Review: ‘Splosion Man’ Video Game

SplosionManWhile much of the geek community, The Flickcast team included, was off in San Diego for Comic Con, Microsoft started this year’s Summer of Arcade with the release of TwistedPixel’s follow-up to The Maw, entitled ‘Splosion Man. You can read our interview with TwistedPixel CEO Michael Wilford here.

Splosion Man – XBox Live Arcade – 800 Microsoft Points ($10)

Score: 8.5

‘Splosion Man is anything but your typical platform game. The main character, aptly named ‘Sposion Man, is completely bat-crap insane. He runs around his world completely enflamed trying to escape the research laboratory he is held in. All four buttons on the controller do the same thing, ‘splode. ‘Sploding acts as both an offensive, defensive and acrobatic maneuver. As ‘Splosion Man advances through the levels he must leap to higher areas. In most games, this would be achieved by jumping, but not ‘Splosion Man.

No, he blows himself up to launch himself in to the air, not once, not twice but three times to create the most violent looking triple jump in a long time. The best ‘splosions, however, come from when ‘Splosion Man blows himself up near various flammable barrels which send him rocketing across the level. In addition, he can constantly ‘splode as he passes by various scientists, turning them in to piles of meat. As the game progresses, the ‘splosions take a defensive turn as they can be used to deflect and redirect enemy missiles and projectiles.

The action and pacing of ‘Splosion Man is unbelievably fun for what sounds like a simple concept. While no level is impossible, some will take a new player multiple tries to get it right. There is a great progression of difficulty as the game goes along too. The first level can be beaten in under three minutes by many players while the twentieth or so of the fifty total levels can take upwards of ten minutes to complete successfully. This adds to the replayability of a game as Time Trials look to challenge players best times and scores of the levels they have already completed. The game also features three epic boss battles in addition to the fifty standard single player levels. These bosses are gigantic and have a distinct strategy associated with bringing each of them down using ‘Splosion Man’s unique powers.

All the while, ‘Splosion Man runs through the levels spouting off random catch phrases like “Hasta La Vista baby,” in his high pitched, raspy voice. In some games, this could come across as try hard but in ‘Splosion Man, it just fits and is funny. One of the most enjoyable parts of ‘Splosion Man’s single player campaign comes in the in-game, in-engine cut scenes that play off the humor of the character. One great scene involving the introduction of a new enemy recreates the fight scene between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin in the first Spider-Man movie as the mechanical foe launches serrated spinning discs at ‘Splosion Man who spins and twists in mid-air to avoid the attack.

As fun as ‘Splosion Man is though, it does have some flaws. Occasionally if you miss a jump and land in a previous area you had already passed, the camera finds itself in an awkward and hard to navigate position that can wreak havoc on a player’s ‘sploding jumps. While this is often quickly solved by a quick death which resets the camera, it is noticeable. Probably the biggest weakness from the game comes in its online co-op multiplayer. While the local multiplayer is fun as players must simultaneously ‘splode to send each other flying across the level in a fast paced, high adrenaline party feature, the fun is lost as players deal with horrible lag, especially involving rising water and fast moving spike walls. Instead of becoming a challenging multiplayer experience, it becomes an arduous grind to try and complete some of the simplest tasks throughout entire levels as more players are added to the experience.

Overall, ‘Splosion Man ranks as one of the best XBLA releases of the past year. Its quirky humor and outrageous main character ranks up there with the likes of last year’s hit Castle Crashers. The platforming is superb in its execution, save the online multiplayer experience. Hopefully like the similarly styled N+, ‘Splosion Man will receive expansion downloads with more levels and enemies for our burning hero to traverse. Over recent years, platforming games have lost their luster in favor of open-world 3D environments but this game bucks that trend. To put it simply, ‘Splosion Man is platforming done right.

Take a look below at the entire first level of ‘Splosion Man, as played by Twisted Pixel CEO Michael Wilford with us at Comic-Con 2009.

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