What is the concept? Like any prodigious platformer, Splasher is elevated by tautness and nuance during navigation. Control of your purple-haired, hooded protagonist is precise, permitting players to execute the springs required to leapfrog across pools of toxic waste, hop over whirling sawblade, and slip past a plethora of laser beams. Given Romain Claude’s experience designing Rayman Origins and Legends, Splasher’s spot-on controls aren’t much a surprise. What might be unexpected is how adeptly the game blends movement along with liquids that exhibit a number of different physical properties.
Navigate through the first level, and you’ll undoubtedly observe a patch of red goop painted on a high platform. Called Stickink, stepping on the crimson-colored substance allows gamers to walk upside down, or cling to vertical walls like a spider. Later when you earn the power-up that upgrades your paint cannon, you’ll be able to lay down convenient patches of the adhesive or even coat enemies- rendering them harmless.
Complementing the Stickink, is yellow-hued Bouncink, which recoils any object. Step on a patch of the springy stuff and you’ll be able to cover more distance than your normal jump would. Alternatively, it can be applied to foes, sending them soaring toward traps, which is particularly satisfying maneuver. Finally, there’s water, which can be used to eliminate subordinate enemies or activate the game’s large number of hydro-power moving platforms.
Beyond just making it through each level, there’s a subordinate goal to strive for. In each level are seven unfortunate coworkers, with six taking refuge in the alcoves of each stage. Rescuing each gives players gold ink. Collection 700 unit of the rare material and you’re able to free the seventh employee. Largely, liberating the final worker lives little room for error, making this pursuit a gratifying goalmouth for perfectionists.
What are the game’s strengths? Unlike many puzzle-platformers that force players to slow the speed of navigation as they muse over the conundrums, Splasher rarely slackens its pace. Given the game’s trio of liquids, there’s not a lot of depth to the game’s solution set- but that design decision proves to be astute. As such, Splasher avoids the staccato tempo of many of its peers, opting for a swift speed through its levels.
That aid, it’s understandable to see why the game extends speed-run support across its collection of twenty-two stages. Here, the typical task of trying to save your seven comrades and amassing gold ink is off the table. Instead, it’s a heated race to the end of the level, without the burden of collection. For time trials, success can be measured by bragging rights on Splasher’s online leaderboards.
Largely, Splasher’s trajectory is commendable. Levels demonstrate variety, rarely riffing on the same on the same mechanic for too long, and introduce new wrinkles like wind into the equation. The sole instance of redundancy is when the game introduces some deviation, revisiting the concept later in a more robust fashion. As such, the game’s journey feels breezy, without the repetition that can drag down an otherwise promising platformer. While the game’s final level can be infuriated, there’s an ample quantity of checkpoints in most levels and an endless number of lives, offsetting some of the frustration.
What are the games weaknesses? Those who appreciate a narrative that drives the on-screen action might be disheartened by Splasher’s skeletal storyline. A brief cinematic establishes the protagonist stumbling across the nefarious Le Docteur’s heinous experiments on another employee. After noticing the wayward worker, the villain orders the lead apprehended, stimulating the game’s pursuit. But beyond a few ungainly jabs at corporate irresponsibility, Splasher doesn’t have a whole lot to say.
While a minor trouble, Splasher’s hub world might bother players. Instead of the typical nested rooms of most multi-stage platformers, the game uses one large map to navigate between level. As it uses level assets, moving around can be a bit sluggish, with players forced to activate water-powered lifts, or disengage laser beams. While it’s certainly not a deal killer, the decision tends to break up the momentum between stages.
Is it worth the money? Undoubtedly, Romain Claude’s previous efforts rank among some of the best PC platforming experiences around. While Splasher doesn’t quite match the Rayman games, it is a gratifying experience that’s poised to please fans of the genre. With a demo on Steam and a sale price that’s less than ten dollars, there’s little reason not to give this enjoyable platformer a trial.
Splasher was played on the PC with review code provided by the publisher.
Platform: PC, Also for PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release date: February 7th, 2017 (PC), September 26st, 2017 (console)
Price: Currently $9.74 (PC) via Steam, $14.99 on console via digital download