Monday, September 19, 2011

Ms. 'Splosion Man

            ‘Splosion Man was a soul-crushingly hard game.  Across 45 levels and 3 boss fights, it chewed me up, spit me out, crushed my spirit.  I cursed, I raged, I flipped the game off, but I made it through.  I pretty much decided as soon as I was done that I wasn’t going to touch the game again.  You can pretty much guess my reaction when they announced the sequel, Ms. ‘Splosion Man.
            I instantly decided I would buy it.
            Oh yes, ‘Splosion Man was a hell of a thing.  Playing as the titular man, with only the ability to splode, you had to make it through the levels by navigating spikes, lasers, difficult platforming segments, perfect timing, rising death water, and more.  Twisted Pixel’s real art in the recently-revived category of “tough as nails platformers” is their level design.  The single-button control scheme means that everything relies on timing, and you constantly have to time yourself as you splode barrels in mid-air, avoid obstacles, and even solve puzzles.  They also hold off on too much trial-and-error.  While there’s still an element of memorization required, it really comes down to your skill.
            Ms. ‘Splosion Man keeps all of this great level design, and just improves on it.  The biggest addition to the game is the various new elements.  Ms. has added in rails that she rides on, rocket cars, trampolines.  There’s new scientist employees like Mandy (who’s used as both a shield and a boost for jumping) and the wheelchair guy.  The game gleefully mixes elements together, keeping the game fresh across all 3 worlds.  Fresh and hard.  The game has not lightened up on its difficulty at all.  Adding in new elements just means that the game has found new ways to kill you.  Oh, you didn’t jump down a rail and ran into electricity?  You’re dead.  Didn’t jump from the rocket car to activate a switch to spawn a barrel that you need 3 seconds from now?  Straight into the bottomless pit.  It is definitely possible to realize all these elements the first time through a level, and complete it well in par time.  It is far more possible that you’re going to die.  A lot.
            The other new additions to the game are interesting, but not always significant.  The world map feature for the 3 worlds is interesting, but ultimately rather pointless, and it takes a pretty long time to navigate.  What the world map feature adds to the game is better.  Twice in each world, the path will split between a hard level and an easier level.  They aren’t joking around with the red icon and the skull and crossbones.  The harder levels definitely tend to be far more crushing, besides one strange scenario where the hard level was significantly easier.  There are also two secret exits in each world, leading to secret levels.  Some might find them fun to find, some might just head to Youtube.  Strangely, there’s an achievement for beating every level in the game, but not one for just beating the game, so it’s a necessity to find all these exits if you want the proof that you’ve beaten Ms. ‘Splosion Man (and trust me, you do).
            While the game is a lot of fun, it does have some problems.  The camera carries over from the original, and has the unfortunate tendency to zoom out way too much, making Ms. ‘Splosion Man a mere pink spot on the screen.  They also gave Ms. ‘Splosion Man a lot more wacky phrases to say than her male counterpart had.  Unfortunately, she just will not shut up.  I finally just had to turn off her voice after hearing her scream out “ALL THE SINGLE LADIES” for the thousandth time while my hands are sweating trying to get through a difficult part.  And finally, the bosses are just mismatched from the rest of the game.  They’re ridiculously easy, to the point where the level before the final boss is much more difficult than the final boss itself, even considering that the final boss has a sudden gameplay change.  It’s rather jarring to actually find the bosses as relaxing.
            Overall, I highly recommend this game, for fans of the first one or newcomers who want something hard.  The game will absolutely destroy you across its 47 levels, and I loved (most) every minute of it.

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