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A Triple Blast from the Past- ‘Splosion Man Reviewed

‘Splosion Man for the 360. Developer: Twisted Pixel, Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios ESRB: E10

To paraphrase the Geto Boys song popularized in the film Office Space, ‘Damn, it feels good to be a gamer.’ With a dialectical output of diversions that range from the multi-million efforts of Electronic Arts and Activision to the wild innovations of independent developers, console owners are enjoying a recreational renaissance. One of the recent high points from the indie world was Twisted Pixel’s The Maw, a title that seemed like a forgotten treasure from the Nintendo 64 era.

For a follow-up, the Austin-based team seems to have drawn inspiration from the 8 and 16-bit puzzle platformer. ‘Splosion Man splendidly combines the muted cerebral elements of the Wario Land series with the hyperkinetic action of Sonic the Hedgehog. The title brings us back to that celebrated period of squeezing in an additional level before bed, and waking to a set of calloused fingertips.

Comparable to its retro brethren, ‘Splosion Man’s narrative is told in swift transitions and conveyed through character animation. The fiery, energetic protagonist is constantly in motion, cycling through animation sets, even when the player is not moving him. The game’s responsive control mechanic hails to a time when split-second timing was a requisite for a competent player.

Each press of the face buttons allows ‘Splosion Man to combust, sending him hurling throw the air in the direction of the analog stick. Players are allowed to ignite the flaming orange character up to three consecutive times, each occurrence giving additional loft or distance to jumps. Sliding down walls or running along causes friction, allowing the hero to recharge his detonation ability. Without any new powers, the game throws a healthy amount of help and hindrances to test the player- from flames that allow for an instant ignition recharge to icy mists that denied combustion.

A majority of the game focuses on navigating to the exit of each underground stage, rather than on melee combat. Non-confrontational scientists mill around the levels, each of them may be ignored or humorously gibbed into a pile of luncheon meats. ‘Splosion’s only significant confrontations come in the shape of three lively boss battles, which offer a refreshing reprieve from exploration. Once players have exhausted the enjoyment for the single player campaign, there’s a four player cooperative mode that is playable either locally or online.

As first glance, ‘Splosion Man’s labyrinthine levels recall the simple level design of 16-bit title, albeit with a dynamic camera. Soon, the player will notice an astute attention to detail, from ‘Splosion’s glowing reflection, to the charcoaled remnants of the game’s healthy amount of collateral damage.  Whereas many combustible-focused games have displayed a limited amount of volatility, the ‘Splosion player is rewarded with a constant barrage of flaming footstep, burn marks, and billowing smoke. The game’s soundtrack reiterates the verve of the title character, with its uncontrollably bouncy beats and rhythms.

Although the introductory stages of ‘Splosion Man orient the gamers to the fundamentals required in traversing a level, the game relentlessly confronts players with additional challenges. Before long, these tests may result in frustration for all those except for the most hardened platforming veterans. Elongated chasms requiring precision timing, recall the skills needed to surpass 8-bit classics like Ninja Gaiden and Bionic Commando. Those prone to fits of controller-throwing rage may wish to clear their games spaces of breakables, as their demeanor may mirror the disposition of the game’s lead character.

There’s little doubt why Microsoft place ‘Splosion Man in the leadoff position for their Summer of Arcade promotion. The title’s easily understood concept, along with its superb execution (and later- unforgiving difficulty) recalls some of the forsaken gems of Genesis/SNES era. Couple these assets with a gorgeous high-def delivery and you have a wholehearted recommendation for what will surely be one of the hottest hits of Summer.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

33 comments

  1. I gotta try this. I heard about during E3, and it sounded great.

  2. I didn’t even have to think about picking up this one. By the end of the first level, I knew this was going to be great.

  3. I saw so-so on the Maw, but I bet I will love this.

  4. Blowing up stuff never gets old. I’m glad that Twisted Pixel understands this.

  5. How indie is working on NBA Chosen one and Blitz II?

  6. I bought it, about 1/3 in it gets pretty hard, about level 35, it starts geting insane.

  7. I will download the trial for sure.

  8. Anyone know if this will come to PSN ever?

  9. I like everything but the name. I just want to call it “Explosion”

  10. As a fan of the older games, I got to pick this one up.

  11. Anyone know what other games are part of the Summer of Arcade?

  12. * ‘Splosion Man
    * Shadow Complex
    * TMNT: Turtles in Time Re-shelled
    * Marvel Vs. Capcom 2
    * Monkey Island Special Edition
    * Trials HD

    Actually this is the second week. Monkey Island was the Arcade kick off.

  13. It may, it its successful.

  14. How is an adventure game, “Aracde”?

  15. I think they were just contractors, it’s Midways game.

  16. Looks like the Noid. Annoying advertisement/game characters FTW.

  17. It cant be as hard as Ghouls and Ghosts.

  18. Looks great, and ‘Splosions been getting some really great reviews.

  19. Maw, was cool, until they pimped the hell out of DLC. I thought they should have included more with the main game.

  20. Painless Fragger

    I’m sure this will ge tuned into a franchise. I’d like to see at least one additional power, maybe a super burst that counts as two regular explosions.

  21. Electric Relaxation

    Anyone remember Boogerman? I loved that game as a kid. When I played it recently, I didn’t see what the deal was.

  22. I hope Sonic Team is paying attention to how a 2.5D platformer is done.

  23. I love the Dirk Diggler karate punch animation

  24. IGN said some of the graphics and load screens were simplistic. What did you think?

  25. I have no problems with the look of the game at all.

  26. Wow, never heard of it. Sounds fun, but I’m easily frustrated.

  27. I tried the demo and though 50 levels would seem really repetaive.

  28. Yeah, selling all the Maw levels after the fact was kind of cheap.

  29. This game looks awesome and this review pushed me over the edge so I will buy it now.

  30. Great review. Sounds amazing.

  31. One of the better XBLA games in a long time. I look forward to Twisted Pixel’s next game.

  32. I just played the demo, and plunked down my 800 space bucks. I hear the last boss is a BITCH.

  33. RocksontheScotch

    No, they’re not too bad at all. I’m in the 40’s and still haven’t a BLAST!