Ms. Splosion Man Review

By Jake Gaskill - Posted Jul 14, 2011

With Ms. Splosion Man, the follow up to the wonderfully wacky Xbox Live Arcade title Splosion Man, the team takes the one button platforming mechanics of the first title and builds on it in plenty of dastardly ways. Throw in three unique game worlds, hidden levels, epic boss battles, an endless slew of pop culture references, a unique and hearty multiplayer campaign, and you have a supremely challenging recipe for success.

The Pros
  • Wildly inventive, if brutal, platforming
  • Quirkiness on top of quirkiness on top of high heels
  • Varied and hilarious soundtrack
The Cons
  • Fickle jump controls
  • Uneven checkpoint spacing

Ms. Splosion Man Review:

The folks at Twisted Pixel are a mean, mean bunch, but they make it just so damn hard to truly hate them because they make such lovingly crafted and wildly imaginative games, even if those games are controller-chucking-ly infuriating at times.

With Ms. Splosion Man, the follow up to the wonderfully wacky Xbox Live Arcade title Splosion Man, the team takes the one button platforming mechanics of the first title and builds on it in plenty of dastardly ways. Throw in three unique game worlds, hidden levels, epic boss battles, an endless slew of pop culture references, a unique and hearty multiplayer campaign, and you have a supremely challenging recipe for success.
 

 

Let's Hear It For The Girls

Ms. Splosion Man kicks off with Splosion Man (finally) being captured by the evil scientists who accidentally created him. Unfortunately, in their revelry, the scientists accidentally cause another devastating accident to occur, thereby creating Ms. Splosion Man in all of her yellow bow-wearing, girly girl glory. Like its predecessor, the game keeps the story simple, if utterly absurd, which feels like an even bigger missed opportunity this time around, given the work that went into crafting the three distinctly themed game worlds across which the game is set—the lab, a tropical island, and an industrial facility.

A quick word on Ms. Splosion Man herself as she is one of the kookiest characters you’re likely to find in any game this year, or any year for that matter. In addition to lusting after shoes the way Splosion Man lusted after cake, Ms. Splosion Man has evidently done nothing but envelope herself in pop-culture, as all of her dialogue is comprised of movie quotes (i.e. “I’ll never let you go Jack,” “Snozzberries? Who ever heard of a snozzberry?” etc.), song lyrics (i.e. “I whip my hair back and forth,” “I’m just a girl in the world,” etc.), and other randomness. It can get slightly annoying hearing the same lines over and over again, but there are enough to keep you from wanting to mute the dialogue. She also has amazing dancing animations that kick in whenever she is standing still that never cease to amuse.

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A Cruel Mistress

The gameplay is as tricky and fickle as ever, forcing you to put your thumbs and brain to the test with every single ‘splode jump you take. Failure is what you’ll be doing 95 percent of the time in this series, since the game is built entirely around hardcore trial and error philosophies. Some would say it’s this design that gives the Splosion Man games their charm, while others would say, “Are you f-ing kidding me?! All the way back to that checkpoint?! Are you out of your mind?!” because that’s a perfectly response to the supremely punishing platforming you can expect to encounter in this game. The majority of this frustration can be attributed to not being entirely sure how far an explosion will propel you, and the fact that it can be hard to tell where your character is when she jumps, since it creates a cloud of smoke around her with a brief blackened image of her striking some pose in the center of it. There are only a few levels where this truly causes serious problems, but it still feels like a fixable annoyance.

Thankfully, there are a number of new additions that help keep the gameplay fresh, which is doubly impressive considering you only have the ability to jump. In addition to features like zip lines and rocket cars on rails, there are new puzzle elements too, such as frost panels that extinguish you and large energy panels that let you ‘slode as many times as you want in order to clear the obstacle in your path. The zip lines are a blast, but they aren’t used that often, which is a shame. Another great addition is Mandy, a plump woman that you’re able to inhabit in order to move past killer laser beams, obviously. The best part about her is that when you leap inside her, her theme song plays, and like all of the music in the game, the song is hilarious, and is well worth putting off solving a puzzle to listen to all the way through.
 

 

She Likes It Rough

It should be said that this is not a game for impatient gamers. If you have a quick temper and find yourself yelling at games on a regular basis, you might want to hire a counselor or something to sit next to you as you play, because, like other Twisted Pixel games, Ms. Splosion Man revels in its masochism. It makes no apologies for its, at times, brutal checkpoint spacing, or the fact that it fully intends to force you play large sections over and over and over again until you learn each step of its intricately crafted danger avoidance dance. Still, it’s not as unforgiving as Splosion Man, and managed to finish it without using the “Cheat the game” option, which lets you skip ahead to the next checkpoint should you die too many times, and I’m a decent player, so if you feel like giving up, don’t, because you’ll be missing out.

The new world map layout lets you easily move from one level to the next in classic Super Mario Bros. 3 fashion. There are even secret exits on some levels (marked with question marks) that lead to bonus stages. Unlocking bonus stages will open up the game’s own version of Star Road, which really needs to be seen to be appreciated. Some stages are marked red with a skull and crossbones. These levels are especially difficult and can be bypassed if you want to just continue on your way. It’s a nice way of keeping the story flowing while also letting the hardest of the hardcore strut their stuff.

The bosses this time around are as bizarre and random as you’d expect. From a flying mech to a robotic octopus to a towering tentacled monster, each offers a unique challenge, but none of them are nearly as hard as the levels leading up to them, which is actually kind of appreciated, given how taxing the lead up to them can be. There are also generous checkpoints during the boss battles, which keeps them bringing the game to a complete halt. Like Star Road, the final boss in the game needs to be seen to be believed, because it’s easily one of the most absurd homages to a classic NES game you’ll ever see.
 

 

It's More Fun To Go To The Bathroom In A Group!

Once you’re done solo ‘sploding, you can once again join up to three friends locally or on Xbox Live for some quality multiplayer. There are 50 unique multiplayer levels to co-op your way through, and while I have yet to finish all of them, there is a nice variety of challenges within them, so expect to put in some serious time to finish them all. Like the previous game, it can be a bit frustrating if you find yourself on a team with players who don’t feel like working together, even though that’s the only way to succeed, and with four players, it can get chaotic right quick if everyone decides to explode near everyone all the time. Still, with the right group, it can be a blast.

The game also includes a new ghost feature that lets you compete against yourself, or you can download ghosts from top players and see how they played through a level. It’s a welcomed addition, especially if you find yourself stuck on a particular level or if you just can’t get enough of watching yourself ‘splode through a level with expert ease.
 

 

Girls Just Want To Have Fun

Twisted Pixel games always drip with passion and style, and Ms. Splosion is no different. It’s a punishing and focus-demanding experience for sure, but it’s also incredibly satisfying, especially when you pull off a seemingly impossible number of acrobatic maneuvers that send you rocketing across massive expanses with graceful ease. Just make sure you have a few extra controllers handy in case yours “accidentally smashes itself” through your coffee table.