Looks like we’ve got a squirter on our hands
Splasher is a love letter to the twitch platforming genre, and it wears its influences on its sleeves proudly. The shadow of Super Meat Boy can be felt in almost every aspect of this game, but it introduces enough new mechanics to really make itself stand out from its inspirations.
The head honcho on the development team, Romain Claude, previously honed his chops as a level designer for both Rayman Origins and Legends. There are a ton of subtle nods to the franchise, among many others, as well. This may be Splashteam’s first game, but they’re hardly a bunch of amateurs.
The level design is absolutely outstanding, and there’s always small introductions to mechanics before you’re actually expected to use them. Even in the game’s hub world, you’ll often have to learn some new trick in order to reach the next chapter’s doorway. This new skill will be essential once you get there. There’s no overt tutorials, and the progression feels like a natural evolution of everything you’ve been taught by past experiences.
Splasher (PC, PS4, Switch [reviewed], Xbox One)
Publisher: Plug In Digital
Released: October 26, 2017
The main distinguishing feature here is the protagonist’s use of a gun that allows you to shoot water and two types of paint. The pink stuff allows you to stick to walls, ceilings, and floors. The yellow goo turns these same surfaces into slimy launching pads that catapult you into the air. The blue liquid, water, is capable of cleaning up the yellow and pink slop as well as dispatching most enemies. These are mapped to the X, Y, and A buttons.
You will, eventually, have to use all of these skills in tandem while switching liquids at a moment’s notice. Don’t worry though. The game starts you off pretty slowly and gradually eases you into the process. In later levels, there is a good deal of trial and error, and you will die countless deaths, but the game springs you right back into action from the nearest checkpoint. You’re never set back more than 10-15 seconds after any given death. However, every movement and action matters in your pursuit of success. You’re dodging saw blades and acid pits when jumping between small platforms as well as making sure that you are shooting the right liquid before you land. One wrong move and your ass is grass.
It can be frustrating at times, but it’s always your fault when you die. Anyone familiar with Super Meat Boy’s dark worlds will feel right at home here. Honestly, I wish Splasher had taken things a bit further in its difficulty. The last two levels start to approach the intensity of Meat Boy’s final chapters but never quite reaches the same demanding precision required. As a result, however, this is a great entry point for newcomers to the twitch platforming genre. It’s all very accessible, but there’s still plenty here to entice folks looking for a decent challenge.
Once you complete the standard story mode, if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably find yourself wanting to go back and pick up any of the missed collectibles throughout each level. Although, if you’re looking for something a bit more challenging, the game offers two forms of speedrunning modes as well. One is the standard where you play through each course normally while attempting to gather collectibles and beat your best time. The other, titled Selfish Speedrun, is completely stripped of extras with the sole goal of finishing as quickly as possible. Both of these are fantastic additions. There are even online leaderboards for each level, where you can compete against your friends and strangers. I’ve never been much for this sort of thing, but Splasher makes a great argument for how much fun they can be. The whole game was built from the ground up with speedrunning in mind, and it really shows just how mechanically sound and memorable each level is when you’re tearing through them at top speed.
Then, of course, there’s the soundtrack. The damn thing is just wonderful. I can’t stress this enough. One of my biggest gripes with the newest release of Super Meat Boy is the altered soundtrack. It just doesn’t have the same amount of life as the original Xbox 360 release. Luckily, this game gets it fucking right. There were times that I just wanted to set my console down and indulge in impromptu, solo dance sessions, and I’m not ashamed to admit that eventually happened. It’s enjoyable enough at first, but I grew attached to it by the time I completed my playthrough.
While I do wish that there was a bit more of it, what’s here is phenomenal. This is a game I’ll definitely be revisiting for the foreseeable future. It manages to take a grab bag of various mechanics, lifted from its influences, and turn them into something totally fresh and unique. Splashteam knocked it out of the goddamn park with this one, and it’s absolutely criminal that I never got around to playing it on other consoles before this. This is an essential release for genre fans and a great introduction for newcomers. The Switch may be jam-packed with quality eShop titles right now, but Splasher is genuinely something special. It would be a shame to see it lost in the crowd.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]