Ms. Splosion Man Beta Hands-On Preview

Why does it seem like fictional scientists are always getting themselves into trouble? They’re always trying to create the next super weapon, biologically immune atom or something like that. Of course, their plans almost always go awry when their mutated beast escapes or a virus gets out into the populace, and it’s happened again in Ms. Splosion Man. You see, the combustible platforming ball of fire that we met in Twisted Pixel’s last downloadable release, Splosion Man, has a female friend who would also like to try to break out of her laboratory confines. Cue the explosive mayhem, shuddering scientists in hiding and all of the off the wall platforming action.

Currently in its beta, Ms. Splosion Man is being readied for her big reveal on XBOX Live Arcade sometime in the relatively near future. It’s a lot like its predecessor, with players given the ability to ‘splode three times in succession, in order to complete puzzles or reach new areas. Your goal is to get through each area as you attempt to break out of the laboratory to get to the world beyond, for the first time in the series.

Previewed in the demo (which offers both single player and multiplayer content,) there’s a decent amount of new stuff to look forward to in this sequel. Our pink figure of combustion gets to perform some new stunts that her predecessor was unable to do, such as gliding along ziplines, riding in rocket cars while solving puzzles (by hitting switches and jumping from rail to rail,) as well as new physics-based animation tricks. All of this as she’s reciting lyrics from some of your favourite songs, such as Ain’t No Holla’ Back Girl and These Boots Are Made For Walking. In case you’re wondering, it does get annoying.

Single player is different from its multiplayer brother, meaning that you’ll have different challenges in each mode, as well as altered levels. The endings also will not be the same, which gives players extra incentive to go through once by their lonesome and then again with a friend when they’re feeling the need for some explosive companionship. You can essentially think of it as two different campaigns – each of which have their own collectible shoes to find. These can be brought to the game’s mall (store system,) where you can purchase videos, photos and other types of extra and hilarious content.

Multiplayer changes things up a bit by making you have to work together to achieve results. Two to four players must solve puzzles in the correct sequence in order to help their partners through areas. If any member of the team fails, they must wait for their partner(s) to complete the section, reviving at the next checkpoint or once everyone has lost their explosive lives. It’s somewhat fun, but I found that the cooperative ‘sploding was far too difficult to pull off, and quite clunky as a whole. Trying to complete some of the challenges became quite annoying because things didn’t seem to work as they were supposed to, and it’d be as if there was a one in ten chance of getting enough air to complete a specific puzzle.

The zip-lines and rocket cars add some new elements, forcing you to think while using them both. If you’re on a zip-line, it’s important to realize which type it is to know whether you’ll have to explode yourself off of it to move forward, or if the curved line will propel you itself, without the need for combustible effects. Rocket cars are similar in the way that you really need to know the lines. Puzzles are based on different switches spread around the different tracks, meaning you must hit the correct switch in order to move electric force field barriers to allow further progression. It’s really tough in co-op, but is rewarding once you get past a tricky sequence. All players must be on their toes at all times.

There’s also a boss battle of great magnitude that is shown off near the end of the single player demo. It features a gigantic robot who wants nothing more than to prevent the biological wonder from escaping from his laboratory. A very large security system of sorts. You must correctly explode in order to damage his weak area, so that you can get by safely. The boss mechanics work pretty well and complement the game’s overall design mechanics, though it can be a bit difficult to perfectly ‘splode when you’re under pressure of an incoming attack.

In terms of production, this game certainly sets the bar above its male predecessor’s escape attempt. The game world is quite shiny, polished and colourful all in one. It’s a colourful take on a science lab as well as an outside world full of futuristic bubble cars from The Jetsons. A world that is pretty to watch and looks great when you’re ‘sploding through it, though things can get a bit too chaotic at times. Especially during a platforming scenario where you’re tasked with jumping from hover car to hover car, as their glass bubbles shatter under your weight and can obscure your view for a couple moments. Other than that, I was pretty impressed with its look and overall visual quality. The game pops in HD.

I must admit that I was never a huge fan of the first game. I thought it had its merits and was relatively well made, though it just wasn’t for me. I found many of the same issues in this game, as the in-game physics seemed to be a little bit cumbersome, and in need of refinement. It’s difficult to perfectly ‘splode you way up to a ledge and requires far too much trial and error, eventually working after you’ve been pressing the same sequence a few times already. Certainly, the premise and gameplay design is quite interesting, but there’s far too much repetition and frustration inherent in the working product. Perhaps it’s just me though. As I said, I’ve never been much for Splosion Man, though I did like The Maw (the studio’s first game) quite a bit.

If you were a fan of Splosion Man, you’re most-likely going to really enjoy this outing. Though it needs a bit of refining in my opinion, it’s an interesting and more creative expansion from its predecessor. The new additions change things up quite a bit, though the beta shows that they sometimes create quite a bit of frustration due to imprecision. Boss battles are entertaining, as is the personality inherent within what we were shown. Though the regurgitation of popular Top-40 song lyrics ranging from the Spice Girls to Jessica Simpson to Gwen Stefani, is a bit too much at times.

Just don’t scare the scientists too much when you get your hands on the explosive trigger. They were only trying to further mankind in the name of science. Poor guys.