The original ‘Splosion Man was a riot of hyperactive platforming, with a difficulty curve that could have the most battle-hardened gamer whimpering in a corner. Now, after a short time spent on other projects like Comic Jumper, Twisted Pixel has seen fit to follow it up with a sequel – but this time featuring a more feminine twist. Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome to the floor Ms. ‘Splosion Man.
Anyone already versed with Twisted Pixel’s love of Full Motion Video and off the wall humour will instantly feel at home during the game’s intro, with it throwing down the gauntlet to Epic and their ubiquitous Unreal tech with their own offering, Beard. “Your move Unreal” is the war cry with its tongue firmly planted in its cheek and setting the tone perfectly.
The premise of Ms. ‘Splosion Man is simple; guide the combustible heroine through levels that vary in complexity and outright malice in their execution. Players of the first title will instantly feel at home, maybe even a bit too comfortable, as it initially appears to offer little to no difference from the original title. Thankfully this turns out to be nothing more than a gentle introduction for the uninitiated, or those who haven’t played the first game in a while.
The levels are as challenging as they ever were, but whether it’s a trick of the mind or that enough time has elapsed to dull the memory, here the controls here feel tighter this time around, while boss fights are more refined and loose the unintentional frustration present in the original. When the timing and ‘sploding comes together it can be a fist-pumping triumph, but when it falls flat it drives the player to distraction, trapped in the circle of respawning, quickly followed by (yet another) death. One thing that remains is the level of detail on display, and unintentional deaths will occur from gawping at backgrounds, such is the level of intricacy on show.
The twist with the first ‘Splosion Man title was that if you failed a level enough times you could skip it, but would be forced to wear the tutu of shame to clearly identify your lack of skill. This is now replaced with a trashy Days of our Lives style screen where Missy wrestles with the moral dilemma of whether to `cheat` on the level and move onto the next. The price for `cheating` is to cross the finish line with a ridiculous par time and a fat arse, that dreaded fear of many a woman (even though Sir Mix-A-Lot would disagree, welcoming the sight of a juicy set of doubles). Whether this is classed as being demoralising is clearly up for debate based on personal preference.
There are some welcome new additions now in the form of trampolines that can be used to bounce, not only Ms. ‘Splosion Man, but also bombs or even enemies into giant threshing blades – an act which never gets old and is always fun. There’s also the Fat Suit, called “Mandy”, built like a tank but with a bosom like two watermelons squeezed into a ill fitting uniform, allowing Ms. ‘Splosion Man to take some serious punishment against laser turrets and the like. And while the original game had a memorable song in the form of Everybody Loves Donuts, this huskily built suit has her own lament, which has the right level of humour with its mournful tinge.
While the male counterpart in the first game was infatuated with cake, the female of the species is rather (predictably) fascinated with shoes. Dotted around the levels are pairs to collect, some in obvious places, others just out of reach so as to be infuriating. This, for the more OCD-afflicted out there, will provide a large chunk of replayability as they attempt to garner more shoes than Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex in the City (and that’s a sentence this reviewer never thought he’d ever type).
There are times when the games humour falls a little flat (the pun that accompanies the name of the first boss is just plain bad – and not `so bad that it’s good` either) but for the main the utterances of Madam ‘Splosion will cause many to guffaw. There is literally not enough room to list them all here, but nailing a jump to the cry of “Girl Power!” ringing through the speakers, badly sung verses of TLC’s seminal Rn’B hit Waterfalls, or witnessing Ms. ‘Splosion do all manner of 80’s/Beyonce’ Single Ladies dance routines if the controller is left long enough, taps into a rich vein of fun. Although not sure of its inclusion, this reviewer secretly wished for a Stewie Griffin inspired cry of “Wonder Woman!” at points…*ahem*
Multiplayer still merits an inclusion although this was an aspect that sailed over this particular reviewers head first time around, and continues to cause consternation here since it still feels clunky and ill-conceived in comparison to the wonders displayed elsewhere.
Ultimately the enjoyment of would-be players from Ms. ‘Splosion Man will be predicated on how much they enjoyed the first. The sense of fun and challenge is still there in abundance, but this time it comes with a fetching Yellow bow and inane chatter into a mobile phone. What next Twisted Pixel, ‘Splosion Hermaphrodite? Your move Beard!