“Ms. Splosion Man” by Twisted Pixel is a side-scrolling platformer that offers some fun puzzles and frantic platforming action. “Ms. Splosion Man” is also uncompromisingly difficult. The player will rocket Ms. Splosion Man across the screen at lightning fast speeds. The speed at which Ms. Splosion Man can move means the player must have equally fast reflexes to hit the button at the right moment or suffer a checkpoint reload. This high degree of difficulty can create some frustrating moments but the clever level design helps to keep the game engaging and, for the most part, enjoyable.
In “Ms. Splosion Man” the player controls Ms. Splosion Man as she attempts to escape the scientists who accidentally created/released her. The game is set in three themed worlds each with an overworld map (like in “Super Mario Bros.”) that Ms. Splosion Man travels along to get to each new level. The player traverses each platforming level with Ms. Splosion Man’s triple jump. Ms. Splosion Man can explode herself (jump) into the air a total of three times before she needs to recharge her explosive power. Each consecutive explosion/jump has a little less power than the one before (the first explosion produces the most energy and height/momentum while the third explosion in a jumping sequence is small and not very powerful). To recharge Ms. Splosion Man the player must have her land on solid ground for a short time, slide down walls, explode explosive barrels, or pass across special sections in a level that fully charge her and keep her charged.
In essence “Ms. Splosion Man” follows the basic rules of any platformer: Ms. Splosion Man must jump from one platform to the next until she reaches the end of the level. There are many obstacles the player must face in order to reach the end of any level, such as: enemies, pools of some kind of green acid-like substance, moving lines of electricity, moving walls of red energy, bottomless pits, moving platforms, zip lines, rocket cars, puzzles, and level bosses. The level designs in “Ms. Splosion Man” range from sublime and exciting to, at times, cheap and frustrating. In short, “Ms. Splosion Man” is designed for patient gamers who do not mind redoing the same section of a level over and over.
The Looks and Sounds of “Splosions”
“Ms. Splosion Man” is a vibrantly colourful game with a fair amount of detail for a platformer. The visual flare of “Ms. Splosion Man” certainly sets it apart from other games on the market. The sounds in the game help keep the cartoonish setting alive with sounds that range from standard cartoonish sound effects to random, and at times funny, sounds being emitted from objects (such as particular canons that make barnyard animal sounds when they fire Ms. Splosion Man across a level). The music also helps to maintain the cartoonish atmosphere the game presents. However I found the music at times a bit irritating, but simply turning down the music volume helped to mitigate the music’s obnoxious qualities.
The Virtue of Patience
The difficulty level in “Ms. Splosion Man” ranges from hard to seemingly impossible. There are times when such exact timing is needed that if the player starts a series of jumps just a fraction too late he/she will face a checkpoint reload due to death. This high degree of difficulty is not always frustrating as checkpoints are often times located in reasonable locations. However there are times when it seems the game punishes the player for completing a particularly difficult section of a level by not offering a checkpoint until the player completes yet another difficult section.
The game seems designed around the concept of trial and error. There are many times when the player will not know what is coming up in a level and the player is offered only a second or less to react to what suddenly appears before him/her on screen. In other words, there are a fair amount of blind jumps in the game that offer little to no time to react to what lies ahead resulting in the need to memorize where Ms. Splosion Must be as she is falling or to memorize when one must press a button to explode at the exact right moment. The required level of precision the game demands is not necessarily exasperating especially since there is some clever level design at play that results in a fast paced and exciting experience.
“Ms. Splosion Man” also offers a “cheat on the game” option that becomes available after one dies a few too many times in a level. Selecting the “cheat on the game” option jumps the player to the next checkpoint, which can help if one is stuck at a particularly tricky section of a level. However selecting to “cheat” will result in a time of 999 minutes and no points or coins will be awarded at the end of the level.
Points and Times
At the end of each level the player, provided he/she did not cheat, will be scored based upon the amount of destruction he/she caused and the time it took the player to complete the level. The final time is then uploaded to a leaderboard where the player can see how he/she measures up to the rest of the exploding gamers out there. As well, the player will be awarded coins at the end of each level that he/she can use to purchase extras, like photos and videos, in the game’s “mall.” One can choose to replay any level he/she has completed and compete against one’s own ghost (a blue outline of Ms. Splosion Man that shows one’s previous effort) in order to get a better time and score. One can also download other players’ ghosts to compete against the best.
Big Bad Boss Fights
At the end of each world the player must fight a boss character. These boss fights have a distinctly different pace and feel than the rest of the game. Boss fights are slower, easier, and at times uninteresting. The boss fights offer some respite from the frantic pace and difficulty of the main game but ultimately slows the game down too much resulting in rather unexciting boss encounters. The boss battles are generally well designed but are nothing new and, except for the final game boss, which I won’t ruin here, are little more than breaks from the overall game.
The Voice of Ms. Splosion Man
Ms. Splosion man is one of the most annoying and negatively stereotypical female characters I have ever played in a game. Ms. Splosion man is obnoxious. Some players may find her hilarious, whereas others, like myself, may be downright offended. After playing only a few levels I immediately went to the options menu and turned her voice volume down. Furthermore, the game seems to embrace Ms. Splosion Man’s stereotypical characteristics. For example, the collectibles in the game are pairs of shoes and the player purchases extra game content from “The Mall.” One could argue that all this stereotyping is done in the name of humour, but unfortunately I found it rarely funny and almost always annoying.
Puzzles and Platforms
Perhaps the best part of “Ms. Splosion Man” is the balance between frantic paced platforming action and slower but engaging puzzles. The puzzles in the game offer a bit of a reprieve (sometimes) from the manic pace of exploding across a level. Thankfully the puzzles are some of the best-designed and engrossing puzzles one will find in any game. Furthermore, the puzzles utilize every skill the player has developed throughout the game. Puzzles consist of levers and switch controls, manipulating enemies, timed jumps into exploding barrels, and precision jumping. In other words, the puzzles are not afterthoughts but are integral parts of the game that show some high quality design and are a blast to figure out (even the hard ones). It is “Ms. Splosion Man’s” seamless and at times brilliant combination of puzzles and intense platforming that really set the game apart from others in the genre.
Exploding with Friends
Co-op in “Ms. Splosion Man” offers a completely unique campaign from singeplayer, though the gameplay is similar. Of course the main difference from singplayer is rather than timing one’s own explosions/jumps now two players must time each of their jumps in unison. The added complexity of two exploding characters is handled well and the high quality of level and puzzle design found in singleplayer persists in co-op. Another major gameplay difference between singleplayer and co-op is that in co-op players can launch each other in mid flight or while jumping by exploding off each other, which is a useful gameplay mechanic to reach higher platforms or to cross gaps too large for a single player to cross on his/her own. In co-op players must work together and if one player dies he/she will not respawn unless the other player can reach a checkpoint on his/her own. The game offers a countdown function, literally numbers countdown from 3 to 0 on screen, in order to help coordinate explosions but there will be many trial and error moments in co-op just as in singleplayer. Again the puzzles shine in co-op where two players will have to have expert coordination to ensure levers, objects, platforms, and explosions are all manipulated in the right sequence to ensure success.
Ms. Splosoin man is an intense platformer that will leave gamers’ hands sweaty with the need to use frantic button pressing reflexes. The extreme difficulty of the game will result in some frustration but the ingenious level and puzzle designs areengaging and fun to try and figure out. Co-op offers a unique full-length campaign with new challenges and new frustrations. Co-op helps to add some replayability to the overall game but unless one is an achievement junkie or one who needs to have the best times in every level there is little reason to replay “Ms. Splosion Man.” once the two campaigns are complete. The largest problem with this game is Ms. Splosion Man herself. This game deserves a better main character or at least a less annoying one. Overall “Ms. Splosion Man” is worth its 800 microsoft points provided the gamer playing has a lot of patience to make it through the more difficult levels in the game.
- Great combination of platforming and puzzle solving
- Clever level design
- Fun and frantic co-op gameplay
- Annoying main character
- Sometimes overly frustrating gameplay
- Sometimes checkpoints are too far apart from each other
- Underwhelming Boss fights
Quote: "Ms. Splosion Man is worth its 800 microsoft points provided the gamer playing has a lot of patience to make it through the more difficult levels in the game."
Reviewed by James Farrington | 07.19.11
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