Ms. Splosion Man
Twisted Pixel’s best game to date takes a fun concept and makes it better. Splosion Man was entertaining, but limited in scope. Its sequel draws inspiration from the platforming greats and emerges as a bigger, funnier, more ambitious title. The developer has also crafted a unique and hilarious new protagonist. Like a Looney Tunes character come to life, Ms. Splosion Man is a brilliant parody of teenage girl stereotypes. Like those great classic cartoon characters, your willingness to play along with the joke will determine whether the game works for you as it did for me.
I wouldn’t worry too much about story in Ms. Splosion Man – another science experiment gone wrong creates a feminine version of the exploding protagonist, and she runs amok, blowing herself up again and again to navigate the dangerous world before her. As she runs, she’ll tiptoe like a ballerina and prance like a pony, spouting her favorite lines from Britney Spears, Madonna, and Dirty Dancing.
Though the control mechanics are as simple as one button press (Splode!), the platforming challenges are anything but easy. In a lengthy 50-level single-player campaign, the game continually throws new devices and environmental hazards your way. Exploding barrels that fling you into the background of a level, saddles that rocket you across the sky, giant tentacled bosses – plenty of diversity keeps you on your toes, even if the background environments could use more variation.
With one or more buddies along for the ride, you can enjoy the equally excellent but wholly different multiplayer campaign, which demands careful timing and smart cooperative play to progress. In either campaign, you’ll move between levels in a convenient overworld map. There, you’ll head to special levels unlocked through secret stage exits, and even visit a mall of unlockable content filled with movies, art, and extra game options.
Ms. Splosion Man is at its best when the pace is frantic and unstoppable, just like its manic heroine. Large chunks of the game do just that, keeping the action fast and just challenging enough. At other times, the game stalls out due to tedious and overly precise platforming sequences and infuriating checkpoint placement. Doing the same 30-second sequence 12 times over just to get to the section you keep missing halts the relentless pacing. The normally amusing voiceover turns grating, and the fun level design becomes stale. The frustration is made worse by the character’s small size on the screen and the way she’s often obscured by the crazy action. Luckily, a handy in-game cheat lets you skip past checkpoints when you’ve had enough.
Even when I was annoyed by Twisted Pixel’s latest game, I remained impressed with the grand scope and well-realized vision the team manages to convey, from the smallest motion of the characters to the breadth of design ideas and levels. Though the silly humor and high challenge curve could scare some players off, everyone should try one of the best downloadable games this year.
Challenging platforming with a hefty dose of humor makes Ms. Splosion Man one of the best downloadable games to play so far this year.