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Twisted Pixel Games



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07/22/09 Twisted Pixel Games
07/22/09 Twisted Pixel Games
07/22/09 Twisted Pixel Games

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Review: 'Splosion Man

By Miles Taven 12th Aug 2009 | 2,006 views 

Look who's sploding onto XBLA!

After experiencing Twisted Pixel's delightful first outing on XBLA, The Maw, I have been anticipating 'Splosion Man ever since it was announced. Sticking to what they know best this platformer does exactly what it says on the tin. Though the level design is different to The Maw, the charm and feel good vibes this game oozes have carried over perfectly. Overdue it may be, but Twisted Pixel are finally getting noticed. Burning his way to the front of the line, 'Splosion Man is the perfect way to open XBLA's "Summer of Arcade".

Set in the same Universe as The Maw, 'Splosion Man seems to have been created from a scientific experiment gone very, very wrong. Now, he must work through 50 hazardous levels with mad scientists and robots rallying against him. Something tells me this secret laboratory doesn't enforce the Health and Safety at Work Act. Fortunately, 'Splosion Man is no pushover as he 'splodes his way across acid pools, giant crushers and various other deathtraps; none of which seem to phase him, as he wears the same gormless grin throughout the game.

The game consists of 3 sections all containing around 15/16 levels and a boss battle. The key aspect of gameplay is in the title. 'Splosion Man has been gifted the power to 'Splode! That's explode if you haven't already figured it out. The earlier levels consist of some easy platforming, using his new found ability. Most of the time is spent 'sploding off walls and learning to time your 'splodes perfectly. The pathway is pretty much mapped out for you; but it's not the route you take, it's how you cross it that makes the challenge. Exploding barrels help project you to places you can't otherwise reach, as do moving platforms. The first set of levels are purely for getting a feel for the game, they don't offer much more than fun for a seasoned platforming fan. The second section is where the challenge begins and you learn to deliver your moves with better precision and timing. Checkpoints, although they can't actually be missed most of the time, are vital for you to reach, especially after a difficult section.

New hazards include robots, acid pitts and guns, all of which are deadly and force you into playing like this is a true platformer and not a walk in the park. Pesky scientists also start to play a more important role by blocking your way through the levels. You're tasked with taking them out so you can move forward. Some sections require a lot of practice, and after a bit of trial and error they can eventually be conquered. Others, however, seem to be out to get you. The flying droids can appear where and when you least want them, and there isn't much you can do but wait for the inevitable. Sometimes your 'splode isn't powerful enough, through no fault of your own. Unfortunately, these annoyances become more apparent as you progress through section 2.

Section 3 hits the difficulty curve and keeps running. Often enough I was granted the option "The Way of the Coward" - die enough times and you can skip the level. In my honest opinion, I don't think it should be there and I never used it; even though the game became a lot less fun and more frustrating, it was still somewhat satisfying to finally complete that difficult part of the game. Timing becomes so important, almost down to the millisecond, and military precision is needed. More intimidating gameplay comes into focus - the giant robot chasing you through an assault course and the levels with rising water or acid means you don't get to stop for a breather, and there's no room for mistakes. The boss battles play out a bit like Sonic in the 2D days, and it's a nice change from all the 'get from A to B' action. Each boss requires a strategy and some observation; oh, and sometimes a bit of luck. The one thing that distinguishes the 3 sections from each other the most isn't what's new or the different theme, it's the difficulty. Section 1 leads into the game nicely, perfect for beginners to a 2D platformer. Section 2 becomes more of a challenge and section 3 takes it to a new level and can be annoyingly difficult. With that said, the difficulty curve is made for gamers of skill in mind. I should note: if you're a real hardcore gamer there is a higher difficulty setting with no checkpoints and instant death upon enemy contact - yeah, good luck with that.

As far as visuals go, the main focus is on the protagonist of the game and his reactions to the environment, obstacles and... boredom. 'Splosion Man: Maniac appearance? Check. Loco moves? Check. Absolutely bonkers dialog? Oh yes, 'Splosion Man delivers, proving he is completely removed from sanity, but it just makes me love him even more. His wacky, skittish attitude makes him adorable. Leave him idle and he puts on a show ranging from kung-fu, exercise, rocking out and hide and seek; even more hilarious is his monkey run and aeroplane arms. It seems his state of mind has been affected as much as his physical form. The madcap scientists fit into the setting very well with their cartoon villain characteristics. Explosion effects and hazards such as electric forcefields and bombs are, again, well done. In fact, I can't find fault with any of the character and obstacle design. The sci-fi effects liken themselves well to the atmosphere, even the menus are thought about. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the repetitive backgrounds, which at the best of times look very cut and paste. There are supposed to be 3 themes to the game; but apart from a colour change, you really won't notice a difference. The loading screen is sloppy and looks very amateurish as well.

One of the features that I was surprised to find in 'Splosion Man was online multiplayer - 50 unique levels, different to those of the single player ones. It plays just like the single player, but this time you and your friend need to 'splode off each other to work your way through the levels. So, me and Machina boot up a game with ease. The first half of the level plays well. However, when things get hectic on screen lag kicks in big time. Even with the handy countdown both players are so out of sync the game becomes unplayable and you're forced to quit. This is a real shame because, barring the lag/sync problems, online is great fun. No word on a patch yet either. If you're buying it for the multiplayer, hold off until a patch is released.

The soundtrack in 'Splosion Man is superb, composed by the award-winning Joshua R. Mosley. The music compliments the fast, frenzied style of gameplay. Though all the tracks are very similar you won't tend to notice when you're in the thick of it. However, there is one song that definitely sticks out like a saw thumb - some pretty random but fun humour from Twisted Pixel in a dedication to doughnuts!

With over 50 single player levels this game will last as long as some retail games. Each round contains a hidden cake, so collecting all of them could provide further challenge, though you're only rewarded with Achievements. Time Trial allows you to redo any level to collect any of those missed cakes and get your name on the leaderboards. There is also a bonus difficulty mode after completion. Multiplayer would be an added bonus if it worked; until a patch fixes it though it's useless. The game is also the first to reward the player with avatar clothing, as well as gamerpics and a dashboard theme. DLC is also very likely as their previous game had three lots of DLC.

For 800 MS points this is a steal, 'Splosion Man brings something new to the core 2D platformer genre and has plenty of the old that made it such a popular genre. The game is easy to pick up and play but provides a challenge for those that feel the days of hard to beat platformers are but a distant memory. ' Splosion Man is, so far, the best addition to XBLA this year.

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Opinion (7)

IxisNaugus posted 07/02/2010, 04:21
Just got it, hoping its good.
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Wonktonodi posted 12/08/2009, 05:13
awesome game it an castle crashers are great games only on XBLA that I wish were on PSN
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roland32 posted 12/08/2009, 04:44
Everybody Loves Doughnuts
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bknight posted 28/07/2009, 08:28
One of the best games on XBLA
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Infamous posted 25/07/2009, 08:26
Omg, best arcade game since Castle Crashers.
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sinha posted 22/07/2009, 09:08
Amazing game, it's like N+ on crack.

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