Review by AK_the_Twilight

"A Love Worth 'Sploding For"

During the Summer of Arcade in 2009, Twisted Pixel burst onto the indie arcade scene with a cleverly designed and captivatingly funny platformer featuring a hyperactive combustion-based hero called ‘Splosion Man. With an unbelievably short attention span and the power to detonate himself on command, ‘Splosion Man became an icon on Xbox Live Arcade. But while ‘Splosion Man has the perseverance and combustible dexterity for success, even he can have an off day. Enter ‘Splosion Man's equally destructive female love interest, Ms. ‘Splosion Man, ready to bail out ‘Splosion Man from trouble. The amount of humor and cleverness in Ms. ‘Splosion Man is some of Twisted Pixel's best, even if the difficulty of the gameplay remains very challenging throughout.

After running about the Big Science laboratory, molten maniac ‘Splosion Man is lured and imprisoned by the scientist staff, who falsely appear apologetic for trying to capture him. The workers of Big Science throw a party, celebrating the incarceration of ‘Splosion Man. Thanks to a bottle of champagne on a computer and a conveniently placed bow, ‘Splosion Man's other half is born. A perky and equally wacky heroine, Ms. ‘Splosion Man embarks on a journey to rescue the captured ‘Splosion Man, all while causing as much damage to the facility as possible. Ms. ‘Splosion Man may not seem as revolutionarily goofy as the original did, but it's tough to fault the game when it puts so much effort into making the player laugh.

…and that's really what'll happen. Making a game truly funny is a difficult task for game developers, but Twisted Pixel just make it look so damn easy. If hearing ‘Splosion Man's goofy quips in the original game had you reeling in laughter, Ms. ‘Splosion Man will leave you floored. This is a hilarious game, mostly thanks to its bizarre heroine. While ‘Splosion Man stuck with airplane noises and quoting Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ms. ‘Splosion Man goes far with random dancing, quoting female musical acts from the last few decades, and giggling in her high-pitched, Valley Girl tone. By anyone's standards, Ms. ‘Splosion Man pulls zero punches in making its protagonist entertaining. Yes, her quips on unicorns, single ladies, and “dra-ma” do get a bit obnoxious after a while, but Ms. ‘Splosion Man is such an enthusiastic and energized heroine that it's damn near impossible to not crack a smile after hearing at least one of her mindless one-liners.

Ms. ‘Splosion Man is, at its core, the same gameplay you'll find in the original ‘Splosion Man. Using any of the face buttons, the hyperactive heroine will “'splode.” A ‘splode will cause the wacky woman to jump with a combustible burst of destruction. She can ‘splode three times in succession before having to recharge her ‘splode power, can wall jump by ‘sploding, and can attack enemies by ‘sploding. This is no different than her male counterpart's skillset, and for better or for worse, you'll find yourself using the simple commands to navigate through Big Science without much complication. The overall design of Ms. ‘Splosion Man focuses on reflexes and rhythm instead of precision, making it a different kind of platformer. It can, however, boil down to level memorization at times, but the amount of reflex-demanding ‘sploding stands out amongst the many other XBLA platformers available.

The environmental framework, on the other hand, is startlingly different than what ‘Splosion Man had to contend with. The overall stage items are different and there are plenty of stages that will test your ‘sploding skills in brand new ways. You get the typical barrels, some that launch you skyward, others to kick toward obnoxious scientists, but that's not all. Some barrels will send Ms. ‘Splosion Man to the background, while other environmental quirks allow for multiple ‘sploding without the whole three-splode limit. Treadmills, bouncy energy spheres, and big-boned women to use as transport devices all make their appearances, and remarkably, keep the variety going at a solid pace. Solving puzzles demands you keep your thinking caps on, as many stages will intricately mix into a Rube Goldberg-esque menagerie of contraptions and well-timed ‘sploding. Overall, though, Ms. ‘Splosion Man is a more creative game. The design of stages has an astonishingly high sense of flow; you might even find yourself solving a puzzle by complete accident, thanks to a rhythmic pacing to the fast-paced platforming.

If you played through the original ‘Splosion Man, you'll fondly remember that it was not an easy game. From toxic pools to spike walls, there were plenty of things out to get you. Chances are you died frequently in each stage, succumbing to a trial-and-error momentum run instead of precise, think-it-out platforming. Ms. ‘Splosion Man has taken notes from her male counterpart's odyssey, and know this: Ms. ‘Splosion Man makes ‘Splosion Man look like a joke. It's difficult and will more than likely put you in a grumpy mood. Unless your reflexes are spot-on, pristine, and without any trace of misstep, you will die in every stage. This cannot be stressed enough: prepare yourself for an uphill battle. The game does let you “cheat” on the game by allowing you to skip a stage after repeated failures, but where's the reward in that? Yes, Ms. ‘Splosion Man will frustrate thanks to a huge mix of one-hit kill hazards, timing-based puzzles, and rather distantly placed checkpoints, but like all tough-as-nails games, the payoff is rewarding beyond belief. Ms. ‘Splosion Man perverts challenge, roping you in with a goofy heroine, but pushing your gaming skills to levels unseen even in Twisted Pixel's previous combustion-based platformer.

Unlike her captured other half, Ms. ‘Splosion Man follows a Super Mario Bros. 3 hub, where the heroine can travel across a map to get to different stages. In addition to the main stages, players can also find hidden shoes (the counterpart to ‘Splosion Man's cakes) scattered across each level. Even better are secret exits, which can take some craftiness and observance to find. Finishing stages quickly, thoroughly, or by just being a destructive diva nets Ms. ‘Splosion Man coins to spend on concept art, videos, dashboard themes, or even extra modes of play. Though the overall amount of levels is a tad low, returning to stages to find hidden items or exits remains fun. Players can also download ghost runs from the leaderboards to try and match their time. If you have a friend, you can also tackle the multiplayer campaign for even more levels. Ms. ‘Splosion Man is a comprehensive package all in all, and at a meager 800 Microsoft Points ($10 US), it's very difficult to pass up.

The graphic design of Ms. ‘Splosion Man takes plenty of goofy cues from the original, but the amount of diversity in the aesthetic definitely is appreciated. The backgrounds are much more creative and the level themes stretch beyond the white and grey walls of ‘Splosion Man's Big Science adventure. Ms. ‘Splosion Man will traverse abandoned cities and tropical vistas, a stark contrast from the original's almost stale aesthetic design. The animations ooze character as well; everyone from the heroine herself to the scientists throughout the facility has a playful charm. A collection of catchy level themes and wacky voice acting compliment the graphics immensely. The shrill giggles from Ms. ‘Splosion Man (voiced by long-time anime and gaming voice actress Monica Rial) add even more charm to the game. It's not too different from the original game from a technical standpoint, but there's just so much character and goofiness in Ms. ‘Splosion Man that you'll want to continue, even through the toughest of challenges.

Pros
+ Plenty of fast-paced, reflex-testing platforming
+ More diverse graphic design
+ Humor is even wackier and referential than its predecessor's
+ Good amount of content for a reasonable price

Cons
- Can get extremely difficult, especially in the later levels
- Some environmental quirks are reused from the original

Ms. ‘Splosion Man treads a good deal of familiar ground, but the new aesthetic design and engaging level construction are noticeable improvements from the original ‘Splosion Man game. Some clever environmental objects keep the gameplay flow consistent while also introducing plenty of Twisted Pixel creativity. Ms. ‘Splosion Man follows its predecessor's tradition of high difficulty. Though obstacles demand superb rhythm and split-second timing, the challenge never reaches impossibility. But it's Twisted Pixel's knack at humor that is second-to-none. The overall character of the heroine is goofy, surreal, and parodic all at once. Simply watching Ms. ‘Splosion Man's idle animations is purely entertaining. The high amount of content for a more-than-reasonable price is simply icing on the cake. Twisted Pixel has constructed a familiar, but purely fun sequel that could very well surpass its already great predecessor. It's more of the same ‘sploding action you've come to expect, but that action is what makes Ms. ‘Splosion Man one of the best XBLA titles released this year.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/26/11

Game Release: Ms. 'Splosion Man (US, 07/13/11)


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