Splosion Man Review
Posted April 4, 2012 by Jallen (207)
‘Splosion Man is the second title from (the then) indie developers Twisted Pixel Games. It won the hearts of gamers when it was released; being voted by Xbox Live players as the Best Original XBLA Game of 2009.
It’s a pretty simple title really. The story is that ‘Splosion Man is trapped in a lab filled with evil scientists and he must escape with his special ability; juggling. No wait, its explosions. He can juggle but it isn’t important to the plot. It’s a fun little game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s this quirky humour that helped set this game out from the crowd.
It looks pretty nice too. The game is a 2.5 platformer and the dynamic camera will often switch to give you nice close up of our “hero” and the fantastic fluid animation. I really appreciate that the developers took the time to add in more than one standard animation for pretty much all of ‘Splosion Man’s moves. It helps keep things interesting visually and gives the character an odd personality.
Aside from directional there is only one way the player can control ‘Splosion Man and it is, of course, exploding him. This will fire him off the ground ( jump), it’ll fire him off a wall (wall jump) it’ll activate switches, it’ll damage enemies, it’ll reflect attacks and it’ll occasionally make it look like he farted. You can perform three explosions in quick succession and after each time ‘Splosion Man will lose a bit of fiery energy. You can quickly regenerate this energy but only on solid ground (or a very long time sliding down a wall). This is the basic way the game keeps the challenge as you quickly have to jump around the environment to avoid being killed, yet provide enough time for your explosions to regenerate. Aside from exploding yourself the main way to get around is by exploding the various types of barrels that are scattered around. You’ll often have to trigger these with switches and time it just right so you’ll hit the barrel in mid air during a jump.
That’s a lot easier said than done and the game is quite hard, even at the start you’ll die plenty of times. The game is basically trial and error as you test out your timing and perfect it to get past that obstacle. For the most part this seems fine as the checkpoints are liberally placed and at good points; so you didn’t have to replay large sections over again. The game kept adding in new enemies, some new explosive barrels and new environmental hazards to keep things fresh too.
Well it did but after the second boss the game doesn’t really add anything new, it just ramps up the difficulty. Some of the levels are truely sadistic. Pin point precession is needed and if you mess up one section of a chain of events you’ll fail that section and its back to a checkpoint. Around now you’ll be noticing that the checkpoints are getting further and further apart just when you want them to be closer. This means replaying large sections over and over again until you reach that part you keep dying on. The main problem for this that the results of the exploding barrels isn’t always consistent. You’ll often die from what (at least it seems to you) a perfect run up until the water gets just slightly too high. Games being hard are fine but when it comes to platforming the player should always feel like it’s their fault, but in ‘Splosion Man the finger is often pointed at the game itself. Thankfully if you do get too stuck you’re given the option to skip the level.
That’s not the only problem with the game though. That dynamic camera I talked about, yeah it’s alright when you’re running through a corridor and you get a close up of our adorable murderer running with his arms spread wide and making airplane noises, but not when I’m attempting meticulousness jumping onto moving platforms. See at times the camera will pull back so you have an idea to what you’re aiming at; but more often than not it’ll remain in the static standard position which doesn’t give you much of a view. So you’ll often be making leaps of faiths.
The game is 50 levels long and they run out of ideas at around level 30. Throughout the game ‘Splosion Man is constantly muttering “bored, bored, bored” and at times, I couldn’t help but agree. It doesn’t help that the levels all look exactly the same as each other; each a carbon copy added together to make a slightly different level. Then there are certain puzzles and most enemies that exist just to slow you down. That isn’t challenging its just tedious.
The game has a multiplayer were a group of people (up to four) can tackle levels together. You can play On Live or with real people made of meat…meople! Levels are different than the single player so you’ll get a new challenge. The levels are set out to take advantage of the fact that each character’s explosions interact with the other player. So you complete the missions by utilizing their explosions to gain additional height. Of course there are multiple switches and places where one player must trigger a barrel to appear and the other to use it. In short this mode requires a lot of timing and a lot of communication. So if you’re attempting it you better have a mic, or be psychic. The mode does have a countdown, which signals to the other player when to explode, but it’s still of limited help.
‘Splosion Man is a bit of fun and is best played in short sessions. Play too much at once and you’ll just get bored of the sameness of it all. This is one game for the platform fans out there and I’m sure a lot of people will get joy out of doing speed runs through the levels (complete with online leaderboard) but for me the game drags. I also expect all platformers that require pin-perfect timing to have perfect controls which is where the game falls just short.
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