Ms. Splosion Man: Summer Lovin’
First of all, let me be open and honest with you: I have not finished Ms. Splosion Man. I want to, I intend to, but as of this time, I have played through 2/3 of the game. Normally, I do actually finish my games entirely before I review them, but in this case the game was simply too difficult to finish in a timely manner. It is taking me so long to get through it that by the time it’s well and truly done, a review will no longer be relevant. Even so, despite the game’s borderline sadistic difficulty, I wholeheartedly recommend Ms. Splosion Man to anyone with an Xbox 360 and an internet connection.
Ms. Splosion Man is Twisted Pixel’s newest game, following the brilliant, but flawed, Comic Jumper, and serves as a direct sequel to Splosion Man, the game that made the studio famous. Sorry Maw fans. In case you were wondering, this is the same Twisted Pixel that will soon be releasing the first retail Kinect game that looks like it is worth a damn: Gunstringer.
Ms. Splosion Man is, at its heart, a hardcore puzzle platformer. If you have played the original Splosion Man, you know what to expect here: it’s like that, but more and better. If you haven’t played the original, you play as a pink personification of destruction. Ms. Splosion Man is a simple sort of girl: she can do two things: move around, and splode. Specifically, exploding not only causes damage to things around your character (such as turning legions of scientists into pieces of meat), but it causes you to jump. Your character can explode up to three times, and through that basic interaction and two dozen or so different puzzle elements, you make your way through increasingly difficult and lengthy levels.These could involve basic platforming, outrunning a deadly wall of spinning blades in a series of rocket cars, or figuring out how to correctly and timely activate all of a series of buttons and explosive barrels to open the next door. This is the sort of game that has lots of elements of other games, but when combined it is unique. The only game out there that is anything like Ms. Splosion Man, is, well, Splosion Man.
In addition to a full single player mode that should provide quite a few hours of playtime, Ms. Splosion Man has a very robust multiplayer mode, allowing up to four players in either couch or online-co-op to play a completely reworked version of the main campaign, complete with redesigned levels and a new ending. A word of warning though. As difficult as the single player game is, the multiplayer game is even moreso, by design. The game will require that you work together with your teammate(s) in a very precise manner, and the gameplay is very unforgiving, so it could lead to some very loud arguments with your buddy on who fucked up that last jump.
So, let’s get to the meat of the issue: This is a very difficult game. I am talking old-school throw your controller at the television difficult. As you progress to later levels the game demands more and more precision, or you suffer an instant death. While there are unlimited lives in the game, checkpoints are spaced out just far enough and repeatedly dying at a particularly difficult point will quickly become far too frustrating for some gamers.
This is both similar and different from another very difficult downloadable game, Super Meat Boy. In SMB, death was a very minor inconvenience, as the levels were short and respawning was near instantaneous. Here, while the load times are not an issue, replaying several minutes of highly difficult and precise gameplay over and over again is pretty rough. It’s by no means impossible, but it will require your time and your patience.
Fortunately, the developers chose fit to include a built-in cheat system. It’s a nice feature to have for players who may be stuck on a particular part of a level and are growing too impatient and frustrated to continue on. It would be a shame not to experience everything this game has to offer, so it’s good to be able to continue, despite your relative skill level. However, such things do not come without a cost: choosing to “Cheat on the game” will result in penalizing you points and forcing you to suffer a rather amusing indignity. In the original Splosion Man, skipping ahead forced your character into a tutu for the rest of the level. Let’s just say they upped the ante here.
In fact, they have upped the ante in all aspects over the original Splosion Man. There are now a multitude of new puzzle elements, there are at least three distinct worlds to travel to, each with their own style and music, the levels show far more variety, and the game’s cut-scenes are nothing short of brilliantly funny.
In fact, humor is something that Twisted Pixel does particularly well, and Ms. Splosion Man is no exception. Whether it is the opening FMV movie of a bearded Twisted Pixel employee challenging Unreal’s engine dominance, or the multiple Total Recall in-jokes, the game is unceasingly entertaining and funny. Even the tutorials are funny, and I highly suggest you watch them. Ms. Splosion Man’s character is particularly great: she is basically a hyperactive teenage girl stereotype, played up for great effect. Every five seconds or so she will spout off some reference or another. Just off the top of my head, in the last minute or so, she has hit a riff on Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walking,” quoted a Lady Gaga song, and threw out lines from Clueless and Jerry MacGuire. The humor assault is unending, and should win over all but the most sour of pusses.
I want to praise Twisted Pixel for including a vast amount of unlockables in the game. They did this before, with Comic Jumper, and I believe it provides players with a great incentive and reward for beating the game. Basically, after every level you are given a number of coins based on your speed and whether you found the hidden shoes (which are hidden in every level to provide fodder for achievement whores). You can spend these coins at the game’s Mall for the typical things like musical tracks and concept are, as well as some great unique unlockables, like original video footage and avatar awards. Let’s be clear, none of this is micro-transaction based: you earn all of your currency in game. It’s just a very fun way to reward and incentivise players, gives you access to some interesting commentary on how the game was made, and allows you to see great stuff, like the hilarious ending video for the first Splosion Man.
In wrapping all this up: this game is one of the most difficult games I have played in a long time, but it is also one of the most fun. It is a great title, at a great price (only 800 Microsoft Points), and despite its frustration factor, the game is immensely rewarding. It makes me want to be a better gamer. This is a game that is difficult by design, and through playing it, you will improve and become more skilled. This is a great start to a great summer of downloadable games and easily the best game Twisted Pixel has released so far. Ms. Splosion Man will be your perfect summer girlfriend, all you have to do is go out and get her.