Twisted Pixel has definitely become one of the choice developers of downloadable gaming content. Their quirky humor and stellar game design have solidified their name recognition. When they are attached to a project, I pay attention. Ms. Splosion Man is the first of their games to actually serve as a sort of sequel. While not using the same protagonist, Ms. Splosion man is, by definition, the game that we all had hoped the original would have been. Still, once you strip it down Ms. Splosion Man is most assuredly born from the Twisted Pixel factory.
One of the biggest issues with the first game was tedium. Splosion Man was challenging, but when combined with what felt like the same level over and over, it quickly grew old. For the follow-up, the folks at Twisted Pixel have done an amazing job of pacing the game so it feels more like a fluid experience as opposed to a chore. This is achieved by constantly introducing new elements, even if they are minute. Just when you are tired of one mechanic, they offer up a new one and create a new sense of progression.
As for controls, the game is identical to Splosion Man, and if you haven’t played it already, you might want to before diving into the sequel. This game is hard, and it is further complicated by the fact that it assumes you already know most of what you are doing. There is a quick and dirty tutorial that explains the basics, but then you are left to fend for yourself. If you played the original, things will quickly come back to you. However, if you have not, get set for several deaths, restarts and general frustration.
The new mechanics in the game are not trendsetting in the least, but I enjoyed the diversity they add to the gameplay. One of the reasons I lost interest in the original game was because of its tedium. With Ms. Splosion man, it is the little things that make a difference. The inclusion of different barrels adds just enough diversity, and the floating in and out of the levels spices up some of the platforming.
With a game like this, precision is everything, so having solid checkpoints is a must. The game does a nice job of this for the most part, but there are some questionable locations where I had to do plenty of tedious crap over and over before failing on the same jump again. I do like that the game gives you the option to skip checkpoints or entire levels in some cases to help mitigate the frustration, but you will want to go back and complete them all, which I guess is a sign of a solid experience. Much like the first game, it also punishes you for skipping parts of the game by increasing the size of your rump, accompanied by a song. Yes, another stereotype; but, honestly, considering how hilarious the song is, I skipped checkpoints on purpose just to hear it.
If you get tired of playing with yourself, you can always hop into co-op mode for some girl on girl action. What is cool is that the co-op is actually designed from the ground up, meaning all the levels are different and the mechanics are adjusted to compensate for there being two of you. There is even a different ending for this mode. If you are lonely and don’t have any friends, Twisted Pixel has thought of you and designed a truly masochistic mode called “Two Girls, One Controller”. Here, you control both Ms. Splosion Man (Men? Confused), by using each analog to control them and the triggers to initiate their explosions. If you stop and think about it your brain begins to hurt, and attempting to play it, makes it explode. This is seriously only for the hardest of the hardcore.
One area Twisted Pixel always excels is writing and humor. Their games are genuinely funny, and Ms. Splosion Man continues that trend, even if it does rely too much on female stereotypes. The tutorial, even as short as it is, is hilarious. Hearing the narrator patronize the second player is classic TP comedy. The animations of Ms. Splosion Man are akin to the original, in that she skates and dances her way during movement. The movie references and tongue-in-cheek humor spread about really make this a joy to play. My one gripe is that the game goes to the well far too often to make stereotypical jokes about how women love shoes and shopping. Hell, even the collectibles within the game are shoes, if that tells you anything.
Getting your value out of Ms. Splosion Man will not be an issue. The game has a beefy single player, options for co-op, plenty of collectibles and even leaderboards and ghost times. For 800 points, the game is a must own for anyone who enjoys comedy and platforming. Twisted Pixel continues to churn out fantastic games, and here is to hoping their first Kinect effort gives gamers yet another unique experience. I cannot recommend this game enough, and if you have a love for anything it offers it would be a crime to miss out on this awesome experience.
Review copy provided by publisher.