Giant Bomb Review

140 Comments

Ms. Splosion Man Review

3
  • XBGS

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

Dude! I love science!
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.
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.
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 CommentsRefresh

Avatar image for coldplay619
Posted By Coldplay619

Boooooooooo. Boo Brad, booooo.

Avatar image for endurancefun
Posted By EnduranceFun

Comparing to Limbo or Meat Boy is stupid. Comparing Limbo to Meat Boy is also stupid. They're nothing alike, except in that they're platformers, so trying to compare them objectively is nigh impossible. I would say that Splosion Man is to Meat Boy what Sonic is to Mario - frantic, fast gameplay over long stretches broken up by puzzles, versus more thoughtful, difficult shorter levels. Too different and totally mad to start making massive judgements on.

Avatar image for thepickle
Posted By ThePickle

Lost big on ICI. Will still buy it though.

Avatar image for sogeman
Posted By Sogeman

I love it and it's definitely better than the first one. Comparing it to Super Meat Boy is just stupid.
 
PS: Stop mentioning Limbo everywhere, it's not good

Avatar image for paulithon
Posted By paulithon

Brad is totally entitled to his opinion and if thats the experience he had then fine. 
 
But ill just tell everyone to play the trial because this is such an excellent game for me and one of the best so far this year. much improvements over the first game and probably one of my favourite xbla games so far

Avatar image for zombie007
Edited By zombie007
@SpaceInsomniac said:

He gave both Limbo and LA Noire five stars, and those are two of the most overrated games I've EVER played. 

 
Brad is easily impressed by certain presentation aspects. While Jeff or Ryan might dismiss those if the gameplay doesn't hold up, Brad usually gives a pass to many gameplay shortcomings if he feels wowed by the game's appearance. That much was clear to me when Brad would defend Limbo so much during GOTY deliberations until Jeff brought up that in the gameplay part might not hold up to the standard he was elevating the game to. 

Not so surprising when you clearly see QL after QL how he is defeated by the simplest of puzzles or mechanics, but never runs out of praises for some graphical/presentation flair a game might have.
Avatar image for rasgueado
Posted By Rasgueado

@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.

Yes... apparently so.

Avatar image for spaceinsomniac
Edited By SpaceInsomniac

At this point, I have absolutely no confidence in Brad's reviews.  That's not a slam at him*, it's more that we seem to completely disagree so frequently.  He gave both Limbo and LA Noire five stars, and those are two of the most overrated games I've EVER played. 
  
Anyhow, play the trial and read some other reviews.  Don't let this review turn you away from a great game.
 
* Except that it IS a slam at him, because I have much better taste.  :P

Avatar image for underskorr
Edited By UnderSkorr

I just finished the single player a little less than an hour ago and I felt like the game was excellent as a whole. As someone who enjoyed (and is still attempting to complete) Super Meat Boy, I think the two games shouldn't be compared. Ms. Splosion Man and Splosion Man before it have a sort of puzzle element in trying to figure out exactly what needs to be done. 
Despite my disagreement, Brad, this is an excellent review. Well put. 
Can anyone tell me how well the multiplayer plays out? Most reviewers have only skimmed over it.

Avatar image for giantstalker
Posted By Giantstalker

This seems like a fair review based on the Quick Look, which really got bogged down with some kind of... iffy... puzzle designs. Not a fan of that kind of thing especially when it brings the game to a grinding halt.

Avatar image for winternet
Posted By Winternet

GiantBomb keeping it real. Yeah!

Avatar image for triple07
Posted By triple07

Rabble rabble rabble!  
 
But seriously too bad Brad didn't like it as much as I do, I'm currently having a blast playing through it. The weird thing is as much as I usually agree with Brad when it comes to disc-based "full" games, but when it comes to smaller downloadable games I almost always disagree with him. Except of course Shadow Complex which I think I love as much as Brad does.

Avatar image for vitor
Posted By Vitor

@neoepoch said:

@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.

I think he was more going for the -"frequent instant deaths and lack of being able to guess what comes next and need for repetition and memorization as opposed to actual skill based challenge" definition of difficulty, it was just worded poorly. Which is a shame as I felt the rest of the review, whether you agree with it or not, was very well written.

Avatar image for vitor
Posted By Vitor

@Derecto said:

@yindotrunks said:

Man watching Brad struggle through that quick look made me want to scream the solutions at my computer. I understand why he didn't like it based on watching the trouble he had, but I'm sad that this review might discourage even 1 person from getting this great game.

Brad Shoemaker, should do basically what his last name says, SHOE MAKING, horrible review....

Yeah! BRAD GOT TOLD SON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

.... Seriously, that's the levelling of insults we're stooping to? Christ...

As for anyone complaining about the Quick Look vs the full review, he had not yet played through the entire game during that video, so clearly it was not representative of his final view of the game. Evidently he liked it less the more he went on, something that even a 55 minute video would be incapable of showing.

Avatar image for zombie007
Edited By zombie007

No Brad, this is not Super Meat Boy and it doesn't try to be, so why judge it like that? It's got different mechanics and pacing, and purpose. "Difficulty" is not enough of a feature to compare it. It was even more evident when the QL emphazises how wrong an approach you were taking with the game, how much you were struggling with simple mechanics and puzzles and Vinny had to save you from getting stuck more than once. I guess you made up your mind before giving this game a fair chance. Shame.

Avatar image for example1013
Posted By Example1013

I just don't really like that this game is being blamed for having a different control scheme from Super Meat Boy. So it takes longer to get up to speed. You have to adjust to that. My first complaint starting up UC3 beeta was that the controls were really awkward and slow, especially coming out of Call of Duty and SOCOM, where the characters don't lean and stumble all over the place. It was frustrating, but it's something that has to be adjusted for by learning how it works. Not every game can have the same timing or controls.

Other than that, I haven't played this, and I likely won't get to, so I'm not going to say shit besides that.

Avatar image for dynamix
Edited By Dynamix

No Armond White jokes?

Avatar image for stubee
Posted By Stubee

This is the fifth or so game ive felt GB have been harsh to over the past month or two. I swear they used to be a lot more generous with their reviews. (eg, Infamous and Kirbys epic yarn getting 5 stars)

Avatar image for nottle
Posted By Nottle

I'm buying this right now. I could tell from the quick look Brad seemed a little dissapointed at times. (He was stuck on that barrel puzzle for some time and also trying to sell other games in that arcade area doesn't seem like something to roll your eyes at.) and I don't remember Splosion man being comparable to Super meat boy. Splosion man seems like a sonic or Donkey kong game, Super meat boy is like N+
Also comedy needs to be in more games. i'm very greatful for Twisted pixel for making their games charming in that way.

Avatar image for mrangryface
Posted By mrangryface

Read the review, ignore the score. God I hate scoooorez they never make sense.

Avatar image for sizu
Posted By sizu
@Twinblade said:
@yindotrunks: yup, the game currently has a aggregate score of 90 on metacritic, with the lowest review being an 8. Brad is clearly in the minority.
Another example of the site being completely different from the general thoughts of the critics.   I think part of the problem is the limitation of 5 star scoring system.  On Metacritic is is either 20/40/60/80/100.   Not much flexibility.
Avatar image for undeadpool
Posted By Undeadpool

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.

Avatar image for blair
Edited By Blair

People getting mad about a review score? Shocking. Dudes should learn about subjectivity and perspective.

Great review, Brad. Fuck the haters.

Avatar image for arkyris
Posted By Arkyris

Yeah guys, how dare he not enjoy a game! It's not like reviews are subjective to opinions, past experiences, or anything like that. All that enjoyment I had in Brink turned out to be a lie because Jeff gave it 2 stars! I say we march on the GiantBomb office and demand righteous justice!
 
Brad's review was well written and his opinions justified. I am still going to play the crap out of this game, but I now know not to go in and expect twitch based gameplay and to plan my moves ahead of time instead of just reacting. All this complaining is doing is making me wish that GiantBomb didn't use their star system so people would read reviews instead.
Avatar image for derecto
Posted By Derecto
@yindotrunks said:  

Man watching Brad struggle through that quick look made me want to scream the solutions at my computer. I understand why he didn't like it based on watching the trouble he had, but I'm sad that this review might discourage even 1 person from getting this great game.

 
 
Brad Shoemaker, should do basically what his last name says, SHOE MAKING, horrible review....
Avatar image for onekillwonder_
Posted By OneKillWonder_

I don't really understand the criticisms in this review, nor do I see the point in comparing this to somewhat similar games like Super Meat Boy and Limbo, games that this is clearly not intended to be. Ms. Splosion Man has the exact same issues that Splosion Man did, which is to say some poor checkpointing and unclear use of certain mechanics. I'd be lying if I said that the original game didn't piss me the fuck off more than I wanted it to, but despite these issues, it was still a great, fun, and unique platformer. Ms. Splosion Man simply adds new mechanics with much more varied levels, and as far as I'm concerned, steps up the humor quite a bit, making it a better game by default. Still not a perfect game...no, not by a long shot, but a very, very good one nonetheless.

Avatar image for twinblade
Posted By Twinblade
@yindotrunks: yup, the game currently has a aggregate score of 90 on metacritic, with the lowest review being an 8. Brad is clearly in the minority.
Avatar image for ryno9881
Posted By RYNO9881

Go Brad!

Avatar image for little_socrates
Posted By Little_Socrates

The aesthetic in this one is more fleshed-out than the original, so if you found yourself tiring of the original 'Splosion Man due to apathy rather than frustration, you might like Ms. 'Splosion Man quite a bit more. I know I am.

Avatar image for yindotrunks
Edited By yindotrunks

Man watching Brad struggle through that quick look made me want to scream the solutions at my computer. I understand why he didn't like it based on watching the trouble he had, but I'm sad that this review might discourage even 1 person from getting this great game.

Avatar image for meatball
Posted By MEATBALL

I haven't played enough to make a proper judgement yet, but from what I've played so far it feels exactly like Splosion Man but with a bunch of new bells and whistles that make it a better game. Maybe it's just that I'm able to enjoy a game like Super Meat Boy without letting that interfere with my enjoyment of games like Splosion Man, they're both downloadable platformers, but they're both pretty significantly different beasts. I'm not really seeing any issues here that weren't present in the original game (and this game seems to improve on a bunch of the issues I had with the original), and while I can understand the feeling that Super Meat Boy set a higher bar I don't think that makes this as poor a game as it's being made out to be. I guess it's also down to how much you value Twisted Pixel's brand of ridiculousness, all of their games have been relatively rough around the edges, it's the sense of creativity and humour that sends them over the top (well, Comic Jumper was legitimately bad).

Avatar image for bacongames
Edited By bacongames

After all these years on this site I haven't seen a bigger gap between the goodwill impression I got from a QL and the downer feeling I got from the review. Usually adjusting expectations to the QL works out but in this case it did not. This is why even when Brad mentioned iffy gameplay I thought it would work itself out because Comic Jumper was agreed by almost everyone to have iffy gameplay but overall a 4-star quality game (and yes I know Jeff reviewed Comic Jumper.)

After Brad and all the other users who responded picked my comment apart and probably will do so until the topic dies, I also wanted to mention that Brad's review by itself is a fair judgment of the game. Hard to judge relative to the original since I didn't play it but Brad says all the right things that tells me whether or not I want to buy this game.

@KneehighPark said:

Huh, kind of surprised. The Quick Look made it seem like they were gonna give this 4 or 5 stars. Also odd, as they gave Comic Jumper 4 stars......

See! I'm not the only one! Admittedly it's not totally fair to compare them because Jeff reviewed Comic Jumper but I still felt what KneehighPark said. It's not the end of the world even if Jeff and Brad are at most indirectly comparable.

Avatar image for kneehighpark
Posted By KneehighPark

Huh, kind of surprised. The Quick Look made it seem like they were gonna give this 4 or 5 stars. Also odd, as they gave Comic Jumper 4 stars...... 

Avatar image for mrangryface
Edited By mrangryface

There's definitely some pacing issues- and this is brought up in other reviews too. 1Up gave it an A even though it mentioned the parts of the game where the flow is broken kinda sucks. This review seems plenty fair.

That said, still worth 800 points imo. Worse games are jammed down our throats at 1200.

Avatar image for beard_of_zeus
Edited By beard_of_zeus

Did you play any of the multiplayer, by the way? Just curious, I noticed you at least mentioned it. There are some devilishly well-designed levels that require a lot of good timing and teamwork on everyone's part, it's a lot of fun. I've played through all of world 1 so far with three other folks and it was a blast! I thought maybe you might wring a little more enjoyment out of that mode if you hadn't played it much.

Oh, also, the online portion of the multiplayer is actually quite functional this time around! The netcode in original 'Splosion Man was pretty horrendous, lots of lag and such, which is why I never beat the MP in that one.

Avatar image for thoseposers
Posted By Thoseposers

Yeah i agree with@MormonWarrior, I really REALLY hated playing the first one, the reason i love twisted pixel games and already bought ms splosion man is for all the humor crammed in them. I just hope Twisted pixel steps up on game design soon and makes something more entertaining gameplay-wise. Also, yeah this game is not supposed to be anything like meat boy or limbo so i don't understand those criticisms.

Avatar image for wsowen02
Posted By wsowen02

I appreciate your reviews Brad and always have.

Avatar image for bacongames
Edited By bacongames

@Gordy said:

@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).

Comic Jumper was reviewed by Jeff, not Brad. Big difference. Though it is pretty crazy that they had Brad review this.

I knew Jeff reviewed Comic Jumper before I posted my comment. I realize my wording has bitten me in the ass on this one but I wanted to say that previous opinions about both Comic Jumper and Ms. Splosion Man before this review didn't exactly match up with Brad's conclusions the way I saw it. This came off as more harsh than I was led to believe given the previous discussion and how Comic Jumper got a 4-star review. Again I know Jeff reviewed that and they're two different people. This is a rare occasion where an impression from a QL backfired.

Avatar image for joey_ravn
Posted By JoeyRavn

@Tuffgong said:

@Brad: This isn't bradhoemaker.com

It's 4:35 in the morning here and I find the idea of Brad making hoes terribly funny.

Avatar image for gordy
Posted By Gordy

@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).

Comic Jumper was reviewed by Jeff, not Brad. Big difference. Though it is pretty crazy that they had Brad review this.

Avatar image for guided_by_tigers
Posted By Guided_By_Tigers

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

Avatar image for project343
Posted By project343

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

Avatar image for mormonwarrior
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!

Avatar image for bacongames
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.

Avatar image for ronald
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.

Avatar image for 234rqsd2323d2
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.

Avatar image for tuggah
Edited By Tuggah

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

Avatar image for chilibean_3
Posted By chilibean_3

LOLBRAD

Avatar image for peanut
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. 

Avatar image for aceofspudz
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.