Giant Bomb Review

40 Comments

'Splosion Man Review

4

This loony, breakneck, tough-as-nails 2D platformer is a great way to kick off the Summer of Arcade and totally worth your $10.


I am Man, see me 'Splode. 
'Splosion Man is such a demandingly fast-paced and sometimes maddeningly difficult action game that I can't decide if I should praise the developers at Twisted Pixel for creating this throwback to the days when all games were that way--or despise them for the abuse I've suffered at their hands. But looking back on this lengthy 2D platformer, I'll lean toward praise, because 'Splosion Man is every bit as satisfying, fun, and charmingly oddball as it is grueling to complete.

In 'Splosion Man you're some kind of science experiment gone wrong, a walking, quipping fireball who, well, 'splodes every chance he gets. You explode to jump, explode to attack, explode to do just about everything. Exploding lets you kill robotic enemies and innocuous but no doubt nefarious lab-coated scientists; bust through obstacles and throw switches and levers; and bounce off of ubiquitous barrels and explosive toxic waste to catch huge amounts of air. It's the one and only way you do everything in the game, making this a pretty simple game to play (but, as the saying goes, a hard one to master).

The 50 or so levels of the single-player game in 'Splosion Man are all set up like elaborate, breakneck puzzles that demand split-second precision as you navigate increasingly--and after a while, insanely--complex combinations of wall jumps, triple jumps, moving platforms, lethal laser barriers, conveyor belts, rising flood waters, crushing spiked pistons, pursuing giant robots... all flying at you, or you at them, at a thousand miles an hour. (If reading about the action seems tiring, you should try playing it.)

Seriously, this is only the beginning.
And if you're going to play 'Splosion Man, prepare to be frustrated. There is zero margin for error in each precisely plotted action sequence. The game expects you to hit your marks without fail, forcing you to always be ready to jump at exactly the right time and often react to obstacles and challenges almost before you can see them, much less prepare for them. Some sections simply require rote repetition and memorization before you can pass them; there were a few parts I must have tried two or three dozen times before completing. But only one sequence in one level of the entire game felt truly cheap; the rest were just a matter of practice and timing. As any fan of old '80s arcade and home action games knows, mastering that style of gameplay can be quite satisfying in its own right. Just ask Billy Mitchell.

I can't fault Twisted Pixel for this sort of unforgiving design. The game gets a pass, barely, because it mitigates the frustration level by doing everything it can, short of actually lightening the challenge itself. You have unlimited lives, and you hit a checkpoint between every puzzle or action sequence. When you die, you respawn at the last checkpoint instantly, with no loading time. The little scorch-mark textures you leave behind when you wall-jump even remain when you die and respawn, as if to preserve cues for you to remember precisely the right--and wrong--places to jump.

The single-player in 'Splosion Man is so intensely focused on speed and timing, you wouldn't expect it to translate well into a multiplayer mode, but it does. The game has a completely different set of multiplayer levels for up to four different-colored 'Splosion Men to get in on simultaneously, and the co-op works because the level design here is less about navigating split-second traps and more about methodical puzzles that make all the players work together. (Some of the puzzles even tailor themselves to the number of players in the game.) There are a couple of ingenious additions to the co-op that really tie it together: two players can explode off of each other in midair to get a big jump, and anyone can initiate a color-coded onscreen 3-2-1 countdown that makes it startlingly easy for you to communicate your intentions and time your jumps. I managed to get through several levels with a couple of other players without even using voice chat, which is an impressive feat when you think about it.

Brace for frustration. 
Humor is the real ace up 'Splosion Man's sleeve, and anyone who played Twisted Pixel's last effort The Maw will know the sort of lovable lunacy to expect here, from the ridiculous, madcap soundtrack to the silly poses and inexplicable Arnold Schwarzenegger quotes that come out of 'Splosion Man himself. The scientists burst into little steaks and sausages when you fry them. There's an achievement for changing your controls (bearing in mind that every button does the same thing). It really is a funny game. And the ending--which I would commit a huge offense in describing to you in this review--is so far off the deep end it might go down as one of the most memorable ever. The ending, and all the goofy bits before it, are worth slogging through the occasional frustration for.

That's 'Splosion Man in a nutshell: just fun enough and charming enough to make it worth gritting your teeth through all the tough spots. It's a great second effort from Twisted Pixel, and a tidy little value for the money.
40 Comments
Posted by N3onThr33

Yay!

Posted by Undeadpool

How big is the bada-boom?

Posted by copycatzen

1st??

Posted by copycatzen

3rd damm!!

Posted by JJOR64

I really want to get this game.  I enjoyed the trial version.

Posted by Alphazero

I want to play it, but I know I'll hate myself in the morning. It's Mega Man 9 all over again. Knowing it has some awesome, mind blowing ending just makes it worse. Gah!

Posted by Sunjammer

Considering what a cakewalk their last game was (honestly, was there any challenge at ALL to The Maw?) i'm happy them folks show some teeth.

Posted by Angularbanjo

I love how he says "we're done, professionally" when exploding scientists. Totally manic character.

Posted by TheMasterDS

Great review, exactly my impression of the game, though I was having multiplayer issues with lag and the lobby system that pretty much broke the multiplayer, though I had a lot of fun with it regardless.

Posted by Crono

Wow this review has me second guessing the demo.  Needless to say the demo did not impress me with any great gameplay or difficulty and gave me the impression this is a game for kids.  But if it is as 80's difficult as you say, Brad, then I may yet still give it a chance.

Anyway, excellent review - it took me from feeling like 'Splosion Man was just another platformer to a game that I may not want to miss.

Posted by Babble
@Sunjammer said:
" Considering what a cakewalk their last game was (honestly, was there any challenge at ALL to The Maw?) i'm happy them folks show some teeth. "
I don't think The Maw was really meant to be a challenge, it was more about the experience you had while playing it, not the difficulty to complete it.
Posted by spiceninja

Since Turtles in Time was repriced to 800 points I'll be getting it along with 'Splosion Man.

Posted by coffeesash

Have they fixed the loading screen from the demo? It really really makes me ill :(

Posted by jakob187

Great review and spot on about the details of it.  There are DEFINITELY from frustrating parts, and I'm glad to hear that I wasn't the only one who faced them.  lol

Posted by WinterSnowblind

I didn't find any parts of the game frustrating, even on multiplayer.
Challenging, yes, but never impossible to do, controller out the window challenging.

Posted by Terjay

What? The demo was pretty much "walk towards the end and press some buttons"-gameplay.

Posted by Muttinus_Rump
@Terjay said:
" What? The demo was pretty much "walk towards the end and press some buttons"-gameplay. "
What game isn't that?
Posted by KillaMaStA

I cant play hard platformers, they just murder me.

Posted by Rmack
@Alphazero: Nah, it's not on the Mega Man 9 level of unholiness, trust me. Think of it as something more like Earthworm Jim.
Posted by WinterSnowblind

If you haven't decided if you should buy the game or not..  Watch this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QC1LnXATJ_c

Posted by Metroid545

I'm surprised you didn't get any weird glitches with the xplosive waste. Maybe its because I play on hardcore but sometimes rather than shooting me anywhere i get stuck in the same place and since its in the xplosion sequece I can't do anything to get out. Also I have been blasted to the exit so hard on a couple of occasions that I have ended up inside the wall behind the exit

Posted by Kirbutashi

I'm surprised Brad didn't have trouble with the online. I've had absolutely no luck getting multiplayer to go for more than two levels without some terrible desyncing ruining it for everyone. Everyone in my circle of friends has had the same issue, and for any one of them that lacks access to local coop the game has gone flat on them in that regard.


Its a real shame, since playing locally enabled me to get to see how crazy all 3 worlds of multiplayer get.
Posted by Kohe321

Great review! I'm getting this.

Posted by Mouth
@Rmack said:
"@Alphazero: Nah, it's not on the Mega Man 9 level of unholiness, trust me. Think of it as something more like Earthworm Jim."

Then I might as well get this when possible.
Posted by Brad
@Crono: The level designs get straight up insane in the second half of the game. There's some really challenging stuff in there... look up some levels from world 3 on Youtube.
Staff
Posted by Media_Master

I wonder where the Maw is...

Posted by killdave

I totally agree with your review. Although I havent bought it since my mate has it and its most fun when playing multiplayer

Posted by eXists

Disagree with the final verdict but totally agree with FRUSTRATING and I would add NOT worth the frustration...

Posted by LausDomini

This review is right on the money.  A great game, but oh so frustrating at times!  And as someone who goes after every achievement, the presence of Hardcore mode makes me want to cry.

Posted by JazzyJeff

It's not as tough as some people are making it out to be. There are difficult parts, but it's not insane or anything. Greeaaat game, though. Especially for the money.

Posted by MaddProdigy

Nice review, I've been waiting for this game/yo review to see if i was gonna buy it, looks like a yes

Posted by raynate2022

'Splosion Man was one of the best times I've ever had on XBLA. The levels are very challenging at times, but the humor keeps such a steady pace that you never get too frustrated. And everytime I hear "Everybody loves doughnuts" I can't help but burst into laughter. The co-op is also amazing as it is an entirely separate campaign where they force you to use teamwork to clear the level. The only thing is that they seemto be having server issues with online play, as the latency is really rough. 10/10 for me. Twsited Pixel is on their way to being a very popular developer for XBLA.

Posted by cyrax

Hopefully the port to PC won't be far off.

Posted by TheMasterDS
@Terjay said:
" What? The demo was pretty much "walk towards the end and press some buttons"-gameplay. "
Yeah, I got that impression from the first few levels in the quick look, but really it really picks up after 20, 30 levels. The best ones were the ones that were more open ended, like 1-11, where you were given a loose grid of random tetris block like platforms, 3 lazer spaming enemies flying around, and more than enough ways to get through it alive.
Posted by Whisperkill

It is frustrating, but not super difficult, checkpoints are forgiving and all it takes is a little trial and error.

Posted by ShadowKing7

So is this game only for Xbox Live Arcade?  I wanna try this game out but I don't have a 360.

Posted by SkinnyBlue

 Everyone needs to buy this game, it's so much fun. Hard at times, but worth it.

Posted by RHCPfan24

I should get this. I am loving the style and the difficulty should be a welcome challenge.

Posted by bybeach

i`m loving this game. what impresses me much is Brad`s description of the co-op/or multiplayer. Hard work to design a game to do so many different things. Even though I`l never do it, I`m impressed. S.P. rocks!

Thanks for your review,.

Posted by demontium

I guess I will pick it up once I have some cash.