Cake, donuts and lots of action-packed platforming. XBLA’s first big summer blockbuster has arrived and its name is Splosion Man. Deep within a secret scientific facility a very peculiar experiment has gone haywire and it is up to the player to help this poor soul out. Players take control of an odd fellow known only as Splosion Man, a very volatile and unstable character who wants nothing more than his freedom and lots of cake. All that is standing in the way of his escape are 50 kick-in-the-teeth levels and the player’s patience.
The team at Twisted Pixel has returned after a short break from their previous XBLA success, The Maw, to deliver their take on a classic genre, the 2D platformer. Unlike its predecessors Splosion Man doesn’t give the player various costumes, powers or fancy weapons to help them. No, the team decided to strip away all of those features and boiled this experience down to two simple mechanics: move and splode. Need to kill an enemy? Splode him. Need to reach a platform? Splode to it. Need to escape that rising pool of water? You guessed it - SPLODE!
In the beginning, players may feel as if the game is too easy, almost as if they are cruising through the initial couple of levels, however this sense of mastery that players may feel is all a charade. About the time players reach the second chapter, they will start to notice that the game takes the training wheels off. Players begin to learn that each level requires pinpoint accuracy and timing leaving no room for error. This in turn makes the game feel less like a comical platformer and more like an intense rhythm game, where every button press must be executed at a precise moment, where one slip-up can cause a player to fail and restart at the last checkpoint. Navigating these levels requires a lot of patience and memorization. That being said, the developers have addressed the difficulty curve by implementing a very forgiving checkpoint system as well as giving the player unlimited continues. However don’t let the learning curve deter you from this game. Half of the appeal of Splosion Man is the challenges that it throws at you. In fact, the only real downside to the game is its multiplayer mode.
The multiplayer element of the game allows 2 to 4 players to traverse an entire new set of levels that take advantage of some co-op moves. On paper it sounds like a really fun idea, but when a game such as this requires such pinpoint accuracy, the fun factor is lost and it becomes more frustrating than anything else. Initially, when you jump in with your friends, you may find yourself having fun sploding around the levels, but once you realize that you need to work as a team to pull off “Dual Splods” and “Splode Tosses” to complete the levels, it starts to lose its appeal. Some of the timings are so hard to plan with a live partner that it can make you want to throw you controller out the window. Multiplayer inevitably feels like it was rushed and tacked on in the end which is a shame and an injustice to the game.
All in all, Splision Man delivers a grand single player experience that is not only challenging, but also amazingly hilarious. If you find yourself with an extra 10 bucks and nothing to do, jump on Xbox Live and pick this game up. I guarantee that you will be laughing your ass off while cursing the game at the same time.