Ms. Splosion Man Review
Game: Ms. Splosion Man
Developer: Twisted Pixel
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Available on: Xbox 360 Only
When it comes to downloadable games, Twisted Pixel have established themselves as one of the elite developers. Starting out with The Maw, before Sploding into life (sorry) with Splosion Man, and then moving onto Comic Jumper. Never a development team to rest on their laurels, every new game has seen the birth of a brand new intellectual property, new characters and new worlds for the gamer to explore, every time attempting to do something that people hadn’t seen before in a downloadable title.
Ms. Splosion Man is something new yet again for Twisted Pixel, and has them returning to a created universe for a second bite at the cherry. Splosion Man was one of their best titles to date, and despite having yet another entirely new IP also in development (The Gunstringer), most people will be asking: Is it worth going back? What does Ms. Splosion Man do that her erstwhile nutty male counterpart didn’t?
Let’s get one thing out of the way straight away; Ms. Splosion Man is not a lazy sequel. The amount of new ideas and content created for the title is astounding. Within minutes of starting the single player campaign you’ll be introduced to brand new mechanics, and ideas that are so simple yet perfectly executed that you’ll wonder why they weren’t in the original Splosion Man. Before all that though, you are treated to the funniest splash screen for a game engine that you’ll ever see, and from now on, don’t be surprised to hear people whispering “Beard” in reference to it.
As a character, Ms. Splosion Man is absolutely insane. You’ll actually lose count of how many movement animations have been created for her: from the arms aloft Splosion Man-style chasing movement, to the tippy toes (with accompanying sound) run. They might all move at the same speed, but the different visual aspects are a superb example of why Twisted Pixel are fast becoming a favourite developer among gamers.
Ms. Splosion Man has an incredible volume of dialogue lines recorded for it, with a lot of pop culture references thrown in for good measure. Whether it be lyrics from music by the Spice Girls, Madonna, Gwen Stefani, TLC (“Don’t go chasing waterfalls”), there is so much to love about her insane utterings. The pop culture references don’t stop with music however, and early on in the game there is an absolutely fantastic Predator reference, which would be truly wrong to spoil for potential players.
If you’ve played Splosion Man, you’ll feel right at home here, as Ms. Splosion Man controls pretty much the same, with movement controlled by the stick (or D-Pad) and “Sploding” done by hitting any face button. You can Splode three times in the air before needed to recharge, either by being on solid ground, or sliding down a wall. The Big Science boys have gotten clever this time around, and there are puzzle sections which are surrounded by ice, which stops you from being able to Splode, which means that some of the puzzles require a little more lateral thinking than before.
At its heart though, this is a platformer, and quite a tricky one at that. The difficulty has not been dumbed down since Splosion Man, and you will die quite a lot. After dying a few times, you’ll be treated to yet another colourful screen that pops up informing that you can, if you choose, skip to the next checkpoint. Keeping in character with the game, even this screen is humorous, letting you know that if Ms. Splosion Man does skip to the next checkpoint, she feels as though she’ll be cheating on the game.
Also new to the series are the hanging rails which create speedy rail jumping sections, which are excellent fun and a genuinely excellent new addition to the title. There are also trampoline sections, electricity panels (which allow you to repeatedly splode through intense platform sections, avoiding obstacles), a fat suit (which won’t be spoiled here for obvious reasons, but yes, there’s a new song too), cannons which fire you across the map, moving vehicle platforming sections, and plenty more. All the old Splosion Man tropes return, (exploding barrels, etc), meaning that you have a game full of ideas that never overstay their welcome.
Whilst there are stop-start moments in some of the levels that involve tricky puzzles, the general design brings to mind classic Mario and Sonic platformers, in as much that when you are in full flow, every jump feels instinctive, natural and exact. Without going too overboard, the level design exhibits moments of absolute genius, and you can tell that the game has been playtested thoroughly to create an end product that flows both beautifully and naturally.
Visually, the same 2D (rendered in 3D) returns, and it looks as good as ever. Ms. Splosion Man is littered with little visual jokes, and even the loading screen shows Ms. Splosion Man dancing, with her massive hands. This time around the game progresses via a world map, akin to one of the SNES Mario titles, and a Mall is available to unlock the bonus content. There is plenty to unlock as well, including music videos and even the ending to the previous game. It would be so easy to get these FMVs wrong, but they are hilarious.
Speaking of unlockables, for a change, you will actually care about them. They range from simple concept art to music and videos, to full modes to unlock. There is a huge amount of content in Ms. Splosion Man, and you’ll want to access it all. This bonus content is unlocked by using up coins you have earnt through playing the game. After each level you are graded next to a par time, and you’ll gain bonus points if you found all the shoes in the level (shoes function just like Cake in Splosion Man). Obviously, the better you perform, the more coins you’ll unlock.
Audio is important to game with this much character, and Twisted Pixel haven’t let themselves down here either. The soundtrack is lovely, with a special mention going to the chilled-out atmosphere it attempts to create during the second world, in which you are Sploding like crazy. As mentioned, there is lots of dialogue, and if you move around the menus, each movement creates a different note, which in sequence play the Ms. Splosion Man theme tune!
As with Splosion Man, the multiplayer co-op both online and local) is an entirely separate game, with all new levels and another set of 50 shoes to collect. This mode also introduces new mechanics, such as the ability to Splode off your partner, giving you a nice boost before you use up your own three splodes! If you aren’t playing with a friend, or don’t have a headset, you can use the left trigger to start a countdown, so you can time your jumps correctly with your partner, which is a nice touch and makes things happen a little more smoothly.
Ms. Splosion Man has benefited from a multiplayer beta testing period, so unlike its predecessor, the online experience is much better on launch, exhibiting next to no problems, latency-wise. There is also an unlockable mode called “2 Girls, 1 Controller” (available for 200 coins) which allows you to play the multiplayer levels on your own, controlling two versions of Ms. Splosion Man. This is obviously incredibly taxing and adds yet more longevity to a title that is already bursting at the seams with content.
Exhausting in its completion, Ms. Splosion Man also features the ability to play against ghost times downloaded from the leaderboards. This, along with the collectable shoes, secret exits, arcade (which allows you to trial or buy all Twisted Pixel’s previous titles), and the aforementioned completely seperate multiplayer, means you are talking about a seriously big game, all for the low price of 800 Microsoft Points. This game is going to last you a long, long time.
VERDICT: Sitting down to think about it, there really aren’t that many developers out there who honestly make you laugh your ass off throughout a game. Twisted Pixel are one of the very best out there at it, and Ms. Splosion Man is high atop the pile too. Playing through the game is an absolute joy, whether solo or with a friend. For a change, you’ll actually want to unlock the bonus material, because it’s bloody hilarious, which adds even more to the game.
People should start throwing millions at Twisted Pixel, because it would be amazing to see what they could achieve with the backing of triple-A money. For now though, we’ll just have to be content that when it comes to value for money, sense of humour, and sheer platforming fun, there are few finer than Ms. Splosion Man.