Mini Review – Ms. Splosion Man
How about some action?
Ah, Twisted Pixel. I’m not 100% sure what to think of you. The Maw had good feedback but I only personally played the trial. Splosion Man was fun and very rewarding in co-op. I have Comic Jumper on my hard drive waiting to be played after mixed views from friends. Now you release Ms. Splosion Man, a direct sequel to Splosion Man. You have a fun sense of humour and some good ideas but can the Splosion Man formula support another full game?
Released two years ago, Splosion Man was a puzzle platformer but with a difference. Instead of jumping your character ‘sploded’. This ‘splosion’ launched you off the ground much like a jump but you could then splode another two times in mid air to propel yourself further or to interact with objects such as explosive barrels. This concept allowed for many interesting scenarios and it had a co-op mode to boot where you could splode off one another to gain more height and distance.
Ms. Splosion Man (MSM), as you might expect, is more of the same. Twisted Pixel seem to have drawn inspiration from Super Mario World when thinking about where to go with the series, introducing a world map with branching paths, hidden exits in levels and even (according to the achievements, I have yet to find it) a ‘Star Road’. The world map doesn’t necessarily add much other than the possibility to avoid levels marked as hard (with a skull) but it doesn’t detract from the game either. The secret exits add to the replayability of the levels, on top of the collectible shoes in each level and leaderboards (including ghosts you can race against) and unlockables which means you won’t be besting MSM too soon. And that’s just the single player.
There are just as many multiplayer levels, all designed specifically for co-op. You can have up to four people playing at once but only two are required to complete each level. MSM (and Splosion Man before it) actually requires true co-operation, with levels being impossible to complete without both players being of an adequate skill level and fully in tune with one another. Quite often timing has to be perfect and an in game timer you can set off with the left trigger helps with this but ideally you need a good friend to help you through this. If one of those isn’t at hand one of the unlockables is called ‘2 girls 1 pad’ and has you controlling two Ms. Splosion Mans with one pad, one on the left stick and bumper and one on the right stick and bumper. Playing in this mode seems to require some amazing ‘rub your belly, tap your head’ style skills but it is absolutely doable and an interesting way to approach the game.
The overall gameplay has been improved in MSM as well. Straight off the bat in level one you will see more variety in environments than you did in the entirety of Splosion Man with her quickly breaking free of the laboratory in which she is created (be accident). It is very nice to see more of the zany world the Splosion Man games are set in as before you only had the human scientists you were murdering giving you any sense of life in the world, now you see a whole city stretching out in the background including flying cars, and leaping whales.
Twisted Pixel also haven’t rested on their laurels when it comes to gameplay ideas either, with loads more puzzle elements and ways to traverse the stages from rails you can slide along at speed to trampolines to energy balls you can push around to infinite splosion grids to name but a few. I was very impressed with the amount of new ideas bouncing around and it certainly stops that feeling of deja vu arriving the instant you start the game up.
However, it doesn’t solve all Splosion Man’s problems. Sploding isn’t as accurate as jumping, so there will be times when you curse the controls which shouldn’t be the case in a platformer, you want full control at all times. Sometimes you have to die in order to progress. Something will happen that you have no way of predicting so you have to take the hit and then continue from the previous checkpoint and remember what is coming up. I mentioned they’ve made a valiant effort to add variety, but the game can still get a little repetitive before you reach the final levels and I imagine the high difficulty, forcing you to repeat sections over and over, doesn’t help this. I’d actually recommend people who didn’t try Splosion Man to buy that first before MSM as the learning curve here is much steeper, Twisted Pixel seemingly expecting some prior knowledge of the game mechanics.
Also, Ms. Splosion Man herself is one of the most irritating characters in gaming, spouting quotes from film or lines from pop songs what feels like every three seconds. Splosion Man was kind of annoying but MSM takes it to a whole new level.
Despite these negatives, for 800MSP you cannot complain about the package you get with Ms. Splosion Man. There’s lots of content from the single player to the co-op, the competition from the leaderboards, the hidden extras and the unlockables and they definitely have improved upon the previous game. All the negatives I mentioned were present in Splosion Man so if you’re already a fan then there’s not much here to put you off enjoying this one. Twisted Pixel will struggle to make another Splosion Man game without changing the formula more dramatically to attract old and new fans a like but maybe some where down the line we’ll see a Splosion Man CE DX which will prove me wrong.