Ms. Splosion Man Review
I've never been much of a 2D puzzle-platform gamer. I find them terribly frustrating and repetitive, and I'm not very good at them. Today, I am pleased to announce that Ms. Splosion Man has changed my view on the genre. I'll admit, I still wasn't very good at the game, but I had fun playing it. Oftentimes, a reviewer will bash a game and make up faults because he isn't good at it. Really, though, there is nothing to complain about with this Xbox Live Arcade hit.
Ms. Splosion Man, the sequel to the popular Xbox Live Arcade game Splosion Man, follows closely to the original. The first Splosion man is captured, and as the scientists are celebrating, they drunkenly spill bubbly on the wires. As a result, Ms. Splosion Man is created and must 'splode her way out of the labs, wreaking havoc everywhere she goes. The goal is to make your way through a series of levels filled with puzzles to avoid capture and move toward an eventual reunion with her explosive mate. Does anyone else get a Pac-Man/Ms. Pac-Man vibe from this?
Check out the Ms. Splosion Man 'Launch' Trailer
Now, I've never played the first Splosion Man, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Twisted Pixel. For a first-time Splosion Man player, Ms. Splosion Man throws you right in the action without much tutorial. Luckily, it's a pretty easy game to 'splode right into and a lot of fun.
The gameplay controls are simple. You press a button to explode and use that basic mechanic to solve various puzzles. It's an easy concept, but mastering it is the hard part. The game's obstacles are built around speed and precision. The puzzles aren't necessarily hard to figure out, but they are hard to overcome. I often found myself figuring out what to do but not being able to do it---at least not on the first try. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. I enjoy a good challenge, like jumping to a barrel and exploding to reach the next platform all while avoiding a laser that's targeting the character. Or jumping from one rocket ship to a barrel, exploding, and jumping to another barrel. These are the type of obstacles you will run into in Ms. Splosion Man, along with cannons, zip-lines, and rocket cars. One false or late 'splode will result in death, which usually means restarting the level from the beginning or a checkpoint.
I will warn you: expect to die a lot. My biggest gripe is that the screen doesn't zoom out far enough to allow you to see what obstacle is coming next, so it's hard to determine what action you will have to perform. Since the explosions require such precision, the action is often executed too late, resulting in death. Usually by the second or third time you will know what is coming and will be adequately prepared. It helps that the game has quick and often instant loading times. This makes dying easier to deal with, but it's still incredibly frustrating.
The best feature in the game is the ability to skip an area. If you die too many times at one point, you have the opportunity to skip ahead to the next part of the level---but not without some consequences. First, your score for the level will suffer. That's not the humiliating part (and by "humiliating," I really mean "best"). If you skip ahead, you will be cursed with an extremely large butt and be forced to listen to some "ba-dunk-a-dunk" song about how big your butt is until you complete the next check point. In the end, it's not a bad deal if you are starting to get to the point where you are ready to rip your hair out because you're unable to complete an obstacle. I often found myself in that position, but this usually calmed me down and made me chuckle. It's a great tension-reliever.
Speaking of tension relief, the humor in this game does a great job of it. You may suck at the game, but the humor will definitely keep you intrigued, if not calm and sane. The game is frustrating, but I had a hell of a fun time playing it. This is mostly due to the funny, random lines Ms. Splosion Man blurts out. From funny quips to 90s pop songs, she will definitely keep you laughing and wanting to hear more. I'm pretty sure I heard her quote a Spice Girls song. Throughout the levels, you will also notice some of Twisted Pixel's humor thrown in the background, like a random sign about beards. The humor in the game meshes well with the cartoony graphics.
This was the most frustrating game that I've still enjoyed playing. I found myself angry but smiling at the same time. I wasn't angry at the game or the mechanics. It's a well designed and programmed game. Every death was a result of my own stupidity and failure, but Twisted Pixel lightened the mood with their humor.
This game is about speed, precision, and score. The faster you complete a level, the more of the level you destroy, and finding the hidden shoes (the equivalent to Splosion Man's cakes) determines your score. Obviously, this adds to the replay value because the more you play, the better you'll get, or so the saying goes (I don't think I'll ever be good). On top of that, you are rewarded money to unlock different features, like concept art, videos, music, and more. Ms. Splosion Man encourages you to try again and even adds a ghost of your best run in the level so that you can compare your current trial run to your previous high score. To encourage multiplayer, you can even race against the ghost of a friend's best trial run. Striving to get a better score, finding all of the hidden shoes, or having bragging rights over friends makes this game great for repeat plays.
Overall, this is a great buy for the Xbox Live Arcade. It's fun, challenging, visually pleasing, and pretty lengthy for an arcade game. There are 3 different areas, each with about 16 levels. It's everything we gamers look for in a game. Twisted Pixel delivers a great sequel to Splosion Man. It definitely makes me want to go back and play the original.