One of my favourite games from earlier this year was Twisted Pixel’s The Maw. There was just something about that game. It may have been the addictive gameplay or all-around charm, I’ll never know. Whatever it was, Twisted Pixel jumped onto my radar in a very big way. Here we are seven months after The Maw's release, and Twisted Pixel is back with another fantastic Xbox Live arcade game. Splosion Man is quite different from The Maw, but it retains the charm and addictive formula that made that game such an undeniable hit.
Splosion Man is our hero, a lab experiment gone horribly wrong. He has the ability to explode on command, and up to three times in succession. Heating up is necessary for him to continue 'sploding, but it doesn't take long. These explosions also act as his primary weapon. Splosion Man is broken down into a series of 2D levels, fifty in total. You must progress through all kinds of bizarre platforms and obstacles in order emerge in one piece. The trick of the trade is timing, as timing explosions just right is what helps you acquire special temporary power-ups. These work in conjunction with Splosion Man's powers to hurl him to all-new heights. One power-up blasts him in a straight line to the right, whereas another grants him a fourth consecutive explosion. Regardless of the power-up, they only last for their initial use and disappear.
Similar to The Maw, there are countless save locations throughout the various levels. This certainly eases up the potential challenge, but it allows casual players to enjoy the game just as much as the hardcore. There’s also a feature in Splosion Man that I haven’t seen executed quite so well before -- it’s called “way of the coward”. If you die so many times during a level, the option to skip it and move on is offered. It kicks out at just the time that you'd probably become frustrated too, so casuals would especially love it. However, you're forced to replay all skipped stages if you aspire to unlock the completion achievement.
There’s even fun local and online-supported multiplayer. Our very Mr. Ahmed Mosly would be one happy gamer because of this. Multiplayer shows some of the game’s weaknesses though. For one, repetition weighs in during extended play. We also find it challenging to play with another person because your timing has to be spot-on perfect. Nevertheless, it’s a blast laughing your butt off with another player. Splosion Man is more or less the perfect title to play in short bursts.
Like all quality platformers, the action is fast and furious, with a few goodies to collect for good measure. The pacing is actually a strong point. This is thanks to Twisted Pixel's great Xbox Live Arcade engine. Like The Maw, Splosion Man is cartoony but looks very detailed and animates fluidly. The character designs are top-notch. The charm and overall sense of humor are second-to-none. Whenever you explode near a laboratory worker, they “pop” into all kinds of meats, like a sirloin steak, for example. It’s bizarre, but that’s the point. Yet while there are a ton of stages, some are fairly basic visually. They feature only a few desks, soda machines and glass. Other than that, it’s one platform after the other. To compensate for this somewhat bland appearance, Twisted Pixel added humor wherever possible. When running by a soda machine, it’s not uncommon to hear Splosion Man scream something wacky like "GIMME!" Speaking of audio, the music is upbeat and catchy, but it’s the voice acting that wins the day…although it may be more accurate to say "sampling". Staying idle for more than two seconds makes Splosion Man scream out "BORED, BORED, BORED!!!" It’s all a real hoot that brings the whole package home.
Splosion Man is my latest guilty pleasure. Combined with Shadow Complex and Trials HD, this is easily the best Xbox Live summer of arcade seasons yet. If Microsoft continues to pump out this level of quality gaming every year moving forward, we’re all in for wicked good times. Twisted Pixel really has a way about creating their games. They're infused with a ton of charm, addictive and sweet audio-visual packages. What more could you possibly ask for the steal price of $10? Buy it now!