Back in 2009, Splosion Man was a surprisingly fresh downloadable that harkened back to a simpler time of 2D platforming. It mixed retro style with an irreverent, meat-based sense of humor to make it one of the year's best on XBLA. Now the sequel, the cleverly titled Ms Splosion Man, is here, and while it improves and expands on the original in many ways, at times it grows a little too big and leaves behind some of the simple joy of the first game.
Born from a similar accident that created her masculine counterpart, Ms Splosion Man is a pink ball of explosive, scientist-fragging fury. Like Sonic and Mario before her, she goes through increasingly difficult platforming stages, only her jumps come in the form of a series of explosions propelling her to her ultimate goal: the end of the stage. The core gameplay remains fundamentally unchanged from the first game, which is great, as the original understood what made classic 2D run-and-jumps fun, a tradition the sequel continues.
Ms Splosion Man doesn't take it easy on you, with the devs seeming to think all players are very familiar with the original’s controls and ramping up the difficulty early. Admittedly we hadn't played the first game since we beat it two years ago, but we shouldn't be dying 13 times in a row during one of the early levels. Partially it's because some concepts, like navigating the zip lines or areas that enhance/weaken your explosive powers aren't introduced particularly well. You eventually understand through trial and error, but that's a lot of trial and tons of error to get frustrated by.
Despite some annoyances at the learning curve, things stay pretty varied throughout, with interesting twists and turns in both play styles and story. We liked the over-the-top pinkness and girly quality to the art design too, mainly because it stands out from the brown manliness of other "serious" games. Though some girl gamers might be put off by the ditsy quality of Ms, as she spouts off non-sequiturs about shoes and lyrics to girly pop songs from the 90s, but we felt it was in keeping with the manic energy of Mr Splosion Man and was ultimately harmless fun.
Harmless fun is something the game is full of, as developer Twisted Pixel really played up their reputation as one of the most comical game makers around. It’s funny most of the time, though on occasion it gets to be too much of a good thing. Splosion Man had a decent mix of occasional gags improving the flow, while Ms, like Twisted’s Comic Jumper before it, goes a little too hard on the jokes, sometimes throwing a full motion video gag at you when you’d rather be finishing the level. We’re not saying it isn’t amusing, but sometimes we’d rather be playing the game we bought.
Despite those complaints, Ms Splosion Man does offer a huge amount of content for its modest price tag, with tons to unlock and explore, with an entirely separate, unique multiplayer mode, and an in-game economy that keeps you coming back to purchase another trinket or bauble. Even if it can intermittently be too clever for its own good, it’s still a great throwback to the old-school platforming, and expertly builds on the original. You can’t ask for much more from a sequel.
Jul 12, 2011