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Ms. Splosion Man Review


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On 07/18/2011 at 09:01 PM by Jason Ross

What's pink, has a bow, and blows? Ms. 'Splosion Man!
RECOMMENDATION:

For those who like co-op 2D platformers and think unfiltered random is funny, Ms. 'Splosion Man should be a perfect fit. Those who like to master games to the point they could play them in their sleep would also enjoy the game.

A follow-up to the 2009 'Splosion Man, Ms. 'Splosion Man is a simple 2D platformer with high speed and puzzle elements. The titular missus can explode up to three times before landing on the ground, resting against a wall, or detonating with a bomb to recharge, propelling herself through the game's frantic point-A-to-point-B-style levels. Like its predecessor, the game is full of jokes and quirkiness. Is Ms. 'Splosion Man the bomb or just a dud?

Ms. 'Splosion Man is loaded with aspects of poor game design. Yes, it moves at a breakneck pace, which feels fun and frenetic at points, but quickly the speed becomes frustrating. Stages are designed to keep the player blind to upcoming obstacles, pathways and puzzles until a split-second before they're ready to explode and/or trigger them. The end result is a title that feels closer to a cutscene with several quick time events than a traditional platformer. To combat this, checkpoints are found littered throughout Ms. 'Splosion Man, presumably so players can get a glimpse of the road ahead, die, respawn, pass that particular trial, then die at the next one. Some might confuse this type of stage design for difficulty, but as I stated before, the end result more closely resembles quick time events where players must tap a button or press a direction very quickly at the prompt of an on-screen item. There are several cannon-based sequences, so Donkey Kong Country veterans should feel snugly at home.

Ms. 'Splosion Man herself suffers from a few design issues. For one thing, her pink coloring often blends in with the action. In areas that aren't as fast-paced as the ones I mentioned above, the camera often zooms out to a great degree. With Ms. 'Splosion Man's coloring and the explosive-laden action, along with fairly active backgrounds and foregrounds, it's very easy to lose sight of the heroine after an explosion. The explosions are a brighter pink with thick black outlines; essentially they draw the eye to them and away from the more passively colored Ms. 'Splosion Man, an unwanted distraction in the heat of platforming.

While it's unfortunate that when Ms. 'Splosion Man can appear diminutive to eyes only a few feet away from a large screen, often these zoomed-out areas offer the better experience. More often than not, these segments have puzzle aspects, allow the player a few moments to see what's ahead while exploding through a high-speed obstacle course, or both. From my experience these areas capture the spirit, control, and 'splodazzle of the game at its best. I reiterate: it's a shame Ms. 'Splosion Man can be so tough to see in these areas.

A meager trio of bosses round out the experience to a small degree; without spoiling much, the first is a great enemy, capturing common aspects of 'Splosion-based gameplay. Unfortunately, the second is eerily similar to a Super Mario Galaxy boss of squidtacular proportions. I won't spoil the third, but I will say the boss is an homage to a classic video game title, an idea that works at first but quickly becomes a dull parody that lacks the charm of the game it mimics. The homage completely lost its luster when it became clear there would be no epic final battle.

The measly three world maps also aren't exactly exotic; the differences between each could barely be described as superficial. The first world has a laboratory theme, so it's got a silvery gray metallic motif. The second world is in a resort, so Twisted Pixel took the laboratory, threw in a sky-blue background, and added a few tiki masks here and there. The third area is meant to be a factory, so everything is red but looks considerably similar to the laboratory in most other respects. The stages don't really play any differently between worlds, though an individual stage might be built upon one specific theme from time to time.

Ms. 'Splosion Man's crowning feature may be its co-op multiplayer. Single player consists of 47 stages, some with secret exits, and three bosses, whereas multiplayer has 50 all for itself. The mode requires teamwork and timing to complete the stages, which are composed primarily of puzzles. To top it off, daring gamers can challenge Ms. 'Splosion Man's co-op levels alone, with the questionably-named “Two Girls, One Controller” mode, which maps the movement of one Ms. 'Splosion Man to the left control stick and bumper and the other, yellow Ms. 'Splosion Man to the right one. Both versions of the mode are challenging and enjoyable experiences I fully recommend.

Of course, Ms. 'Splosion Man is filled to the brim with random pop culture-based humor, which I'd venture to say is its unique hook. Unfortunately, Ms. 'Splosion Man (the lady, not the game) shouts out a handful of song lyrics and movie lines every few seconds. To me, they get old quickly and have absolutely no relevant context to the action. Twisted Pixel was aware that they can be grating, so fortunately the game does have an option to mute her voice. Here and there are homages to other video games, but either I didn't notice them or they weren't as frequent as one might expect. A few select songs are pretty funny and sound great, most are just unlockables, and the rest are uninspired generic platformer fare.

Ms. 'Splosion Man is wacky, cobbled together by nerds, and doesn't always make sense. Am I talking about the game or the character? They're both so alike! If that's appealing to you, Ms. 'Splosion Man was built just right, and you'll have a blast. For someone like me, the title doesn't feel very clever, nor is its gameplay well-crafted outside of multiplayer. It's not as solid a title as the platforming genre's best, and its humor often falls flat. Ms. 'Splosion Man has already seen critical acclaim, but based on my experience, it's nothing particularly special.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

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