Ms Splosion Man is the fourth title from Twisted Pixel for the XBLA and the sequel to 2009’s Splosion Man. This time around Splosion man has been captured and during the scientists victory party they inadvertently create Ms Splosion Man. From that point onwards your goal is to find Splosion Man by sploding through each of the 50 single player levels; excluding any levels you choose to miss or secret levels you don’t come across.
As with Splosion Man, his better half doesn’t have a need for complex controls with sploding (jumping) being the only character mechanic. A is splode; B is splode; as is X and Y. Right Trigger will kill you if held for a few short seconds and bring you to the last checkpoint and during multiplayer left trigger will start a 3 second countdown for easy synchronisation.
The first level is simply stunning in terms of being a good tutorial; introducing new features that build on the previous game, having a large well designed level and on top of all that has a small boss fight that takes place across most of the level. It starts with the basics in a video (which can be skipped) which showcases Ms Splosion Mans various abilities; it is a little less intuitive than Splosion Mans tutorial tips which appeared when you hover over a marker but is still very good at getting the major elements across to the player. The boss itself is a reworking of a boss from the previous game with a pretty extensive design overhaul which is very much for the better; as the unlockable comparison art will show.
The levels from then on lack the same sort of in your face excitement that the mid-level boss chase caused but it still has a lot to offer and it does it very well. All sorts of new toys have been brought in to play with; with zip lines speeding you through levels, wheelchair bound scientists to push through enemies and objects alike, cannons which fire you around the map and even a scientist called Mandy to jump inside of and take control of (replacing the donuts scientist).
All of the new elements are brought in nicely; with a level usually relying on it heavily as an introduction before seeing it appear from time to time. There are normally about 3 or so new elements brought in per world. Also now replacing the collectible cake is a variety of shoes for the Ms to collect which make a nice tapping noise as you walk around once they are collected.
Unfortunately where Splosion Man could be difficult to the point of frustration, Ms Splosion Man suffers slightly more. With the levels less confined and momentum playing a key role you often won’t have time to react to the situation; leading to many checkpoints being returned to above the ten death limit where the option to skip ahead appears. This can become quite frustrating especially as most levels par times are around 5 minutes it will require another replay for the leaderboard times. Despite that you will still continue playing as it is just fun to play regardless of how challenging it may be. Hardcore mode sees you going through the single player levels with no checkpoints and any singular damaging hit will kill you outright. This mode is only for achievement whores and the masochistic as you will play a level over and over and over again until you complete it.
New to the game there is a world map (influenced by Super Mario World 3) which is to address complaints of the really difficult levels which can now be skipped. An arcade is present in the first world where you can download trials for the 3 previous Twisted Pixel games as well as a pinball game and one currently unavailable game. Also thanks to the inclusion of currency dependant on your score for a completed level there is a Mall where you can buy all sorts of goodies ranging from concept art, music, videos and unlockables; with a mall on the main menu and inside of each of the three worlds.
Multiplayer is just as frustrating as before; less so because of the levels but as always friends can be the best enemies as you try to time a jump and get knocked off the edge or they unleash a laser platform on you or drop you to your death etc. Despite this it’s all good fun and is well worth playing through and anyone without friends or anyone looking for a challenge will purchase the “Two Girls One Controller” bonus from the Mall. This mode has you controlling two Ms Splosion Men with one controller; with the left stick and left button controlling one of the beautiful Ms’s and the right hand counterparts for the other Ms.
Graphically the game isn’t too powerful but the highly stylized presentation is beautiful. Taking you out of Splosion Mans confined, sterile labs; you now roam through futuristic cities, beach resorts and factory levels. On top of that the character designs are both humorous and distinct with the inclusion of some new scientists and some intricately designed bosses; with the first and final bosses stealing the show. The only two downsides is that sometimes the game is moving too fast for you to really keep Ms Splosion Man in your sights accurately and the other is that veterans of the first game may find her pink glow off putting as it is the colour you would search for it you were hunting for cake in the original.
The audio is almost perfect in all ways; Chainsaw composes and sings all the male parts in the music while the incredibly talented Stephanie Young does almost all the singing for the majority of the songs. The shining star of all the songs is the Mandy song which is just amazing to listen to. Also the Splosion Man theme has been updated with Young again doing vocals and it has to be said that it is better than the originals theme music. Ms Splosion Man voiced by (Monica Rial) still spouts inane ramblings but they are mostly stereotypes or pop culture references which never really become annoying as there is such a large variety.
Presentation and Audio
This is undeniably the best game Twisted Pixel has released so far and the Presentation and Audio are just astounding from start to finish. Beautiful backdrops and quirky character design populate the world and really brings it to life. The audio is well thought out and wonderfully composed; Chainsaw has really outdone himself with the soundtrack which is unsurprising considering the undeniable talent of Stephanie Young.
The game takes everything the predecessor had going for it and turns it up to 11. It’s a little bit more Super Meat Boy than the previous game. Even though the levels are hard as nails at times when you see everything come together you can really appreciate the level design. Multiplayer adds to the fun as well seeing you boss your friends around to get through that level after the 2th try at a single checkpoint.
50 single player levels and 50 multiplayer levels… need I say more? Ok on top of that there is a hardcore mode where a single hit will kill you and there are no checkpoints; it also will net an achievement for completing hardcore. On top of that the Two Girls One Controller mode and a whopping 100 pairs of shoes to collect will have you playing for hour upon hour. Also downloadable content seems to be promised so look forward to some more exciting levels being brought to the game later down the line.
The game improves upon every aspect of the original and makes it more difficult which is either a good or a bad thing depending on your outlook. There is a huge amount to do and the mall is filled with an exceptional amount of content for everyone to enjoy. You’ll be hard pressed to find any platformer that stands up to this on the Xbox and it is one of the best games on XBLA; it is pretty much a must buy.
I was a little sceptical at all the new elements at first as I was worried that it would end up with the too many eggs in one basket scenario that Comic Jumper did. I was wrong to be sceptical and I thoroughly enjoyed playing the game though I did get a little frustrated at times. Splosion Man is still one of my favourite games of all time and definitely my favourite on XBLA; so this was a no brainer to play and I’m glad I did. It just manages to outdo Splosion Man on every level: music, presentation, gameplay, even length. My favourite feature is one ironically from Comic Jumper which is the Mall; where you can purchase concept art, videos and exclusive content with the in game currency. What I like the most is that while other games might have you unlock art in Twisted Pixel games they tell you about the particular piece so you know why it was dropped from the game or why they made particular design choices. I was already looking forward to TP’s next title and with this being a surprise release that came beforehand I’m even more psyched than ever; roll on Gunstringer (Kinect only).
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.