Giant Bomb Review

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Ms. Splosion Man Review

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Ms. Splosion Man lands on shaky footing, but at least she gets a lot of mileage out of that bow.

Dude! I love science!

Yes, Ms. Splosion Man has a bow in her hair, but that's not the only thing Twisted Pixel has added in this sequel to its punishing platformer from two summers (of Arcade) ago. Within the game's scores of levels, there's a number of new gadgets and doohickeys to bounce on and 'splode into, and the game's periphery is chock-full of the kind of video-based madness these guys have become known for since, well, the ending of the original Splosion Man. Given all the improvements and additions and craziness, though, it's a little disappointing that I didn't enjoy playing this sequel as much as the first one.

This is certainly a livelier and more vibrant game than before. Those new doohickeys include grind rails, flying cars, exploding barrels with saddles on them, and a purple bomb that shoots you between the fore- and background. Twisted Pixel's standard-setting Beard Engine has also evolved to make basic cinematic effects like depth of field more prominent, and the artists have run a little wilder than the first game's sterile lab environments with some tropical and futuristic urban settings as well. There's even a world map for each of the three areas, and finding secret exits in some levels will open up optional hidden levels elsewhere. The up-to-four-player multiplayer mode also returns from the first game, again with its own set of levels. On the surface it all sort of feels like the Super Mario World to the first game's Super Mario Bros.

New window dressing notwithstanding, it's important (and probably not surprising) to know the basic action and controls here haven't changed one iota, so if you didn't care for the insanely rigorous triple-jump puzzle-platforming in Splosion Man, nothing here is going to reel you in either. On the contrary, that stagnation and some awkward-feeling level layouts might actually put off players, like me, who gladly gritted their teeth through the original. There was an elegance to the design of that first game, where you had to hit switches, wall-jump, and bounce off of explosion points with speed and surety to make it to the end of each level. Sure, there was some repetition and more dying involved in feeling your way through each stage, but it felt like as long as you were precisely hitting your cues, you would generally splode your way to safety.

This is way better-looking game, but some of the visual fluff gets in the way of the action. But not in this shot.

At the risk of straying into some kind of abstract hard-game design-theory class that I'm in no way qualified to teach, some of Ms. Splosion Man's levels don't feel as well thought-out as in the last game, particularly in light of the sluggish, awkward way the character herself moves. Maybe my patience for this kind of thing was ruined by Super Meat Boy, the current hard-game gold standard on consoles, and a game where the controls are so pinpoint-precise that you could frequently air-control your way out of a bad situation and narrowly avoid dying. Consequently, every death in that game felt like it was your fault. By contrast, Ms. Splosion Man takes forever to get running at full speed, and you don't have much air control. Since the game is constantly throwing obstacles at you that require some guesswork to get through if you haven't seen them before, you get into a lot of situations where you're just forced to eat it after making a bad call. Is that barrel emitter the kind that holds barrels in place or the kind that drops them straight down? Oh, it was the other kind? Back to the checkpoint before the last three major obstacles I already cleared. At least I learned my way through another small piece of the level. It just gets tedious.

The game also gets a little sloppy with things like camera work and window dressing. There are a few too many instances where some wonky camera angle obscures the next hotspot you need to splode off of, and it's downright baffling that multiple levels throw foreground objects (which include flying sharks, to be fair) right in front of where your character is supposed to be. I'm all for a little rote level memorization when it makes sense, but here it feels like that's the only reliable method of inching your way through most of the levels, when tighter controls and cleaner presentation would give more room for feeling that rush when you narrowly scrape through a sequence your first time. Some of the levels are absolutely better than others and do allow for that, but the less elegant ones drag the whole experience down. Other stupid-hard games like Meat Boy, Limbo, and Trials have made the trial-and-error thing fun with faster respawns and better checkpointing, so as much as I enjoyed the first Splosion Man, it was disappointing to feel like the sequel doesn't live up to the current standards for this kind of game, especially since the spirit of this franchise (and all of Twisted Pixel's games) is so lovable.

Please make the hurting stop.

That absurdist spirit is alive in Ms. Splosion Man. It's a little ironic that the surreal ending of the first game--born as it was out of the necessity of limited time and resources--was seemingly the flashpoint that led Twisted Pixel into its bizarre embrace of both full-motion video and balls-out insanity, but here we are. This game lets you spend an in-game currency on some wonderfully cheesy music videos, green-screen outtakes, and other production trinkets, and I also think it's neat that you can just straight-up buy the Xbox-specific gamer pics and avatar awards with the same currency in that store. Things are even more ludicrous in-game, where your character constantly spouts girly '90s pop lyrics from the likes of En Vogue and Ace of Base, and there's yet another Total Recall-related non sequitur to be had. The all-video ending, of course, is as stupidly great as you would hope, and the unexpected format of the last boss fight nearly rescues the entire game from its faults. Though, it's probably telling that it was such a relief to find out that fight doesn't play anything like the rest of the game.

Ms. Splosion Man requires a saintly degree of patience to properly enjoy, but if you can muster it in your heart to forgive the rough spots, there's plenty more tough-as-nails platforming to be had here (an enormous amount for the $10 asking price, really). I love what Twisted Pixel does--in some ways, there's no other developer doing it exactly the same way right now--but as much as I also love beards, games like this make me wish they'd focus a little more on producing things that are more fun to actually play.

Brad Shoemaker on Google+
140 Comments
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Posted by l4wd0g

Thanks for the review.

Posted by PrintedCrayon

Not too surprising.

Posted by Masha2932

I really loved the first game and this seems like a worthy sequel with a reasonable price to boot. Off to Xbox live.

Posted by DocWattson

This review surprises me after Brad and Vinny seemed to have so much fun during the quick look and Vinny basically said "Buy this game!"

Posted by zombie2011

For $10 this is a great value, now i just need a new Trials HD game.

Posted by Brackynews

But how is the pinball table?

Posted by RecSpec

Pretty much what I expected after listening to the Bombcast.

Posted by ShadowFire01

Wait a minute, you actually consider Limbo to be "stupid-hard"?

Posted by honeycut1

I plan on picking it up at some point.

Posted by JoeyRavn

Wow. This catches me completely off-guard. I was sure that Brad loved this game after watching the Quick Look. It seemed to have improved in everything the original did, be it good or bad.

Edited by supercubedude

@ShadowFire01 said:

Wait a minute, you actually consider Limbo to be "stupid-hard"?

Yeah, mentioning that in the same breath as Meat Boy and Trials seems... off.

Posted by Lorbst
@ShadowFire01:  Yeah, thats weird... Limbo was more clever-hard than the contrary... I like MsPlosion man so far. Whatcha gonna tell your dad, it's like a wheel of fortune! Boh! ... Ace of base screwed me up yo!
Posted by BaconGames

Surprised given the quick look but not surprising given the Bombcast.

I could understand the 3-stars if Brad really emphasized the checkpointing issue (which is a make or break for me) but he doesn't seem to elaborate too much and how it compares to the first game. At least I got the impression that Vinny thought the first game's checkpointing wasn't generous either so I don't buy all of Brad's qualifications that this game is slight worse/harder than the first game.

If Comic Jumper got 4-stars on this site I'm calling shenanigans on this unless the checkpointing is that bad (and/or unchanged from the last game).

Posted by Soffish

Hmmm...seems like Brad is definitely in the minority when it comes to his opinion about this game. Hell, Ms. 'splosion man currently has a better metacritic rating than Super meat boy.

Posted by rjayb89

I bought this before the review. It's better than the Comic Jumper. THE Comic Jumper.

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Posted by GilbertMordinAndSullivan

I've bought this game, and I have to say I disagree largely with Brad's review. The variety and the challenge of the levels have been markedly increased, and I'd argue they're simply more fun to play than the original set. I understand his frustration with the check-pointing, but in all honesty, you're never repeating more than the equivalent of a level from Super Meat Boy, so I don't really have a problem with it. I'm adoring this game, and while I doubt it will change the minds of people who hated the first one, I still think it's a big step up in quality.

Edited by Lorbst
@Tuffgong: Shenanigans! Eventhough I didn't play the first one... splman
Edited by Aishan
@JoeyRavn: It's probably just that the game is unrepentantly difficult, even compared to the original.  Some of the later levels -- especially the optional red ones and hidden yellow ones -- are insane, requiring split-second reactions combined with long stretches without a checkpoint.
 
Myself, I love this sort of thing. I'm one of the few people on the site was who masochistic enough to get the Hardcore achievement in the original, and will be attempting the same again for Ms, but it's easy to see how people could get put off by the difficulty in the sequel.
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Posted by Cincaid

I wouldn't want to be Brad for all the shoes in the world right now with the inbounding shitstorm that's about to hit in the comments.
 
Good review though Brad!

Posted by Lorbst

En Voque and DKC barrels are definitely worth 400 msp's and the bow and the beard easily makes up for the last 400... This game is pretty cool... I give it 3.99999999993 stars,,,,

Edited by Hot_Karl

I disagree with his points- overall, I feel like the checkpoints & level design are better than in the original game, and the boss fights are less frustratingly hard (and actually fun to play). But the review itself is fine work, so good job Brad! 
 
(But if you like Splosion Man, you should still buy Ms. Splosion Man w/o much hesitation).

Posted by Brad

@Tuffgong said:

If Comic Jumper got 4-stars on this site I'm calling shenanigans on this unless the checkpointing is that bad (and/or unchanged from the last game).

I didn't review Comic Jumper, so that point is irrelevant out of the gate.

Staff
Posted by Xpgamer7

Although I expected the issues, I didn't expect the review score to be three stars.

Edited by Lorbst
@Brad: That's what i love about this site; completely biased and personal reviews! Keep up the good work! =) 
Edited by TheKing

Was on the fence all day about buying this, think I'll pass and put the 10 bucks towards Bastion.

Edited by beard_of_zeus

I'm surprised to see Brad liking this one less than the original, maybe he's just all 'sploded out.

The new mechanics are cool (the infinite 'sploding walls are probably my favorite), and I think the level design is even more varied in this game. There do seem to be more instances of little self-contained puzzle rooms in lieu of constant run-like-hell platforming, maybe that's why Brad is feeling less of a sense of speed. Ms. Splosion Man doesn't seem to move any differently from regular old Splosion Man or anything like that, so I doubt that's the cause.

Basically, if you liked the first game, I feel like you'll love this one, especially with the slight improvements in various areas. If you weren't so keen on the original, this probably won't do anything for you. Honestly, I think the 'Splosion Man games are hands-down Twisted Pixel's most fun games to actually play.

Posted by PrioritySeven

@TheKing said:

Was on the fence all day about buying this, think I'll pass and put the 10 bucks towards Bastion.

Yeah, I liked the first 'splosion man but Bastion has had my interests peaked for a while now.

Posted by TheGreatGuero

Limbo qualifies as a stupid-hard game? Really? Oh, Brad....

Posted by neoepoch

@supercubedude said:

@ShadowFire01 said:

Wait a minute, you actually consider Limbo to be "stupid-hard"?

Yeah, mentioning that in the same breath as Meat Boy and Trials seems... off.

He considered, inFamous 2 to be hard at points, which inFamous 2 is a lot of things, hard it is not.

Posted by Yoda

Facepalm. Bad Review imo

Posted by BaconGames

@Brad: I disagree. This isn't bradhoemaker.com, it's GiantBomb and to a certain degree reviews and opinions of a game by a specific reviewer reflects on the site as a whole. Of course this opens up the can of worms of "if this person had reviewed it" but my point was that previously I had received information from this site's editorial staff that led me to believe Ms. Splosion Man was the better playing game than Comic Jumper but somehow here this game gets a lower score. Just some cognitive dissonance threw me off is all.

I didn't know "calling shenanigans" was a serious questioning of anything. I actually meant it as a joke or at least playfully. Still I didn't mean to insinuate that your feelings weren't your own and that it should have been something.

Posted by GoldenGlove

Oh boy a review. Guys here is my idea for a review comments thread. What if we take a bunch of things that are 100% subjective, pretend they aren't 100% subjective, and then argue about where they fall on a subjectivity spectrum ranging from 0-99%?

Posted by craigbo180

I can't get down with the Super Meat Boy comparisons, I love Super Meat Boy as well but that is just not what I came in expecting from this game they are two completely different games. Meat Boy has that super fast style and slidey controls because most levels take a minute or less to run through (of course much longer if you take into account all the quick deaths) and the stages are super small, Splosion Man has big expansive stages, more puzzle elements and a focus on there three splode formula to progress instead of infinite wall jumping. Super Meat Boy is similar to Splosion Man in that it's "hard" and it is a platformer, that doesn't mean they should be held up side by side, surely the more apt comparison would be to compare it to the original game. It's fair enough to compare games in the same genre but I just think you have latched on to Super Meat Boy a little hard, I can't say it would have made a difference to the review as you talked about how you was not overly fond of the gameplay in the first 'Splosion Man. I guess th gameplay has a marmite quality to it, you love it or hate it. I think if Brad went back and played the original Splosion Man he would not enjoy it as much, this one is probably just more sour to him because he has already put in all that time with the first. Check pointing isn't bad in this game, it is designed to be tough, the check points are long enough to get your heart racing and reflexes going but usually not so bad that you die and go "well fuck this". It has that one more go factor.
 
I am picked the game up day one and have played through the first world and a couple of levels in the second, I will probably write a user review on this one as soon as I have done and have played a decent amount of multiplayer.

Posted by bybeach

Good review Brad. I caught the bit about the barrells and uneven level quality. Even though I did not finish S'plosion Man, I may still buy this game. I like the culture of it I saw in the QL, parody and not or other. What I once again object to is GB's numerical scoring, but I do not blame Brad for this, or rather I would say I've had the same objection for 2 other reviewers/reviews within the past few weeks alone. It is a problem I feel with the system really.

Posted by tourgen

sounds like a pretty fair review to me. bad level design can really drag down a platformer. the first had some camera issues too, and some really chunky refresh rates during some of the zoomed-out areas. If those issues are still around 3 stars is about all it can hope for.

Posted by MKSKILLZ16

Totally agree with the last sentence of his review in which he states: "...but as much as I also love beards, games like this make me wish they'd focus a little more on producing things that are more fun to actually play". This was the exact same situation with Comic Jumper.

Edited by rjayb89

I haven't read this review, nor will, because I think this game is nothing special and I don't need someone to tell me shit. And the checkpoints are still pretty poopy. And sometimes, I lose track of where I am which is also poopy.

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Posted by Getz

This game definitely has not kept up with the times, and it often feels rooted in archaic game design to me. Often-times, you'll find yourself having to replay incredibly large chunks of the level should you mess up, especially if you're going after the shoes. I don't want to have to slog through an obstacle again once I've mastered it; I want to move on to the next challenge. The game has terrible flow, but when it's on it's ON. Flying through the levels, hopping from grind-rails to barrels to flying cars is harrowing and awesome when you're playing well.

Posted by TurboMan

Haven't played this game, but the quick look made it look super fun in my opinion.

Posted by Twinblade

wow, i wasn't expecting this at all. i've been playing the game all day and i love it.

Edited by aceofspudz

@Tuffgong said:

@Brad: I disagree. This isn't bradhoemaker.com, it's GiantBomb and to a certain degree reviews and opinions of a game by a specific reviewer reflects on the site as a whole.

I disagree with your disagreement! On Giantbomb 'bylines matter' and that is a real editorial policy of this site and not something you made up because you liked the sound of it.

Edit: For clarification, if it becomes clear that a review contains factual inaccuracies, that reflects poorly on giantbomb. To the extent the review contains Brad Shoemaker's opinion, that is working as intended.

Posted by Peanut

Honestly don't get how this can be compared to Meat Boy. Meat Boy is entirely about no-frills pixel-specific platforming through deviously designed, microscopically short levels. Splosion Man and Ms. Splosion Man are about absolutely NONE of those things. 
 
However, the comparison to Limbo is even more ridiculous, especially if you're going to count the character movement/speed in Ms. Splosion Man as a minus when the kid from Limbo controls like he's waist deep in mud. And Limbo is hard? Really? I guess after having watched Brad fillet himself for 10 minutes in the Ms.SM QL and then beating the same area myself in a single try kinda puts that in perspective at the least. 

Posted by chilibean_3

LOLBRAD

Edited by Tuggah

Well, since the last platformer I played was 'Splosion Man, it won't feel dated at all. Totally getting this.

Posted by 234r2we232

Comic Jumper offended me pretty badly. I'm not surprised this game is remotely under-whelming. Go watch the videos on YouTube and save yourself the regret.

Posted by Ronald

Three stars does not mean this is a bad game. To the contrary it means the game is good. It's just nothing special. And having played through the first world I have to agree. The loading screen, while cool, get tedious after a while. The checkpointing is rough as you might have to replay a minute long platforming section again and again. And the game is harder than Splosion Man, but not in a fun way, just in a more frustrating "let's add this impossibly tight platforming section" to a game where you don't have much control of the character. But everything else is awesome. The character of Ms Splosion Man is great. The dialogue and movie call backs all work. And the videos are fantastic.

Edited by BaconGames

@aceofspudz said:

@Tuffgong said:

@Brad: I disagree. This isn't bradhoemaker.com, it's GiantBomb and to a certain degree reviews and opinions of a game by a specific reviewer reflects on the site as a whole.

I disagree with your disagreement! On Giantbomb 'bylines matter' and that is a real editorial policy of this site and not something you made up because you liked the sound of it.

What? That goes for any review site of any kind. The score of the site is what GB officially says is the quality of the game according the Brad Shoemaker. That wording is important because it's both officially GB's opinion but it's ultimately Brad's opinion. Reviews wouldn't happen if they didn't hold weight and this review's weight isn't just based on the fact that it was written by Brad but also that it's the main thing on GB right now. I'm not disagreeing that bylines matter and that reviews should be understood from the reviewer's experience. Just that as GB's official review it has a bit of precedence over the opinions of everyone else.

I can't believe I'm involved in this discussion (which is ultimately tangential). IMO I was left more confused than informed from this review only because it didn't seem to click with what I had thought of Ms. Splosion Man from the QL and some parts of the Bombcast (and Vinny). So there ya go. Mystery solved.

Posted by MormonWarrior

Gotta say, I HATED playing the first one. It was a garbage game with mostly really lame humor (except for donuts and that amazing closing credits sequence). It controlled poorly, was full of badly designed levels, and was ugly. That's all.
 
This one frankly looks better, mostly in aesthetics. I totally don't want to play it though, considering how much I loathe the first one. I think you're crazy, Brad!

Posted by project343

They do wonderful things, but need a hefty amount of QA and maybe a producer or two to guide them.

Posted by Guided_By_Tigers

I guess limbo would be "stupid hard" for Brad considering he is below average at video games.

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