…because it’s chuck full of awesomeness!
Okay, I’m sorry. That was a horrible review tag, only meant to throw you off and make you come read my review. I mean, how would I dare say something awful about yet another awesome game put out by Twisted Pixel, the developers behind the also great The Maw? On the other hand, no one can fault me for using such a clichéd expression, ’cause in one way or the other, Splosion Man does indeed blow. In a good way.
[image1]It starts out with the protagonist – we’ll call him, uhm, S-Man – escaping from a lab where it looks like he was being kept for research and experiments. While there’s no way of telling if said experiments were successful or not, S-Man can now blow himself up and survive unscathed. By self-igniting, he can propel up to reach platforms, defeat, or even better, kill the scientists that roam Splosion Man‘s 50 levels.
There’s a catch to exploding, though, as S-Man can only ignite three times in a row before he has to rest by touching some sort of surface for a few seconds. While he’ll regain his charge by simply standing around most of the time, the main strategy is to recharge on walls, and by using friction, continue your ignition combos as long as necessary. It’s a novel mechanic that quickly becomes second nature, as the controls hardly need explanation – S-Man is either moving or "sploding".
Splosion Man can seem like your run-of-the-mill platformer at first glance, modeled to be played like a speed run game where your character blows up instead of jumping as a gimmick. But such mindless judgments are quickly shot down, as Splosion Man is much more than that. The obstacles in your way aren’t there to slow you down, but push you toward alternate, and often times, quicker routes, and unlike old-school Sonic games, their placement and behavior act more like markers than enemies.
[image2]For instance, in a particular level, you have to cross a pit full of acid – that comically looks more like urine – but straight in front of you is a line of automatic turrets being controlled by a scientist encased in protective glass. Instead of killing you outright, these guns only push you back, and on close examination, their range is limited to the horizontal plane. So what do we do? We reach them from above, and take out the poor scientist manning the switch.
Don’t worry, puzzles in Splosion Man won’t boil down to this simple solution every time; this is just an example of how the game lowers you slowly into the meat of the mind-puzzle pie. Or should we say cake? Cakes act as collectibles that lie in out-of-the-way nooks in stages (and they look delicious too). While levels get more and more complex, the core mechanics never change, so it’s only a matter of smartly and effectively using your unique power in order to reach the end quickly – or not.
After tackling the already lengthy and challenging single-player mode, you can try your luck out online, by system link or with extra controllers, with up to four players playing at once. The multiplayer mode builds upon the main game by offering a unique set of levels and obstacles that must be overcome by cooperation. While at first glance cooperation might sound difficult, with up to four combustible characters on screen at once, and it is, but remember that explosions propel your character. So by adding extra explosions, characters are able to travel much farther than they were ever able to alone, and the multiplayer levels are built to work on the grounds that cooperation is the key to success. It’s surprising to see such a fun online experience in a downloadable game, let alone a platformer. Instead of going through the tired deathmatch game mode, Twisted Pixel built a fun and challenging online portion that will hopefully survive for a long time.
[image3]From just The Maw and Splosion Man, it’s clear that Twisted Pixel is dedicated to making a light-hearted atmosphere that fits in well with the already enjoyable gameplay. Splosion Man follows a similar art style to The Maw, with cartoony characters and an excellently designed protagonist. S-Man not only looks insane, but has a personality, something lacking in most games – he babbles all the time, pretends he is a plane when running, and loves to eat cake. All around, he’s a big, crazy kid that has the destructive potential of a small atom bomb. In a nutshell, you don’t want to mess with the guy. I did mention that he kills countless scientists, right?
While death isn’t exactly a light theme to touch upon, the way Splosion Man deals with it is quite comical, as bit and pieces of cartoon style-steaks and ribs burst around when humans die. The music is downright great, an ode to classic science fiction films from the ’50s. Just in the menu selection screen, where a different note is played with every move with the control stick, you’ll make up your own bizarre tunes, as if you were a composer on a 1980 Casio calculator. That’s not even counting the references to other puzzle games like Portal, the Achievements, or the bonus content awarded in the form of gamerpics, a NXE dashboard premium theme, and avatar items for use after the upcoming update.
Splosion Man feels like a Road Runner cartoon on crack in a good way. Instead of having only one Wile E. Coyote standing in your way, you’ll find many of them who are up for the kill. And the so-called helpless victim, S-Man, doesn’t just run away every time and has the power to defend himself with a bit more than wits and brainless luck. It’s great to see yet another great downloadable game come from Twisted Pixel that not only brings something fresh to the table but does it with style.