_hojo:Scrumptious ‘Splosion ManAugust 1, 2009
_ah, platformers. at one point in time, when i was young, it seemed like every game was a platformer of some kind. renting games at my local video park was basically “Rent a Platformer.” anything i rented, i expected it to scroll sideways and involve jumping on and over various things. any game based on licensed properties were platformers. they were like the default genre. funny enough, a lot of licensed games now are also platformers, only they’re awful 3D platforming abominations. in fact, most 3D platformers are awful abominations unto the lord himself. i wouldn’t be surprised if god beamed an image of himself into these developers dreams at night, sitting on a cloud, stroking his hand on his head to show that he has a migraine, muttering something underneath his breath sounding like “you son of a bitch, you shame me with this wretched garbage.” basically…the platform genre has been a rather desolate place the past 10 years. sure, we get stuff like Super Mario Galaxy or Jak and Daxter every once in a while, but it’s been slim pickings for platformers since we stopped measuring the power of consoles in bits.
_well, lucky there’s someone watching my back. not owning any handhelds, therefore being sans handheld platforming goodness, Twisted Pixel Games has saved my hide with their new XBLA release ‘Splosion Man. i own 57 games for the 360 (physical discs and XBLA combined) and out of 57, the only games that could be called platformers of any kind [excluding games on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection] are Braid and Mega Man 9, which are more of a puzzle and a shooter, respectively. so i was pretty stoked to hear about a pure 2D [with 3D graphics] platformer was coming to XBLA. and it did not disappoint.
_the gameplay is some pretty tight, 2d platforming across 50 stages. the “Splosion” in the title stems from the main character being some kind of guy, altered by some scientific accident, given the awesome power of explosions. he use these explosions to…do pretty much everything. jumping is done via exploding. attacking is done via exploding. every face button on the 360 controller is mapped to “Splode.” if you try to change the controls, you’ll find there’s no other command you can map to the face buttons. the only thing all 4 face buttons can possibly do is ‘Splode. the controls are somehow even more simplified than the original Super Mario Bros, and the grandfather of the 2d platformer only used 2 buttons and a d-pad. though ‘Splosion Man is a bit more complex than the original SMB, at least as far as abilities go. there’s triple jumping wall jumping, explosive barrels for high and long jumps, all kinds of things.
_one of the most important aspects of the platform genre is level design. because when it boils down to it, all platforming games revolve around the act of jumping from platform to platform. and think about it…not much changes about the floor from game to game. it normally just sits there. maybe it raises/lowers or conveys things in different directions, but every game has similar floors. so it’s all about level design…and floor positions and shit. and since i’ve already said that ‘Splosion Man is a sweet platformer, it’s easy to assume that i think the level design was also pretty sweet. and it is. there’s plenty of wall jumping antics, explosive juggling, deadly rising floor races and switch flipping fun to be found.
_having now finished co-op, i can say that co-op is also a lot of fun. with the exception of the 3 boss battles, every co-op stage is unique. no single player recycles. it’s excellent. there’s also a ton of unique stage designs that aren’t found in single player, such as ‘splosion recharge climbs, touch sensitive switches, and awesome jumps made for co-op ‘sploding but can be done solo with some a little skillz. unfortunately, while the co-op is really a ton of fun, it’s near-UNPLAYABLE online. the lag is so awful, trying to do anything requiring timing is made 10x harder than it actually is, and it only gets worse when you play full 4 player co-op. as of right now, co-op is only playable the old fashioned way, with buddies coming over/going over to a friend’s place to play. it’s really unfortunate to see this happen with another otherwise fantastic XBLA game during Microsoft’s “Summer of Arcade” event for a 2nd straight year, last year’s online fiasco being Castle Crashers. that eventually got fixed…hopefully this will too.
_graphically, the game isn’t terribly impressive, though the style does have its charm. the stages all have similar aesthetics, and that’s probably the weakest aspect of the entire game. you could put up screen shots of the first, 20th, and 40th stages, and you probably couldn’t tell them apart from the looks. surprisingly enough, while ‘Splosion Man himself is incredibly simplistic looking, his mannerisms and idle movements and sounds making him a very likable main character. from doing jumping jacks, to manically turning back and forth, and a few different running animations, he’s very eye catching. so while it’s far from being technically impressive graphical achievement, there’s enough style put into the characters to keep it from being an eyesore.
_overall, ‘Splosion Man is a very welcome modern throwback to the 2D platformers of old. with any luck, ‘Splosion Man will be successful enough to show more developers that there’s a market for pure platformers done right.
_on the dinner rating scale, ‘Splosion Man gets a Spaghetti with Meatballs.