, they need to choose if they will live as a man or woman. While applaudable for being some form of female to male representation, including a gay male romance, and allowing for a character to turn back to normal, that does not necessarily make this route good. The story itself is largely underwhelming due to its low stakes, and lack of detailed exploration, and the only thing really spicing up this route was the returning characters.

Dan’s route tells the story of the thirty-year-old software engineer of the lab, who winds up with the body of a youthful “top heavy” young woman who, despite still coming to grips with their new form, is quickly recruited by a local girl band/idol group. A group that performs exclusively in the small college town of Siren’s Point and has a show every other day. While its concept is lovably ludicrous, this route aims to do far too much given its brief running time with its eight new characters, multiple romances, and surface-level exploration of what it is to be an idol.

Zara’s route centers around a struggling independent video game store that, along with its owner, is revitalized by Lynn, Dina, and Steph into being a wildly successful general gaming store with a cosplay-loving owner. While not a particularly detailed story regarding the logistics of the business, it is easily among the most fun and enjoyable routes in the game. The romances are well-paced and have time to grow, the story offers an ample level of zaniness, a giant pink bunny rabbits, a cameo from KittyHawk of Sparkling Generation Valkyrie Yuuki fame, and it is a prime example of the type of content, both in structure and quality, that I wish was representative of the game as a whole.

Nadine’s route follows one of the executives from Abaddon Industries, the corporation funding Dina and Lynne’s laboratory, and… she is easily the most unlikable protagonist in the game. Nadine is presented as a presumptuous self-centered jerk who detests those who work beneath her, intentionally misgenders people, and is downright unpleasant. To her, there are three types of people. Fellow deplorable business people, victims for her resentful nature, and her finance, Rose, who is the only one who prevents Nadine from being 100% unlikeable. I appreciate the effort put into making Nadine a distinct protagonist compared to others, and her character does get better as time goes on, but her rotten personality made it hard to get invested in her story and her struggles to save her company.

Russell’s route picks up six months later, and follows the newly appointed CEO of Abaddon Industries as he investigates his company’s primary rival via some tactical espionage. A risky endeavor that results in him gaining the ability to shapeshift into anyone who he makes physical contact with. With this vastly overpowered ability in hand, this investigation continues, and leads to what is probably the best route in the entire game, if only due to the vast number of humorous interactions made available thanks to Russell’s shapeshifting abilities. The only thing bogging down this route is a confusing introduction and a downright stupid conclusion.

Aleanne’s route attempts to tell the most down to earth story in the game, following a transgender protagonist whose lifelong desire is immediately granted thanks to the lab accident. From there, the story mostly revolves around her relationship with her newly feminized friend Natara, the milktoast love interest Hunter, and the lovable body altering nutjob Dina. All in addition to touching on the student life elements that the game should have explored in Yael’s route, but didn’t.

Unfortunately, this route is a gosh darn mess, and I have no idea why. Characters change their opinions sporadically, certain plot elements, such as the game of faux murder, do not fit in with the story at all, and despite being a feel-good transgender TSF story, it really does not succeed on that premise… at all. I could devote two pages to problems for this route alone, but would rather not think about it any more than I have to.

Scarlett’s route follows the novel premise of a man who gets drunk, wakes up as a woman, and needs to figure out what happened the night before. A premise that quickly flies off its fairly grounded rails with the introduction of magic, demon hunters, and succubi while also dabbling into the more long-term effects of the lab incident and subsequent introduction of sex changing serums into the world. It offers its share of entertaining moments, but the good is pretty much outweighed by the negative. Between how the crux of the conflict was a simple misunderstanding, how poorly the route explains the timeline of events, and the reprisal of the downright stupid concept put forward at the end of Russell’s ending.

Ava and Jessica’s routes are framed as the finale of the game, centering around two meteorologists who are investigating a strange storm looming over the town of Siren’s Point. A storm with the ability to alter a person’s DNA, leading to an event known as the “Boobpocalypse”. The story mostly centers around the efforts the two newly sex swapped characters, along with Dina and Lynn, as they try to stop the transformation storm from hitting the town and subsequently save the town after all its residences have been transformed into busty women with animal features.

The absurdity of it is truly grand, but the personality of the two protagonists felt underdeveloped, as they mostly exist to serve the plot. A plot elongated with arbitrary fetch quests to make the deus ex machina needed to save the town, and with it, the world.

GBDNATE is a gosh darn mess on the story front, and while there are indeed scenes, spots, and moments that I found enjoyable, the overall construction of the story is lacking in pretty much every regard. There is enough to highlight, discuss, and analyze to warrant a novel-length critique, but I think I’ve made my point. More or less. Now, I would like to jump from the story and comment that the presentation fares better… but it really doesn’t.

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, the art style of GBDNATE is not very consistent. That is because the assets for the game, whether they be CGs, backgrounds, or character sprites, were not made periodically by a growing artist, David Kerr, who was still developing their style while working on their game.

While he could have stuck with an established style, he instead decided to dramatically change up the art style when creating new assets. There is a general increase in quality as the game veers into its later routes, but even that is inconsistent, with some of the newest sprites looking worse than the wave of sprites that came before them.

Regardless of the consistency though… the art here just isn’t that good. Earlier sprites have loose proportions that alter with every pose, expressions often look strange, and I got the impression that David Kerr was not experienced with drawing anime or humanoid characters before he began this project… and as far as I can tell, he was not.

Things fare better during the middle chapters, as the new character sprites show substantial improvements over the older ones. However, the game still uses the older sprites and backgrounds, which makes everything look inconsistent and slapdash. I would question why no effort was made to alter and redraw some of these assets, especially after characters began openly mocking the background art, but I figure there just was not enough money in it for the creators, or they could not be bothered to edit their older work.

That being said, much like Lachlan Snell, David Kerr’s work has substantially improved since this game’s completion, and his artistic evolution can be seen on his DeviantArt account. This account was used to also host a series of weekly updates for GBDNATE, but they have since been removed. If you are curious about them however, I created an archive of his posts.

At the end of the 40 hour excursion that is Gender Bender DNA Twister Extreme, I was completely and utterly drained. It was an exhausting ride where I found a lot of things to enjoy between a few endearing characters, spurts of good humor, and gleeful absurdity. There is definitely something to love and admire about this game… but to do so, you need to ignore a LOT of mediocrity and badness. 

If I were to describe GBDNATE in a single word, it would be amateur. The game had a deluge of great ideas that could be shaped into something I would unabashedly enjoy. The concepts here are by no means a problem. Instead, the problem lies with the inexperienced creative team, who clearly were not equipped to tackle a project of this scale. I respect how they kept their promise and brought this game to completion, fulfilling all their crowdfunding goals, but in doing so, they made hundreds upon hundreds of mistakes.

I really wanted to cast these criticisms aside and focus on what I think some people see this game as— a quirky and wacky comedic visual novel that you aren’t supposed to take too seriously on any front. But… no. There are too many problems here for me to suspend my criticisms and just go with the flow. I want to love it, but I can’t. I just can’t.

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