Splosion Man (XBLA) Review

When I first downloaded ‘Splosion Man’ I didn’t really know what to expect. Well, I knew you played a dude who exploded, but surely there’s more to it than that?

Settling down into the first level, I started pressing buttons to familiarise myself with the controls. A button, explode. B button, explode. X button, explode. Y button explode. Hmmm, I think I’m starting to get the hang of this, now let’s find something to explode next to…

Splosion Man really is a stripped back 2D platform game which works because of its simplicity. Although there’s obviously not many moves to master, it’s how you explode (‘splode from now on) in context to the environment around you which counts. This game’s level designs are truly devious. Some sections will literally leave you breathless with your heart beating out of your chest: this game is ruthless and you had better master ‘sploding if you want to make it.

Perhaps I have got ahead of myself a little here. Your character is limited to three ‘splosions per contact with a solid platform. Each ‘splosion sends you flying. ‘Sploding next to certain items will catapult your player at a greater speed. Later levels require split second precision and timing as you launch your character through the levels, bouncing off walls and colliding with barrels in mid-air. When people ask me about the game, the easiest summary is Sonic, with more ‘splosion.

I found the learning curve to be pretty good throughout the game. There were certainly some points I got stuck at for a while, and the game does offer you ‘the coward’s way out’ if you die too much. I didn’t take this option and stuck it out. While the game can be annoying, it is always fair. Luckily you spawn almost instantly from the last checkpoint when you do fail, so you can have another crack straight away. If you do get frustrated, you can always load up an earlier level and try a speed run, or find some hidden cake.

Complementing the insane gameplay is an even madder main character. ‘Splosion Man himself is one caffeinated fireball. As you run through the levels, you can’t help but laugh at the animations as you get hurled throughout the level. Despite facing death and turning scientists into miscellaneous meat produce, ‘Splosion Man seems to radiate an almost childlike sense of glee in everything hew does.

This sense of fun is beautifully reflected in the game’s bright graphics and brilliant sound effects. Production values are high, and the whole game comes across as being very slick. Even the most cynical of gamers will find it hard not to crack a smile. The doughnut or cake references make sure of this.

The only chink in ‘Splosion Man’s armour is that there isn’t much variety in the graphics. Even though there are a great number of levels, they all look the same. A sense of journey or being able to see a snippet of someone playing and knowing how far through the game they are would have been the icing on an already attractive cake.

There’s also online and local multiplayer. I tried to play the game online, but it’s very puzzle oriented. Unless you have a good group of people, all with microphones, it’s impossible to play. The games I played saw at least a couple of players just keep running into obstacles. I’m sure it’s brilliant if you can get some mates to pick up the game. There are also online leaderboards so you can see which of your mates beat each level the fastest.

”Splosion Man is about the most fun I have had with a platform game since New Super Mario Bros, or Sonic Advance 2. I definitely recommend at least checking out the demo. The only people I wouldn’t recommend this game to are people that don’t like replaying and perfecting a sequence before making progress. Even though platform games are usually limited once you beat them, online leaderboards and self improvement will add value for the hardcore.

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