Crispy Gamer

Games for Lunch: 'Splosion Man

'Splosion Man

Developer: Twisted Pixel Games

Publisher: Twisted Pixel Games

Release Date: July 22, 2009

System: Xbox 360

ESRB Rating: E-10+

Official Web site

0:00 You say there's a new 2-D platformer on Xbox Live Arcade? And it's from the people who made the excellent The Maw? And the main character is made of explosions? Yes, please!

0:01 The Twisted Pixel logo explodes into a scene of fat scientists running from a test subject. It's 'Splosion Man, a thin, red, man-shaped mass of small explosions, who introduces his game's logo with explosions, of course! When I choose "New Game," he jumps out of the logo and kicks a bomb through a pane of glass at a scientist. Spiffy!

0:02 Two oblong scientists are talking in a hallway when our hero interrupts them by 'Sploding through the wall. I'm in control, just like that. Hurray for not belaboring the intro!

0:03 Tapping any face button hurls me into the air with a satisfying explosion. The 'Sploding also turns any nearby scientists into big hunks of steak. Yum.

0:04 I already earned the "Get Them Out of Our Schools" Achievement for eliminating 10 scientists and "stop[ping] them from spreading their filthy lies." Heh. Subtle.

0:05 'Sploding next to green barrels sends me soaring higher than ever. I can also 'Splode in mid-air for a double and even a TRIPLE jump. This game's final score just got tripled, as far as I'm concerned.

0:06 The first platforming puzzle that is actually interesting rather than just a tutorial... I have to do a wall jump to release an explosive barrel, then 'Splode it in midair to get a boost up to another wall-jumping section. This already shows promise.

0:07 I just ate a huge, floating birthday cake in large gulp. Sure, why not?

0:08 The animation on Mr. 'Splosion Man is really full of personality and life. I love how he holds out his arms like a plane and gently tilts them back and forth as he runs down empty corridors. Then, in the final room of the first level, he throws up the horns and bangs his head to celebrate. RAWK!

0:09 Level 2 introduces some serious laser guns. I have to go up and around to avoid them and kill the guy with the big cartoonish remote that's controlling them. Another guy puts up a force field which is easy enough to get around. We're still decidedly in "tutorial" mode here...

0:11 Exploding ever-higher on a series of carefully placed barrels is just pure joy. The controls are spot-on.

0:12 Level 2 complete. I'm enjoying it so far, but I really want them to stop this simple tutorial stuff and unleash the concept to its fullest already.

0:13 A bearded scientist sics a wheeled robot at me. The robot shocks me a few times, but I'm no worse for wear. Jumping up and 'Sploding on the exposed blue target on his back seems to work.

0:15 Though the gameplay is totally 2-D, the camera keeps panning and shifting to weird, isometric angles. It's equal parts annoying and fun to watch.

0:17 Apparently, holding down the R button makes 'Splosion Man self-destruct and restarts the level. Who knew?

'Splosion Man

0:19 Oh man ... a set of four moving platforms rotating in a circle. This is so old-school it HURTS!

0:20 I have to use some quick wall jumps to escape a set of walls that close in from the side, "Star Wars" trash-compactor style. Nice!

0:21 An elaborate set of jumps and switches leads to a scientist getting crushed with a moving platform. Just like I've always dreamed. The jumps are tough, but the controls are so perfect, I never feel in danger of falling.

0:22 OK, the closing-walls thing was cute the first time, but repeating it again two minutes later is just lazy. I will admit, though, that forcing me to use an explosion barrel to get out this time was clever.

0:23 "You've completed an arbitrary number of levels, and that means prizes. Bask in the glory of your new Gamerpic!" Whoo! Arbitrary!

0:25 Things are getting a bit intense in Level 1-5, starting with a series of midair barrel hits that have to be timed just right. Then a section where I have to out-jump some fast rising water. Reminds me a bit of Donkey Kong Country, with all the barrels...

0:28 Level 1-6 is all about avoiding spikes, first from above, then from the sides. Getting by requires quick movements and pinpoint accuracy in hitting the necessary barrels. Already the game is probably gonna seem tough to most casual gamers.

0:32 I find my third tiered wedding cake just floating there. Actually, I missed it the first time, but died intentionally to restore the barrels that let me get it on the second try.

0:33 Oh man, timed, oscillating energy barriers? OLD-SHCOOL!

0:34 I love the random sounds 'Splosion Man makes as he runs. He's like an ADHD-addled six-year-old on sugar, caffeine and meth.

0:35 Interesting ... I have to hang off the edge of a moving, floating platform to get by some low barriers. Then I'm running on some sinking platforms to get another piece of cake, and performing some careful wall jumping to avoid purple energy. Excellent level design.

0:37 Huh ... here I'm using platforms as blockers for lasers. I would have never thought to do that, but the game makes it pretty apparent. A teachable moment!

0:40 I almost flew right past a piece of cake sitting in the middle of a big vat of acid! I can jump to it (just barely), but then the platform it's on raises up and the lasers knock me into the acid. Hmmm...

0:43 On my fifth attempt to get the cake, I finally figure out that staying put in the middle of the platform keeps me safe. The lasers still bat me about, but I don't fall.

0:44 Just ran into some new platforms that shift over to the other side of a wall when I 'Splode on them. I love that there's no explicit explanation of this mechanic ... it just becomes apparent what's going on through trial and error. Thanks for treating me with respect, game!

0:47 Level 1-10 is done. Some interesting puzzles, but nothing too hard to figure out yet. I'm really getting into the flow of the game now. Dying barely slows me down, which is nice.

'Splosion Man

0:48 Using two barrels, I manage to bounce JUST high enough to escape a quickly rising spiked floor. Some tester timed this game out WELL!

0:50 The hardest cake yet by far ... this one takes a LOT of precision wall jumping just to find the hidden area, then a series of precise wall jumps and barrel blasts across a long corridor to get the cake. And this is only Level 11. I'm relishing what the final levels are gonna be like.

0:53 Man... I can't even describe the series of jumps and barrels I'm making. Well, I could, but it'd be hard to read. Suffice to say, things are getting REAL!

0:57 Level 12 has lots of vertical mazes crawling with hoverbots and death lasers. A-yup.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.

Why? Tight controls, excellent level design and a deep respect for the player. I can't wait for the brutally hard parts I know are coming.

This column is based on a downloadable copy of the game purchased by the reviewer.

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