‘Splosion Man Review

Twisted Pixel Mondays

Let’s keep up these Twisted Pixel Mondays, while trying to keep unique criticism going!  Six months after their first title, Twisted Pixel brought forth the far better received ‘Splosion Man.  It was a nearly universally praised title, but does this title warrant the praise?  Find out what I think!

‘Splosion Man Review
Platform: XBLA
Release Date: 22/7/2009
Price I Paid: $9.99

‘Splosion Man is one of those games where the plot can be described in a sentence that goes something like this: You play as man made out of fire who gleefully goes on a rampage through the three facilities of the Big Science corporation.  No explanation, no hints, not even any dialog.  Well, the first area has lava in the background, and you never see grass.  So maybe we’re in space and ‘Splosion Man is an alien, but who cares.  Did anyone complain about Super Mario Bros. for being light on story?  No, because you don’t always need one.  Or if you do, just make your own explaination, it is just as canon in the grand scheme of things.

Leaping straight into the gameplay, ‘Splosion Man is a 2.5D platformer that centers around the titular protagonist’s ability to explode and… Well, when you can ‘splode to jump, deflect things, blow things up, and wall jump, who needs more moves?  You can only spontaneously combust thrice before you become charcoal and can be killed by even more hazards.  But if you touch bits of fire, or just step on the ground, you can regain your 3 ‘splosions, and do it all over again.  It is very simple, but there are enough set pieces and environmental toys to play with when creating these 47 levels.  You have two types of explosive barrels, moving platforms, fat scientists that you can grab, since they absorb bullets, deflectable objects by igniting, and of course jump around while blowing yourself up.

It is all very simple, but the game does keep things fresh enough to have every level be interesting in a design aspect.  But while it i fun to explode from platform to platform while avoiding rising water that kills you instantly, it isn’t if you have a window of actions that has no wiggle room.  Now, I have no problem with difficulty, and ‘Splosion Man is not super hard, but I might just be good at it, since I played the crap out of the sequel.  But when the challenge is making every jump in as little time as possible, and I died because the camera is at an angle that makes it hard to see where exactly everything is, then I call BS.

During the later half of the game, there are many stages that took me just shy of half an hour to complete during my first run, and most stages in this game are done in five minutes or less if you don’t die.  Nearly every one of those times was due to an annoying section somewhere in the stage, where either the physics start forgetting that you touched a platform for half a second, and should have your ‘Splosions.

‘Splosion Man is what I call a flow game.   A game where half the fun is just watching your speed and the spectacle around you, one where you never really stop, just keep on moving and looking awesome while you do it.  Also see Spectacle Fighters like Viewtiful Joe, and most of the 2D Sonic games, where doing things quickly and stylishly was a bit of its own reward.  With a flow game, if something feels off and you keep on respawning at a checkpoint, something is wrong, because you are just doing the same thing, because the game bugged out, or is tilting the camera.

I have no idea how the camera can be an issue with 2D games, but seeing it tilted, or just too far or too close, both make for some moments where you are taken out of the flow. It not only makes a spike heavy difficulty curve, it also encourages you to restart stages like mad.  Now, I admit that I am often a sucker for getting high times, but when I am trying the first area for the twentieth time, because I “screwed up” on a stage, I get a bit angry.  Now, if they just kept my time where it was when I died, I would probably no replay the stage as much.  But instead I need to deal with constant resetting when I could just use the checkpoint.  At least reset the timer after I die before the first checkpoint, it just means that I need to select the stage reset option whenever I die early on.

Sometimes barrels glitch out, when they were suppose to take you on a predetermined path.  Sometimes I get past an area partly due to lick.  And sometimes you need to die to realize that you took the wrong path.  This isn’t difficulty, it is just being annoying.  It only happens on occasion, but it breaks the flow and causes me to critique the game for its mistakes.  Rather than how games like Rayman Origins made me feel like I messed up whenever I die because of how silky smooth the controls and physics are.  But a good 10% of the time, I blame the game for being very stingy.

However, the visuals probably play a part in this.  The game takes place in one big laboratory with three coats of paint that amount to jack, and none of them look distinct enough to dwell on.  The problem with it is that sometimes my eyes just gloss over hazards, namely purple electric beams, when there are purple lines in the bland looking background.  ‘Splosion Man is a bright orange that glows, and while placing him on a white and grey backgound is not a bad idea, sometimes his bright glow causes me to misinterpret where I actually am.  The actual models are smooth, but still lack any real texture to them, representing the concept art that I’ve seen, but they are often so distant, that I can not notice the smooth animation while leaping from platforms with very little leeway for error.

As for the audio, it is pretty solid, but it feels like it could’ve used a few more level themes, and ones that are not so much ambiance, since the game is silly, you can be as catchy as you want.  This is a game where you grab a fat guy to induce a song about donuts, and collect a hidden cake in every level.

As a whole, I do not find ‘Splosion Man to be as good as the general public considers it to be.  There are a ton of flow breaking mistakes that had to be fixed with a patch before I could even initially beat the game back in 2011.  The backgrounds are uninteresting and get in teh way more than anything.  The mechanics are solid and the ‘Splosion ability is anything but underdeveloped.  There is a lot of content for $10 in here, but I can’t say it is all good, about 10% of it is faulty and breaks the flow of a game all about flow.  But the game is certainly good, although a bit rocky.

30/40
Good
It’s held back by certain flaws, it manages to be a competently executed and fun product that is worth playing.

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2 thoughts on “‘Splosion Man Review

  1. Hi Robert. I was trying to find your email address here but couldn’t locate it. I literally browsed everywhere. Can you please contact me at: alyson[at]ftframes.com
    It is regarding an Anime/Game related writing opportunity!

    This is not a spam message by the way, although it might appear like it. Also if you could be kind, please remove this message once you have seen it so I don’t get emails by randomers.

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