Review: Ms. Splosion Man
To call the original Splosion Man a surprise hit would be underselling the game by quite a bit. The game quickly gained notoriety for rock solid controls, a wonderful sense of humor and an often frustrating degree of difficulty. To say that the followup was a very welcome surprise and even more anticipated than it’s predecessor would be an even larger understatement.
But does a pink skin tone and a bow translate to a better game, or is this just the original all prettied up? Full disclosure: I never played the original game so this review will be an evaluation of Ms Splosion Man as she stands on her own, so let’s get this party started and see where it takes us.
From the very outset of the game it’s absolutely clear that Ms Splosion Man is a game that’s about having fun above all else. This is clear before the title screen even appears, with Twisted Pixel’s “Powered by BEARD” video including a shoutout/challenge to Unreal. This devil-may-care attitude continues throughout the entire game, from the cinematic introductions to certain levels or the nonsense that the titular Ms Splosion Man shouts throughout the game.
The pink exploding meat lady has a tendency to shout lines from popular songs, primarily those by popular female pop artists. These are pretty hilarious the first time you hear them, but upon the thousandth time hearing her scream “I whip my hair back and forth” or “If you like it then you should have put a ring on it” you’ll be very tempted to turn off the voices.
This is easily overlooked as the voices are really just some extra flavor on top of the gameplay, which is where the game truly shines. If you haven’t played the original, the controls are extremely simple: move with the analog stick and press a button to explode, which launches you into the air. The amount of explosions you can do are limited, and are reset in various ways such as landing on the ground again. The goal is to explode your way through the levels, bouncing off of and onto various obstacles in the environment.
This takes pixel-perfect timing in many instances, which thankfully is left entirely in your hands as the controls are absolutely solid throughout the entire game. It might take a minute to get used to how Ms Splosion Man moves and handles, but once you do you’ll be soaring through the levels at record speed. How fast you progress is up to your reaction time and puzzle solving skills.
The game does a good job of introducing new obstacles at you at a fast enough pace where it never gets boring, but providing you time to get used to the last thing you learned and utilize it a few times. It never feels overwhelming and the core of the game remains intact the entire time, so it’s just a matter of introducing new things to explode off of in different ways.
Of course hidden beneath the games bright and shiny veneer is a degree of difficulty not seen very often in recent games. Ms Splosion Man joins the ranks of N+ and Super Meat Boy in that respect and is sure to bring you dangerously close to controller-throwing fits of rage, if you happen to be prone to that.
However, similarly to those games each mistake is entirely your own fault: once you’ve figured out what the mistake was of course. Without fault you will fail every new obstacle thrown your way or miss the crucial timing on a one-shot chance the first time, every time. Thankfully though the checkpoints are frequent and placed fairly appropriately most of the time. There were a few spots where you would be forced to go through a long and easy obstacle course, only to constantly fail the single tough part at the end (which is of course right before a new checkpoint) and be forced to repeat all the mess before it.
The single player portion of the game features quite a large number of levels which when combined with the incredible difficulty of the game will give you plenty of game for a long time. However those wishing for a little companionship in their frustration will want to take a look at the co-op portion of the game which features it’s own set of levels and in a way is much more challenging, mostly due to the level of communication required which is no easy feat online. The game can be played with up to four players and is available offline as well, though be careful and remember that angry friends on the couch can be prone to shoulder punching.
Outside the core of the game exists a large number of unlockable features, using the in-game currency which is earned by completing levels and getting better scores. In the mall you can purchase videos, concept art, and avatar awards among other things: one in particular is another extra game mode called “Two Girls, One Controller” which is a two-player mode using one controller. This is very interesting to do by yourself, or the more adventurous players might want to try sharing a controller with a friend for a…unique…experience.
Ms Splosion Man is absolutely bursting at the seems, something that’s strange to see in this modern day. It wouldn’t be shocking to find the same unlockable content reserved for a Special Edition of the game, or delegated to paid DLC some point down the line (or from the beginning). It’s refreshing to see this old-school approach to the extra content as well as the game itself.
While the game is downright irritatingly difficult, it’s also incredibly fun at every turn. With a huge selection of levels both single player and co-op bundled up with very huge boss fights and razor sharp (though sometimes repetitive) humor, Ms Splosion Man is an easy recommendation. If you don’t like games that are absolutely punishing in the challenge offered you might want to stay away or check out the trial first, but I can’t think of anybody that would be fully disappointed in this title.