Review: Splosion Man

You may remember Twisted Pixel, the devs behind Splosion Man, for their charming and accessible platformer The Maw, with the endearing little purple alien who munched up anything in his path. They’ve expanded upon the science-experiment-gone-wrong archetype with the release of Splosion Man, which features a spunky character who does exactly what his name implies – he explodes. A lot. Are you a bad enough dude to handle that? 


As a creature arbitrarily created in a laboratory (to what end?), Splosion Man’s primary means of ambulating is through exploding by a press of a button. You can press any of the 360’s face buttons and Splosion Man will, well…explode. Since this is a platformer/puzzler, you’ll need to jump a lot. While he can run to the left and right as expected he can’t truly jump, so you’ll rely on exploding in order to propel yourself up through the various mazes of the laboratory. You can make a chain of jumps that can be used up to three different times as Splosion Man traverses walls, makes long jumps, and blows past various scientists and human beings, making a mess wherever he can. And boy howdy, is it a satisfying mess! You’ll know when you’re out of the power to explode when Splosion Man is reduced to a charred husk of his former self. Exploding also acts as a form of attack that you’ll use for a means of self-defense. While it’s nothing absolutely new or groundbreaking, the fact that you are solving puzzles, escaping from a laboratory, and defending yourself via simple explosions is endlessly entertaining, at least to me.

Entertaining Puzzles
Don’t think that Splosion Man is all simple exploding arbitrarily and reaching the end of each level for a goal. Well, it is somewhat, but there is a lot of skill required in order to successfully navigate each area. You’ll need to time your jumps well, take into account items in your immediate vicinity (exploding barrels, humans that can be of use), and use your brain in order to reach the coveted exit. Much like N+, your movements must be precise and your mind sharp to keep moving forward in Splosion Man. It’s a refreshing challenge compared to most Xbox Live Arcade titles as of late, and it’s always a great feeling to kick back and feel like you’ve truly accomplished something simply from solving a few puzzles. You’ll be avoiding obstacles rather than ramming your volatile little body into them headfirst, and it’s often very much a test of speed and agility rather than how large of a body count you can rack up. For this, it should well be praised and you’re likely to enjoy the puzzle-solving aspects as well.

Cartoony Atmosphere
Everything, from the music, the characters, and even the gameplay itself (come on now, you’re EXPLODING to make progress) makes for a comfortably hilarious atmosphere that Twisted Pixel seems to want to be known for. It’s truly like a living, breathing cartoon world with such a zany platformer hero that we’ve never seen before. In fact, I’m still not exactly sure what Splosion Man IS…and why would they make such a being, anyway? It’s really their fault that he’s wreaking so much havoc.


Unforgiving Difficulty
If you don’t enjoy the harrowing difficulty that N+ usually presents, then you won’t have much patience for Splosion Man after the first 10-20 levels. It will begin to get much harder than you anticipated, that’s a fact. Though there are a good 50 levels to wade through, it’s not exactly a picnic to pass every single one of them and for me that was one big turnoff, since some later puzzles are so overtly frustrating that I wanted to slam the controller down in frustration. Splosion Man is a game that you really need to devote some time to in order to master and that just may not be right for some gamers.

As the difficulty ramps up throughout the later levels, so will the amount of puzzles you will have to solve in “unique” ways – except, they won’t be as unique the fourth or fifth time you’ve experienced them. Levels are designed intelligently enough, but the game does tend to lose its steam after a while when you’re sweeping level after level with similar goals and puzzles to figure out. It’s best to play in small doses over a period of time because of this in order to get the most enjoyment out of Splosion Man.

If you enjoy action platformers with a twist of puzzle goodness, then Splosion Man should delight you. It’s not every day that a game protagonist explodes in order to propel himself up walls and to make jumps. Co-op is excellent and most of the levels are a real treat. If you haven’t already spent all your Microsoft points on Marvel vs. Capcom 2, then definitely pick this up.

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