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mean cheez avatar 6:01 PM on 07.18.2011  (server time)
Downloadables: Everybody Loves Donuts, I Know I Do-oo-oooo

I rarely play multiplayer games anymore.

I used to, sure—from MMORPGS to shooters and everything in-between. But over the last few years gaming has become more of a retreat from my social life than anything else. It's my downtime.

Only one game in recent memory has made me love playing with other people again.

When it first came out, my roommates and I launched into co-op without even glancing at the single-player offering, which still stands on its own as an incredibly fun game. But it can't match the thrill of sitting in front of our 55" screen, screaming up each other's ass to avoid the rising water levels, frantically splodin' off barrels and hurling ourselves against one another.

Splosion Man is a game of FRENZY. At its best, it forces you to think quickly to solve puzzles that never get too frustrating—I mean, your only available action is to SPLODE. The mechanics aren't too complicated. With its frantic pace, the co-op mode plays out so much better sitting in a room with friends than playing online and chattering through headsets. There's more immediacy when you're all in the same physical space (meaning it's easier to slap someone upside the head when they jack up your group-splode).

Split-screen, the only downside to playing in in the same room as your teammates, doesn't even rear its ugly, segmented head. By forcing all the player's to stay in range of each other, requiring cooperation to get past every obstacle, Splosion Man reinforces the sense of camaraderie. Other co-op games can get old if progression is more independent, if one player leads the way and another drags behind, but we don't have that problem here.

I think that's why—even when we were failing again and again to get past one stupid stage—we never really got too frustrated with one another. Sure, some people dropped the ball more than others, but the amount of cooperation required forces players to pick up skills at the same rate, to stay together. You're not gonna learn any new techniques or face new mechanics until everyone is ready for them. And when we could finally pull off that four-man feat of obscene, napalm-fueled gymnastics... it felt damn good.

For me, the comedy inherent in all of Twisted Pixel's game is also more enjoyable in a group setting. I'd feel like a jackass singing the donut song to myself, but you get four guys all singing along and it's a blast. I'd rather see a funny movie with a few friends, have a few drinks at a comedy club with a group than by myself. The catchy songs and inane, high-pitched pop culture references your characters rattle off a-mile-a-minute also make perfect quote fodder to sling back and forth.

The fact that this game was a cheap, downloadable title only sweetens the pot. It's easily been my favorite Summer of Arcade title in years past, and I've gotten more fun out of it than most of the $60 titles I've picked up.

Splosion Man is the downloadable title I've loved the most, bringing awesome co-op gameplay to a puzzle-platformer with zany, high-speed charm. It made multiplayer gaming fun for me again, and for that alone I picked up Ms. Splosion Man day one. I don't have the same roommates as I did for the first, but three new ones with whom I can crack a few beers and blast some barrels.

Let the splodin' commence!

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