Twisted Pixel is a name synonymous with quality XBLA titles. They’ve produced a number of hits over the years, one of which was 2009’s ‘Splosion Man. A 2.5D platformer, the game exploded (sorry I had to) onto the XBLA, receiving great reviews and a warm welcome from gamers.
It was a unique little title that had the player controlling a character made of explosive material. The goal was to explode or ‘splode’ through each level as you maneuver around obstacles, avoid traps, solve puzzles and face off against enemies. The catch is, you can only ‘splode’ three times in a row before having to recharge. Aiding you in your ‘sploding’ are explosive barrels which are placed throughout the level. It’s kind of a tough game to describe but once you pick up the controller you’ll get the hang of it in no time.
The game became so popular that a sequel was ordered up and it comes to us in the form of Ms. Splosion Man. Taking place after the events of its predecessor, the game uses the same core elements but also adds in an exciting handful of new features that make this a fantastic sequel and the best XBLA game I’ve played this year. In fact, I’ll save you some time now. If you liked ‘Splosion Man, then Ms. Splosion Man is a no brainer.
Picking up where we left off, Big Science has finally captured ‘Splosion Man. The party doesn’t last long though since during their celebration, they accidentally create Ms. Splosion Man. That’s about it, there really isn’t much more to it but there doesn’t need to be. This isn’t a game where story is important.
The usual charming and truly funny sense of humor that Twisted Pixel is known for shows up in the game and is just as sharp and witty as usual, filled with all the pop culture references that you can ask for.
In all honesty, this game is very similar to its predecessor. Then again, that’s not a bad thing, not at all. If it’s not broke then don’t fix it, right? Everything that made ‘Splosion Man so great has returned in Ms. Splosion Man. Simple controls, inventive level design, challenging difficulty and a high level of addiction, it’s all here but we also are treated to a couple new features that only serve to strengthen the gameplay.
One major difference with the game is that Ms. Splosion Man escapes the lab. This allows you to play through levels in the outdoor world, rather than being confined to the lab setting like we were in the first game. It’s not a huge deal since you’re still stuck in a 2.5D world, but the variety of settings and backdrops to play through does make the game a bit more exciting.
Being out in the real world, we also get a world map, kind of like what you would see in Super Mario Bros. While it’s fairly linear, you do have different options. Instead of being ushered right into the next stage, you have a bit of choice when it comes to what level you want to try next.
There are also a couple notable new gameplay features here but my two favorites have to be the directional cannons and hanging rails. Hanging rails are used for sliding around and getting from point A to point B. Directional cannons are cannon like items that shoot you in a desired direction. Between the two, we get some pretty inventive puzzles and gameplay sequences. They definitely add a lot to the game and are a blast to play around with. Other new features like trampolines, electricity panels and fat suits are also implemented perfectly and allow for more complex and intricate puzzles.
The only complaint I have here is with game’s difficulty. Don’t get me wrong, I hold nothing against games that like to test and challenge gamers, but at times, Ms. Splosion Man becomes far too frustrating. A lot of the tougher stages can be passed with just enough practice and memorization of layouts but some sections require more than just practice and are a bit too reliant on luck or exact timing.
It’s harder than the original and although lives and checkpoints are more than generous, sometimes the difficulty does become an annoyance. When timing comes down to a fraction of a second, things just aren’t fun anymore. Also, the fact that it becomes tough to keep track of Ms. Splosion Man at times due to everything going on on screen, you may find yourself throwing the controller down in frustration.
That being said, the level design is rather genius. It’s just as clever and mind bending as it was in the first instalment and you’ll find yourself both surprised and astounded at some of the puzzles that Twisted Pixel have come up with here. Despite the difficulty, the game manages to retain a strong level of enjoyment, meaning that retrying checkpoints over and over isn’t as tedious as in other games.
For those that find themselves not being able to keep up with the difficulty, there is a cheat option. If you keep failing a certain checkpoint, you have the option to skip ahead. If you do though, you’ll be branded as a cheater for the rest of the level and you won’t be able to record your time, which means that you won’t receive coins.
Coins are usually rewarded to you at the end of each level. They are used to buy things like concept art, videos, gamer pics, avatar gear etc. If that isn’t enough and you’re looking for even more reasons to keep playing, the game features a ton of collectibles and secrets that should please the more adventurous gamers out there.
Aside from the single player campaign, we also have a ghost mode, 2 Girls 1 Controller mode and multiplayer. Ghost mode allows you to play against ghost times, which you can download from the leaderboards. It’s nothing we haven’t seen countless times before but it’s still a nice addition to the game as most people do enjoy this type of thing.
Multiplayer can take place locally or on XBOX Live. It’s a co-op experience that offers all new levels and even a new ending. Like the single player, it’s damn hard but if you find the right person to play with, you just may make it through. Know this though, communication is key and working together is a must.
Lastly, we have the 2 Girls 1 Controller mode which allows you to control two Ms. Splosion Man characters with one controller. You use each of the analog sticks to move one of the characters and you explode using the trigger buttons. It’s pretty tricky but a lot of fun to try and master. Be warned though, this mode is only for the hardcore, it’s incredibly tough and will likely leave many gamers frustrated and angry. I’d advise checking it out since it’s a cool concept and one that you may want to get the hang of but just don’t expect it to be easy.
At 800 Microsoft Points, Ms. Splosion Man is a steal. Not only is there a ton of content here, but it’s all fun, addicting and wildly enjoyable. Aside from some difficulty issues, this is a real gem. Twisted Pixel continues to raise the bar for arcade titles and if you have yet to experience any of their past achievements, this is a great game to jump in with.
Now hop on the XBLA and start splodin!
Twisted Pixel is a name synonymous with quality XBLA titles and Ms. Splosion Man is another fantastic credit for the developer's resume.