Ms. Splosion Man
Off in the distance I can hear a familiar radiating jingle, an audible clue to a nearby hidden treasure. It is a pair of shoes. In the other direction is safety and, perhaps, the end of the level. The struggle to reach this point has already been quite exhausting, and I know if I am to attempt to claim the shoes as my own there will surely be sinister traps waiting in the shadows to claim me first. It would be a risk, both for the extra points the acquisition would garner, along with the instant fashion upgrade.
It’s a strange assortment of questions to be asking, especially to a person looking upon Ms. ‘Splosion Man without having seen her Mr. counterpart. If you have played through the original you will know that cake was the previous hidden object and that the game is a challenging affair. Blink and you might miss a jump. Twitch the controller in the wrong way at the wrong time and you’ll find yourself back at the last checkpoint.
As a sequel it does less to innovate over what ‘Splosion Man started, choosing instead to build upon what’s already there. The gender swap itself is an arbitrary one, like Ms. Pac-Man to Pac-Man, though Twisted Pixel does well to ensure the change isn’t merely cosmetic. Aside from lady splosion’s hot pink (or hot yellow if you’re playing co-op) visage and her desire for both acquiring and wearing the unique shoes scattered throughout the levels there are also changes that can be seen in the new versions of old themes in the soundtrack.
Like Mr. ‘Splosion, Ms. ‘Splosion is like a small child that has been given an overdose of sugar and, as she splodes her way along, prattles incessantly. As a character she, like the overall mood of the game she inhabits, is a child of the eighties and early nineties. She is a caricature of a valley girl while also quoting Total Recall. There is the option to turn off her voice, if one chooses.
Unlike Mr. ‘Splosion, Ms. ‘Splosion explores her levels in a fashion that’s more equivalent to Mario games of old, though the difference here is purely cosmetic. Levels themselves move in a linear fashion, with small exceptions given to the more difficult levels and the secret levels. There are three worlds to explore, each with their own unique art style and setting that contributes to the larger universe overall. Mr. ‘Splosion spent his many levels trapped inside a never ending laboratory, while Ms. ‘Splosion ’splodes her way through multiple environments.
As you progress through the game, and the levels open up before you, harder levels become split off from normal levels. This is one of several attempts Twisted Pixel has made to accommodate new players to its challenging game. In ‘Splosion Man every punishing level had to be completed, while Ms. ‘Splosion Man will even go so far as completing hers for you (at a tremendous cost to your score).
Sometimes, even against your greatest wishes, you might find yourself tempted to use the feature in order to get through the trickier levels. This is a game that finds its difficulty set on trial-and-error. At times it feels like a roller coaster ride that jerks about frantically, leaving only blind faith as your ally that everything will turn out alright. At other times you’ll find yourself wondering where you can shave off that extra half-second that prevented you from safely circumventing the latest obliterating trap. Play for too long in one sitting and you’ll feel spent and exhausted.
Your trials and tribulations, however, do not go unrewarded. Defeated levels give you points to use in the mall, a shop for unlocking everything from concept art to an exclusive theme of the game. Did you succeed in acquiring the hidden pair of shoes? More points to spend! There is always a reward for the effort you put in, and none of them are as great as the final battle in the game and its ridiculous ending. It is the kind of thing that makes every second prior worth it.
Eight out of ten
- Trial and Error Difficulty