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 left4doof

I like it a lot  so far but valid opinion nonetheless .

Posted by emem

Informative review.

If I had a 360 I would definitely get it, I really enjoyed the QL.

Posted by dropabombonit

Good review Brad. I will get leave the obvious Brad pulling a Brad is why he didn't rate it higher comment

Posted by Sammo21

Not that a numerical value of any kind ultimately matters compared to what is written, I personally would rate this game much higher.

Edited by handlas

I agree with the "complainers." Game has been fun so far, but I haven't played much so maybe it will suddenly get sh*tty. Not a surprising score tho after the quicklook....he seemed to be frustrated by the game every time he messed up. 
 
Never played the first Splosion Man tho.

Posted by Klei

I don't agree with Brad on this one.
Posted by chilibean_3

@Nayson: I wish I could find a clip for you but my quick search didn't bring it up and I gave up. It's from the movie Wayne's World. They are interviewing an arcade owner and making fun of him throughout the interview without him realizing it.

Posted by Grimmy616

I bought the game on faith alone and I love it. From what I remember it is harder than Splosion Man but between rage fits I'm really having fun with the game. Brad was kinda eh on it and that's his choice. So yay America!

Posted by atomic_dumpling
@TheSpartanDon said:

@Jonny7892 said:

I think I'm going to give up reading review comments. There seems to be a few more people saying I disagree and here's why and that's great but then there is 10 times as many people insulting Brad personally and professionally because they don't agree. Grow the fuck up. Yeah the review seems a tad harsh however I think Brad perfectly backs up his review. In essence he is saying that he does not enjoy the platforming in a platformer however the peripheral features and atmosphere save the game therefore 3 stars.

Took the words out of my mouth.

Don't know why people take the opinion of a reviewer so seriously that they need to go out of their way to tell the reviewer how to do their own job.

They should simply disable review comments - problem solved. No good has ever come out of them.
Posted by Guided_By_Tigers

Brad killed this games metacritic score. haha

Posted by mrcraggle

@pepsimaxofborg said:

"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."

Spot on, Brad!

While I have yet to play this, I feel the same. I enjoyed the original 'Splosion Man and even though I didn't complete it, I had fun with it and I loved everything about Comic Jumper apart from actually playing it.

Posted by depecheload

@Undeadpool: @Undeadpool said:

Jeff gives Comic Jumper 4 stars and people bitch.

Brad gives Ms. Splosion Man 3 stars and people bitch.

I'm pretty sure some people just really, really enjoy complaining.

Yup. Welcome to the Internet.

Furthermore, welcome to game sites where people who don't actually accomplish anything in their lives seem to get off be slamming everything and everyone around them.

Posted by DrMcKittrick

Sorry Brad, you lost credibility when you put this game in the same context as LIMBO and Trials. That and I believe you're just getting lazy.

Posted by Dylabaloo

This game has failed to grab in the way Splosion man did, gotta agree Brad on this one.

Posted by lockwoodx

Brad sounds like he reviewed a game from 1994.

Posted by Boogey131

@Tuffgong: Comic Jumper was reviewed by Jeff so how it's relevant to Brads review of Ms. Splosion Man I don't see. In fact, even had Brad reviewed Comic Jumper and gave it a higher score, it's a fools errand to sit and quantify scores, read the damn text and you'll get all the information you need, scores are a summation of the reviewers experience but shouldn't be the focal point of a review.

I'm not even done on World 1 and can already feel a degradation in level design. Splosion Man got frustrating towards the end but there remained a certain flow to the levels that isn't apparent in Ms. Splosion Man so far. There's too many parts where the propulsion is stopped as you wait on a platform/barrel getting to the correct spot and if it teeters over just a little bit, you need to do it over again, which, if you die can be a bummer due to the check-pointing. In a game like Portal where the gameplay supports analysing a level and working out the tricks to get through it, that style of puzzle is fine but in a fast-paced puzzle-platfomer it just drags the momentum to a halt. I hope as time goes on there'll be more levels where most of the time in it is spent in motion and precision in movement gets you through the level instead of patience and frustratingly slow moving platforms.

Posted by Boogey131

@Tuffgong: Had I realised so many other users were taking you to task for your original post, I wouldn't have bothered. Sorry buddy. I should also add the next paragraph is not directed at you.

I generally stay away from review comments because there are so many twisted points of view on what a review is supposed to be. Too many people just fail to understand a review is done by one person and is from their biased perspective. Bias gets thrown around a lot as a negative word in games journalism(specifically review sections) but without bias there is no point of view to compare with your own and the score at the end means absolutely nothing. I come to GiantBomb not to have my opinions/sentiments echoed but because I have a basic understanding of the guys who run this site and so when they review a game I can look at what they have written and extract the main points of contention, compare them with my own ideas of what makes a game fun and from there judge if it's worth me spending my own money.

Basically what I'm saying is, I'll not return to the comments section of a review cause for every person who understands and is able to form their own opinion based on the review(er) there are 100 idiots who don't "get" game reviews.

Posted by iAmJohn

Great review, Brad, but I completely disagree.

Posted by natetodamax

Sometimes (well, every time), I wish some people would just say "I respectfully disagree" instead of attacking Brad's integrity and questioning his ability to do his job.

They should just disable review comments.

Posted by zombie007
@natetodamax said:

Sometimes (well, every time), I wish some people would just say "I respectfully disagree" instead of attacking Brad's integrity and questioning his ability to do his job.

They should just disable review comments.

Why? Just like brad is entitled to his (wrong) opinion people are entitled to their own. I don't see why you would support one and dismiss the other, just because it's Brad. If you don't want any kind of dialogue between the site and its readers you might as well don't visit it.
 
I feel some people are (accurately) calling out Brad for expecting the game to be Super Meat Boy, and he is missing the mark by quite a stretch. I think that is an unfair comparison, and so do others, so we are calling brad out on that. Nothing wrong if he disliked the game, but on what basis he did. Some people do go to far I will give you that.
Posted by Elazul

Wait, Ms Splosion Mas has a bow on her head? GET RIGHT OUTTA TOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWN!!!!!!

Posted by kzaju

Limbo a super hard game? Must have been playing different game then .. .

Posted by EeTMeeL

Are there no fact checkers at Giant Bomb?  Is there no journalistic integrity?  This review with swamped with inaccuracy and omission.  How can you reveiw this game without mentioning "2 girls, 1 controller" or, arguably the best part of the game, the co-operative multiplayer?

Edited by gosukiller
@EeTMeeL said:

Are there no fact checkers at Giant Bomb?  Is there no journalistic integrity?  This review with swamped with inaccuracy and omission.  How can you reveiw this game without mentioning "2 girls, 1 controller" or, arguably the best part of the game, the co-operative multiplayer?


Yeah it's really weird he only mentions the multiplayer in a passing sentence, no judgement on the quality or anything. They showed the normal coop in the Quick Look but it would be nice if he spend a portion of the review on multiplayer.
 
Also, calling Limbo a stupid-hard game is kinda weird. Sure, it's challenging, but not in the league of Trials or Meatboy. 
Posted by mnzy

The best part of Splosion Man for me was the 4 player (online) co-op. There is nothing about that part in this review...

Posted by ez123

I just got done with World 1, awesome levels and no camera problems. The checkpointing is good, I wouldn't complain if there were more, the game would just be a lot easier.  Either way, the levels are great so far.
 
I'm bummed that people are hopping into the Twisted Pixel can't do good gameplay bandwagon. This game isn't Comic Jumper, you can not like it but that's just it, it's something you don't like, not something they aren't doing well.

Posted by Brad

@Tuffgong said:

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.

To further demystify, we recorded the QL last week when I was only a third of the way through the game, while the review was naturally written after I finished it. That's why the QL isn't embedded in the review. No great conspiracy here.

Staff
Posted by Deathpooky

I think I'd agree with your assessment Brad. As much as I want to like this game, after playing something like Meat Boy, it's hard to get behind it in the same way. I played Meat Boy obsessively for weeks completing everything despite how hard it was because of how well it was constructed. I played Splosion Man over the course of a year because it was too frustrating to play through in long sittings. To the extent that Ms. Splosion Man has the same problems, I can see why someone coming off of a Meat Boy high would say this doesn't measure up.

Note that's judging it as a platformer alone. The Beard brand of insanity makes it far easier to be completely fine with buying it. Hell, I bought Comic Jumper and liked it and that game was fucking terrible in the gameplay department.

Posted by uglybob

think ill wait until its on sale

Posted by Eyz

Seems like an equally fun new installment!

Posted by jonnyboy

I agree Brad, the amount of guesswork every time you reach a new are or fly off screen is ridiculous. 'Splosion man is my most beloved XBLA games, and it was hard but fair. This game however, there have been countless times after I've died I found myself saying "How the hell was I supposed to see that?!"

Posted by TheLeamenator

I disagree with the three stars. Add another star to that, then I'll agree. Brad's complaint for the game's difficulty is his own fault. This game is better than the original Splosion Man. Not worse.

Posted by Kartana
@Yoda said:
Facepalm. Bad Review imo
This. Lol!
Edited by DeadPan

So we have now resorted to inulting Bad because we disagree with him?

Some of you "people" are fucking nonsense. Im going to go search opinion on google for you so you understand it.....

Posted by gosukiller
@DeadPan said:

So we have now resorted to inulting Bad because we disagree with him?

Some of you "people" are fucking nonsense. Im going to go search opinion on google for you so you understand it.....

I've seen Brad called many things, but that's just plain mean.
Posted by BuzzBR

What do you mean, "you people"?
Posted by Earthborn

Wish the review covered a bit more of the multi. Brad's opinion is still legitimate, even if some people don't think so. (Their points are moot.) Calling out the review's quality is fine, but be constructive, people. Comparing the game to Super Meat Boy is a good way to approach a review. SMB is amazing. The Limbo comparison, as others have noted, is a bit confusing. This sentence bothers me: 
 
"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 used to pay 50 dollars for games like Kid Chameleon, where you had only 3 lives and you had to go through 100 levels without any saves. I know Brad remembers those days, so give him some credit; but maybe he's right, and the game doesn't play to the nostalgia factor in that way. Nostalgia maybe for the first 'Splosion Man, but not for earlier platformers.

Posted by therealminime

After playing a ton of this game, I agree with Brad. I personally loved the first one, but there are a bunch of little things, like being unable to see the character, or levels involving lots of the new game mechanics, that add up to make it feel a bit sloppier then the original. I still like the game, but I think 2 levels a day is about all I can handle, as it gets frustrating a lot faster the the original did. But it does have a very enjoyable sense of humour.

Posted by pickassoreborn

Interesting that people are mentioning both the review and the Quick Look - I think that's the key. Quick Looks are great for seeing the game "as is" - no filtering, editing and romancing. It's as real as real can be. People decide to get the game based on a QL and that's cool. Brad's review is his opinion - you may not agree with it, but if you don't and and you loved the QL, grab the game and take the review with a pinch of salt.

Posted by Roger778

I tried the demo for this game, and enjoyed it for what it was worth.  I loved how wonderfully cartoonish the graphics were, and the voice acting for the lead alien creature was hilarious..  But the first boss fight was more punishing than I was expecting, so I don't think it's for me.  I did persevere though, and didn't give up.