Game Review: Ms. ‘Splosion Man (Xbox LIVE Arcade)

The scientists have finally captured ‘Splosion Man, the crazy experiment who can explode at will. But during the celebration party, one of the scientists spilled champagne on some wires, and Ms. ‘Splosion Man was born! Now armed with an explosive personality and plenty of girl power, she’ll have to escape the scientists, too, and cause plenty of mayhem and havoc in this sequel to one of the most popular Xbox LIVE Arcade games ever.

Just like the original game, Ms. ‘Splosion Man is a 2-D platforming obstacle course challenge. Since I’ve only played the demo of the first game, I can’t really say what is improved in the sequel. Ms. ‘Splosion Man can explode three times, which is another way of ‘jumping.’ She’ll need to recharge by touching the ground after three explosions, but there are other ways to refill her power.

Even though the one button exploding gameplay seems simple, the makers of the game came up with some pretty challenging jumping obstacles and puzzles in each stage. The Ms. can wall jump, use exploding barrels to boost higher, slide down zip cords, and much more. Some of the obstacles are more like puzzles, where you have to flip switches and time your explosions just right to bypass obstacles. There are also hidden exits in certain stages, as well as a pair of shoes in each level for you to find.

Ms. ‘Splosion Man has an extensive single player mode with dozens of levels. Also there’s the Multiplayer Mode, where two players can explode at the same time. The multiplayer levels are different from the single player stages, and are even more challenging, as you must explode off each other to reach higher platforms. Luckily there is a handy countdown feature to help your timing. You can play multiplayer levels local or online through Xbox LIVE.

Also, in the single player mode, you can race a ghost of your previous run-though, or download ghosts from other players and pros on Xbox LIVE. After completing levels in both modes, the game tallies your score and time and posts them on the Leaderboards.

You also earn money at the end of a level, which you can spend at The Mall to unlock goodies like concept art, movies, music, and more! Other unlockable treats at the Mall include gamer pics, avatar awards, background themes, and a “2 Girls, 1 Controller Mode” so you can play the multiplayer mode stages by yourself.

Speaking of goodies, later on in the game you can go to an Arcade and try demos and buy other Twisted Pixel games. Here’s the real treat: in the arcade is a Ms. ‘Splosion Man pinball table, which lets you try Pinball FX 2. It’s not available now, but pretty soon there WILL be a Ms. ‘Splosion Man pinball table you can download for Pinball FX 2! As a big pinball fan, I’m actually more excited about that than the main game itself!

Ms. ‘Splosion Man has plenty of that Twisted Pixel humor in the game, too. Of course, the title is poking fun at Ms. Pac-Man! The loading screens have silly facts and gameplay tips. Heck, even the tutorial videos are funny. Whoever designs the characters at Twisted Pixel deserves a raise. I think their characters are almost just as likable and memorable as ones from the big companies like Rare, Capcom, even Nintendo. After a couple more games, Twisted Pixel could have their very own mascot kart racer! (They probably wouldn’t do that, but they could if they wanted to)

The only problems I had with the game is that the controls take a little getting used to. It doesn’t mean the play control is bad; it’s just different and requires a lot of precision. (Brother Jeff says the game has too much pink visuals) Also, the game is REALLY challenging! Just because a girl is the title character, don’t think they’ll go easy on you! Luckily you get unlimited lives and checkpoints, and can even cheat and skip to the next checkpoint if you die enough times. But it’s still pretty hardcore and requires a lot of trial and error and rote memorization. Of course, anyone who has played the first ‘Splosion Man game will be able to jump right into this one. And for fans of the game, as well as anyone who enjoys super tough 2-D obstacle course platforming challenges, well, downloading this game is a given (It’ll be available July 13).

Kid Factor:

Ms. ‘Splosion Man is rated T for Teen with ESRB descriptors of Cartoon Violence, Drug Reference, Mild Lyrics, and Mild Suggestive Themes. The Ms. can blow up scientist enemies, but they just turn into silly skeletons and pieces of steak. In the tutorial video, they discourage you from mashing the button haphazardly like a “heroin junkie” so that’s there the drug reference comes in. Our lady busts out singing lines from all sorts of ‘girl power’ songs from people like the Spice Girls, so that’s probably where the Mild Lyrics come into play. And the suggestive themes are silly and cartoony, too. But really, the best reason why this game is best for older players is the high challenge level, which may frustrate young gamers and less experienced players, even when playing together in multiplayer.

But don’t worry parents! If you want to download an Xbox LIVE game for your kids, there’s another Twisted Pixel title that I highly recommend. It’s called The Maw and is a great 3-D platformer that’s light on challenge (you can’t even die), but heavy on charm. The Maw is actually one of my top favorite LIVE games, even to this day!

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