There is nothing more basic about the draw of playing a video game then having fun, and Twisted Pixel’s newest Xbox Live Arcade title does just that. There is no real story to speak of, no elaborate cutscenes that tug on the old heartstrings and no explanation of how or why. ‘Splosion Man just sticks you in the thick of the action with a guy that can do one thing, explode. This game harkens back to the hay-day of platformers, because that’s all it is, an old school platformer that will punish you for mistakes and occasionally make you want to toss a controller or two.
All you can do in the game is ‘splode. Literally, if you go to the controls option in the menu, all four face buttons say ‘splode. So it really boils down to the level design to keep the game interesting all the way through, and for the most part it completely does that. There isn’t much change artistically in the way each of the levels look, but they do manage to throw enough different situations at you as to never bring on boredom. In fact for the most part the level design is fantastic, except when you get to the horrible boss fights at the end of each stage.
There are three stages that have 50 levels between them. Luckily this means you only have to fight three bosses, because they are easily the worst part of the entire game. Every boss fight has you waiting for the boss to do something and react, which really doesn’t do a great job of emphasizing the great platforming this game has to offer. All three of the boss fights are tedious, redundant, difficult, and just not fun.
If you die at any point during the boss fights you get to play the entire stage over again, which is really mind boggling because the game has such great checkpoints strung throughout the normal stages. Even with the atrocious boss fights I still love this game, I’m already on stage two of my second playthrough on hardcore mode, which makes everything a one hit kill and makes you restart a stage from the beginning if you die. The platforming just feels right.
With this kind of game, an online multiplayer mode would seem like an interesting proposal, and it is. I have to give some respect to the developers who did not just allow you to run through the same single player stages with up to three other people. Every level in the multiplayer mode has been specially designed to take advantage of having two or more ‘splosion men wreaking havoc on the poor scientists inhabiting the levels. Since you have the ability to ‘splode off of each other, you can reach places that would have been impossible for just a single ‘splosion man.
A helpful countdown that you can start with a pull of the left trigger helps make sure you can time things together correctly even over the internet, or it would if the lag wasn’t so terrible. For some reason when I first got connected to a group of friends the connection would be fine, but eventually it would just wear down to a point of un-playability. With some of my friends looking like their hanging below platforms instead of standing on top of them, and others saying their all the way where we need them to be when, on my screen, they were way below trying to catch up.
This is one of the biggest bummers in the whole game, the multiplayer is a fantastic addition and can provide plenty of laughs throughout the course of a level, but when the lag is so bad that hitting a switch at the same time becomes nigh on impossible, the enjoyment steeps to frustration. I did manage to play some local multiplayer and it worked fine, and really only made me wish the online multiplayer worked better because it was a lot of fun.
‘Splosion Man is a great way to kick off the Summer of Arcade program and is a steal at only $10, if you enjoy platforming. If you’re not into some serious timing and precision trial-and-error gameplay, then ‘Splosion Man might not be for you. There can be some seriously frustrating moments but working my way through those by trying over and over again to nail that one tricky section was more than enough draw for me to keep working my way through. If you pine for the days when 2-D Mario and Sonic were kings, then give ‘Splosion Man a try, but be prepared for some potentially controller breaking moments of frustration.