Jul 20, 2011

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Ms. Splosion Man Review

Ms. Splosion Man Review

Twisted Pixel has consistently delivered quality XBLA titles the past few years.  The Maw was enjoyable (though short), Comic Jumper was hilarious, and the upcoming Gunstringer looks to be a creative Kinect title.  Out of all of Twisted Pixel’s titles, Splosion Man has easily been my favorite.  The platforming was frantic and varied, it made me laugh, and I even enjoyed it enough to top some of the speed-run leaderboards (currently I’ve been bumped off though).  Apparently, many fans felt the same, since Twisted Pixel decided to release its sequel, Ms. Splosion Man. But is this just another retread, or should you get excited for more splodin’ action?

Big Science has finally caught the dangerous Splosion Man and they decide to throw a party in celebration.  One of the scientists accidentally spills their drink on a wire and it shorts and somehow fuses with a bow, inadvertently creating Ms. Splosion Man. Armed with the same arsenal as our former hero, your objective is to make it from point A to point B while avoiding the traps of the scientists from Big Science Labs and rescuing the captured Splosion Man.  Along the way you’ll see a myriad of enemies (created by said scientists) trying to destroy you, as well as other traps like pitfalls, acid baths, or spikes.  Luckily, Ms. Splosion Man can ‘splode across terrain, off walls, and even through conveniently placed barrels.  Combined with Splosion Man’s old tricks, players now have wires to slide across, cannons (similar to Donkey Kong Country) and even railcars to manipulate.  Get accustomed quickly, though, because Big Science has even more tricks up their sleeves and will do anything to capture the escaped Ms. Splosion Man.

Ms. Splosion Man is bigger, brighter, and much harder then Splosion Man. Not to take anything from the original, but the levels are more creative and also felt a lot longer.  The levels themselves are larger and have much more going on this time.  While it’s visually appealing, it’s pretty easy to lose your character among the carnage.  More then a few times I lost where I was and by the time I figured out, it was too late and I died.  Luckily, there’s more then enough checkpoints so my frustration was minimal.  Also, it’s nice to note that there are three different worlds to play through as opposed to just one large science lab like the first game.  The levels are structured similarly, but it’s nice that the backgrounds and music change depending on what world you’re in.  Levels are laid out clearly on maps similar to Super Mario Bros 3. Besides the traditional levels, there are special areas like the Mall and the Arcade.  At the mall you can purchase extras like videos and pictures with credits earned during gameplay.  The arcade has cabinets where you can download other Twisted Pixel titles as well as see small trailers for each one.  While these aren’t key components, it’s nice to know that the developers have worked on the games aesthetics.

As stated before, each level is incredibly large and can sometimes be confusing.  Expect to retry each stage more then a few times because unfortunately the game has a trial-and-error approach to most obstacles.  Some areas can become aggravating, but you’ll most likely applaud the design then abhor it.  A lot of the levels require you to ‘splode from barrel to barrel without warning, often leading to cheap deaths.  After some practice, however, you’ll be able to pull off perfect runs without incident and see how satisfying it is to flow from start to finish.  While flying through levels is good for leaderboard chasers, it’s not advisable if you’re looking to make the most of your experience.  Each of the levels has a hidden pair of shoes (like Splosion Man’s Cakes) that are bonus retrievables which unlock an achievement.  Also, a few levels have secret exits which unlock some of the most fun levels in the entire game.  These secrets are very cleverly hidden and eventually you’ll find yourself searching every nook and cranny to locate your lost shoes.  Doing so sometimes reveals some ugly glitches the game needs to patch.  I’ve actually been pushed through walls and out of bounds before as well as died because an enemy caught me off guard when the games camera didn’t orient itself to my position.  These issues rarely happened and will most likely be patched soon, but it’s still worth mentioning.  As for others that want to chase leaderboard spots, Twisted Pixel has included downloadable ghosts of every player’s best runs so you can compare techniques in real time.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Ms. Splosion Man and believe that it’s an overall better game then the first.  Sadly enough, the worst part of my entire experience is Ms. Splosion Man herself.  It’s odd, because she has a ton more personality than Splosion Man, is more animated, and as funny (if not more so), but she quickly becomes grating.  She constantly quotes movies and songs, which initially are funny, but quickly become aggravating.  By the 15th time I’ve heard “All My Single Ladies” being quoted, I couldn’t take it anymore, and thanked God that the developers allowed us to turn her voice off.  Also, this game isn’t for the easily frustrated.  With the trial-and-error style level design, gamers can get increasingly angry about needing to redo sequences.

The multiplayer can be enjoyable as well as frustrating depending on the team gathered.  Up to four players can enjoy an entirely unique multiplayer campaign with its very own ending.  Getting to the actual ending can prove to be quite difficult, though, requiring precise timing and teamwork.  Some levels only truly need the cooperation of two players, while others will require everyone to contribute in some way or another.  Overall, the multiplayer is a lot of fun, but do yourself a favor and make sure you’re playing with friends that have decent platforming skills.

Twisted Pixel delivers excellent and enjoyable platforming once again with Ms. Splosion Man. If you enjoyed the original, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t download this excellent followup.  Pages upon pages of unlockables featuring a free premium theme as well as avatar items, easter eggs, hilarious boss fights, and two fully featured campaigns amount to one of the best values on the marketplace.  If you’re not a fan of platformers, challenging gameplay, or laughing, then I wouldn’t recommend a purchase, but for everyone else out there, this should already be in your download queue.

Ms. Splosion Man
Platform: Xbox 360
Genre: Platformer
Release Date: 07/14/11
Developer: Twisted Pixel Games
Publisher: XBox Live Arcade
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
MSRP: 800MSP ($10)