Developed by: Twisted Pixel Games
Published by: Microsoft Game Studios
Platforms: Xbox 360
Feeling Like: Out of the frying pan, into the explosion
Compared to Mega Man Unlimited, ‘Splosion Man is a cakewalk. They share some similarities – both are classic 2D Platformers which heavily lean into challenging gameplay that requires precise timing and forethought. They each have devious level design. They’re both “fair” in the sense that the controls are consistent throughout the game and death is almost always your fault. Moving Mr. Explosion Dude is easy, making him explode is easy. Combining the two to ensure you escape the level unscathed is a whole other story.
‘Splosion Man came out at the beginning of the Indie game craze, at least that’s how I see it. The Summer of Arcade was a promotion offered by Microsoft to lure people to the Xbox Live Arcade service, offering a variety of smaller games at bargain prices. Nowadays the Indie market is massive, but this was still pretty early days. The concept of a few people making games instead of a team of hundreds was intriguing. If the concept of a small team was retro, so too was the design – the focus wasn’t on cutting edge graphics, voice acting or massive worlds but quieter games with easy to learn gameplay and a clear artistic vision.
‘Splosion Man is hilarious. The main character is simply a nuclear experiment gone wrong and all he wants to do is a) explode b) explode scientists c) escape the laboratory and not necessarily in that order. He’s a manic, noisy goof and not above casual murder in the least. I wouldn’t say he’s worthy of joining the ranks of classic video game protagonists, but at least he’s unique.
Gameplay is all based on a triple jump, or triple explode. Any of the face buttons will blast your guy in a jumping manner. Each subsequent blast in the air will have diminishing returns. And that’s it. There’s barely any power ups and you don’t get a weapon aside from your ability to blow yourself, others and the environment, up.
It’s all about timing. Some challenges won’t relent unless you explode (and explode, and explode) at the exact right moment. This will often require patience in the air, as you’re flying across the screen at a rapid pace and asked to hit another barrel before you careen into a laser grid. Checkpoints are fair, and there’s very little punishment for death so the game wisely encourages you try over, and over again until you get it right.
The visual variety of the game may not be a strong point, but how you navigate the challenges are. You’ll face increasingly fast walls of spikes, giant killer robots, vats of acid and good old fashioned bottomless pits to contend with. You’ll have your own abilities, plus some barrels and launching pads to help give you an extra explosive boost. It doesn’t take long to figure out what you need to do, but it took me a long time to figure out how and when on a few stages.
There’s not much more to it than that. It’s a solid Platformer in every regard with a quirky sense of humor and an elevated challenge level. It overstays its welcome a bit, but it’s fair more fair and fun than the sequel, Ms. Splosion Man. I dug it. It didn’t cost much, it didn’t last long, but each room contained a hell of a lot of creative, explosive fun.