Twisted Pixel have made a name for themselves in recent years with a slew of tightly constructed, largely enjoyable and often surprisingly funny XBLA releases. While each of these releases certainly warrant merit, there is little doubt that their current jewel in the crown is the Splosion Man franchise. With a raft of highly positive reviews and some very impressive sales figures, it was little surprise when a sequel was announced to their 2009 hit. What was a surprise, however, was that Twisted Pixel decided to go down The Pac-Man route to sequel making.
Rather than bringing the jittery lunacy of Splosion Man back to our screens, Twisted Pixel decided to introduce Splosion Man’s female counterpart, the aptly named and equally jittery, Ms. Splosion Man. While the core mechanics remain exactly the same and the two leads only distinguishable by Ms. Splosion Man’s pink glow, bow and tendency towards shoes rather than cake, thanks to some clever design choices and generally sharper writing, Ms. Splosion Man feels every inch the sequel that Splosion Man deserved.
Keeping to the same puzzle-platform premise as it forbearer, you are tasked with getting Ms. Splosion Man from one end of the level to the next as quickly as possible. There is a lightly linked story surrounding Ms. Splosion Man attempting to save the incarcerated (Mr) Splosion Man, but this only serves as a paper thin excuse for another round of addictive and often extremely challenging score chasing gameplay. This time, though, there’s an even stronger emphasis on leaderboard climbing and score attack thanks to an improved structure and the introduction of downloadable ghosts that serve as both an additional challenge and a convenient way to figure out some of the game’s more challenging puzzle/platform conundrums.
Like in the previous game, you can explode three times before a brief period of recharging is required, or an additional source of power is found in the form of a flame or a lightning bolt. With the usual array of closing walls, exploding barrels and switches to deal with, the game will feel immediately familiar to those who have spent any time with the original. Where it differs and truly sets itself apart from its predecessor, however, is in its speed.
Thanks to the introduction of grind rails and Donkey Kong style barrels, Ms. Splosion Man often runs at a far greater pace than her Y chromosoned companion. While this does imbue the gameplay with a far greater sense of urgency, it should also be noted that it also brings with it a fair degree of trial-and-error-based gameplay. Rather than being purely skilled-based, some of the latter challenges in particular require a fair degree of trial-and-error with barrels and their three unique styles proving especially troublesome thanks to the split second timing required.
For the most part though, it feels like a fair trade. Splosion Man may have been the slightly tighter experience, but Ms. Splosion Man is undoubtedly the more entertaining one. Zipping through levels at high speeds as you turn scientists into strange piles of meat is hugely gratifying and although not as pure an experience as say N+ or Super Meat Boy, is infinitely more charming and positively chock full of the kind of personality that so many games of its ilk are so sorely lacking.
With some great movie references, an absolutely fantastic tutorial and some brilliantly batty banter from Ms. Splosion Man herself, Twisted Pixel have once again managed to achieve that rare feat of creating a videogame that is actually really rather funny. Some will insist that the writing is too dependent upon dated female stereotypes, but the sheer OTT style in which they are delivered points towards a game that is revelling in the idiocy of those stereotypes rather than celebrating them. Some will disagree with me, but I found many of Ms. Splosion Man’s random ramblings utterly hilarious.
Other than the dependency on trial-and-error for some of the games latter stages, Ms. Splosion Man is just about as perfect a sequel as fans of the original could have hoped for. Sure, the core gameplay hasn’t changed a great deal, but the level design is consistently fantastic, the pace faster and the writing even funnier. The challenging single player campaign, the return of online and local co-op and a stronger emphasis on score chasing make this yet another epic package from the boys at Twisted Pixel. And with their in house Beard Engine once again doing the business for the game’s striking visual style, Ms. Splosion Man will likely prove a huge hit with fans and newcomers alike.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox 360 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.