Game Review: Ms. Splosion Man
Release: July 13th, 2011
Developer: Twisted Pixel
Available Platforms: Xbox Live Arcade
MSRP: 800 MSP ($10.00)
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Website: Ms Splosion Man Dev Blog
Twisted Pixel is becoming the force to be reckoned with on Xbox Live Arcade. The underrated The Maw, the hilariously devious Splosion Man, the ode-to-old-school Comic Jumper, and now the developer’s first sequel, Ms. Splosion Man. The game isn’t much different from 2009’s XBLA gem, and it carries over some of the first game’s problems, but there are multiple improvements upon the game’s formula that make it an overall highly satisfying experience.
Move. Splode. That was the unofficial motto for Splosion Man. A simple control scheme that never changes, but constantly introduced new, dynamic ways to traverse through an array of head-spinning levels. Ms. Splosion Man does the same. You can splode up to three times in a row, and the game is almost constantly introducing new puzzle elements that mix with traversal mechanics.
The big difference here is the obvious “Ms.” in the title. I was a huge fan of Splosion Man’s dizzying personality and high-pitched antics. His girlfriend? Doubly so. If she isn’t prattling off a huge gamut of pop-culture references, she’s singing lines from Beyonce and TLC songs or referencing famous chick flick one-liners. She’s annoyingly endearing, and her behavior and voice may grind on the nerves of those unable to locate said references, but I couldn’t get enough of her grandiose personality.
Ms. Splosion Man also ups the ante in the game’s fast-paced puzzle solving repertoire. The game builds nicely, in terms of new game mechanics being introduced. Which are anything from launching springs, rideable rockets, zip lines (a personal favorite) and a few new enemy types. The sequel also improves upon a few missteps in the original. Those infuriating robots that hurled spiked balls in part one now bounce along the ground and are much easier dispatched. The game also varies up the environments more this time around. Instead of just underground lab, underwater lab, outer space lab, the missus gets to journey outside for a change. She hops along floating cars, grinds on zip lines high above city rooftops, and even gets to go on a little tropical vacation in the middle of the game.
But what stays the same from part one (solid platforming, fun mechanics) also results in this sequel’s downside. Just like part one, there are odd spikes in difficulty. I could be zooming along, sploding off barrels and make it to the level’s finish line in great time. Then the next level would kneecap me at the starting gate and result in a borderline-controller-throwing trial-and-error session. This is more frequent in the later levels (just like part one), and are never impossible to overcome, with almost Portal-esque euphoria once you do, but you may need to put it down and come back to it more often than not.
Ms. Splosion Man also creates its own problems. In the intermittent time between levels, you’re required to navigate a world map to choose the next level. This means there is a load screen after you beat the level to go into the map, then another when you select the next level. It does offer branching level paths that lead to hidden levels, but you are required to discover them yourself in the previous levels, a feat I never accomplished without a walkthrough. And since there are only a handful of those, it just didn’t feel vitally necessary to me.
The Mall (where you spend earned coins on superfluous extra content) is accessible from here also, but it is also just as easy from the main menu, and you’ll never need it so urgently as to visit between any two levels. Whereas Splosion Man threw you straight into the subsequent levels, Ms. Splosion Man pulls you out of the game and sometimes goes so far as to break any momentum you had in continuing your play session.
It is easy to find enjoyment in Ms. Splosion Man, and I have no doubt any fan of Splosion Man will go crazy for it. There’s a lot to love here; the single player is just as replayable as part one, giving you ample opportunities to collect shoes, beat friend’s times and go for gold medals in leaderboards. And the multiplayer, while still insistent on throwing three people into a two person puzzle every now and then, is still as fun and frantic as ever. As a fan of Twisted Pixel and the original Splosion Man, Ms. Splosion Man is a worthy addition to the studio’s canon. The minor gripes don’t overshadow the important fundamental point here: this is solid, satisfying, addicting and borderline brutal platforming at about the best you can get in today’s video gaming climate.
+Simple gameplay, complex level design, devious traversal segments; it’s all here.
+Multiplayer, if played with the right friends, is as enjoyably frustrating as part one.
+Bosses allow more room for error, with less one-hit kills and more elaborate, multi-stage takedowns, equaling a greater sense of accomplishment.
-I respect the level scaling in multiplayer in unison with the number of players, but some puzzles don’t actually require every person, and results in a “third-wheel” conundrum.
-“The Mall”, while having a few cool pieces of content, is ultimately underwhelming once the good stuff is unlocked.