It’s hard to imagine that more than twenty years later, developers would still find ways to shed new light on old genres. Twisted Pixel’s new downloadable title, ‘Splosion Man, is a 2.5-D puzzle platformer that manages to give the old “jump” button new tricks while keeping the allure and challenge of our flat brethren intact.
If robust single and multiplayer modes, quirky visuals, and polished gameplay are your thing; get those Microsoft points ready.
Taking cues from N+, the crux of the gameplay relies on physics and the jump, or rather, the “splode” button. Players must guide ‘Splosion Man through over 100 levels (single and multiplayer combined) as he enacts justice on crazy scientists by blowing himself up. Each level progresses from left to right, and the goal is to get the title character to the end as fast as possible. Also, just like N+, all of the multiplayer levels were built from the ground up, and require teamwork to complete.
Players will use the standard “splode” jumps as well as a variety of barrels to propel themselves through each level. As simple as it sounds, the game can be crushingly difficult. Just wait until you have to ride a group of platforms up while racing a bed of spikes, changing platforms using explosive barrels, and dodging electrical currents. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
The great things about games with simple controls is that they are free to focus on perfecting those controls and using other resources elsewhere. The only commands you have available are: splode, splode, splode, splode, self-detonate (suicide splode), and start countdown. The game does a great job at building levels around this small number of available actions and it’s a new take on the jump button when it’s also your attack button and action button.
While you are flying around you will have to activate barrels or attack enemies, and this leads to exhilarating moments in mid-air as you perfect your timing. However, while the gameplay and level design work extremely well together, it would have been nice to have more freedom in solving the puzzles.
N+’s later maps were complex enough that I could figure out my own solution. However, the maps in ‘Splosion Man are small N+ segments strung together to create one huge level. If you’re getting intimidated by the comparisons to N+, just make sure and note that ‘Splosion Man has a friendly feature: the coward’s way out. If you happen to die a ton of times on a certain level, you can skip it, with the added penalty of having to wear a ballerina tutu until you redeem yourself. Each checkpoint introduces a new puzzle or platforming experience that players will have to solve to get to the next checkpoint, and while they can be complex, there is still a lack of freedom.
The game scores you at the end of each level, and the lack of freedom means players will be perfecting a set method, rather than developing their own way to shave off time. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle. There is only one way to solve it, so the focus is in speed rather than player creativity.
While this is an issue in the single player mode, it’s slightly remedied in the mutliplayer mode. Up to four players can tackle the multiplayer levels which, for once, are not variations of the single player levels. These are unique levels where two to four players will have to work together to get to the end. You will have to use switches, barrels, and each other to get out as fast as possible. Having more than one person, and the ability to splode off each other (that sounds dirty), gives the players more freedom and deciding how to tackle the given puzzle at hand. It can be a bit chaotic but thanks to the handy countdown button it’s easier to coordinate a group of people without mics.
‘Splosion Man also draws you into it’s world with a barrel of laughs. Unlike Portal (which ‘Splosion Man even references) which used fantastic writing to create humor, ‘Splosion man makes you laugh by combining the outrageous writing with it’s peculiar visuals. While it isn’t the best looking game you can download, I can’t imagine the game being as funny any other way. Scientists explode into neatly chopped meat products, everyone talks in ridiculous one liners (or shrieks), and the main character is as charming as he is crazy looking.
To round everything out, the music for the game fits in perfectly. The chaotic nature that is ‘Splosion Man is complemented wonderfully with odd vocals and fantastic musical cues, even if it tends to repeat itself. The unique visuals and soundtrack remind me of Neverhood and Skullmonkeys. All in all, Twisted Pixel is doing a great job at standing out on the downloadable market.
Sliding in at a mere 800 points ($10) it’s an explosive deal (I had to say it). It’s a fresh slice of puzzle platforming pie, but instead of eight to ten pieces, you get over 100 levels dispersed over two different modes, single and multiplayer, complete with zany boss battles (m-m-m-missiles!), outrageous camera angles, 5,000 filets, and some of the most rewarding and challenging platforming you will find on any system. Now, go forth and ‘SPLODE!!!
Twisted Pixel has done a fantastic job at setting themselves apart from other indie developers with their unique visual flair.
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The challenging and entertaining puzzle platforming is, hands down, some of the best you will find on the market.
The game's sound tends to get repetitive, but the goofy voices and spectacular tracks offer excellent background noise.
There are over 100 levels to complete over the single player, local, and on-line multiplayer modes, and an extra single player hardcore mode.
'Splosion Man offers a lenghty and engaging puzzle platforming experience that's only helped by great music and hilarious jokes.