Ms ‘Splosion Man review
"Your move, Unreal” chirps a hirsute Twisted ?Pixel staffer during an opening splash sequence advertising the studio’s engine, Beard. It’s easily the funniest moment in the game, but he could just as easily be offering the challenge to Duke Nukem, given the rampant, though daft, sexism prevalent throughout the game. Inane gossip-mag chatter, occasional ‘girl power’ exclamations and Ms Splosion Man’s hunt for shoes – replacing the previous game’s cakes – might intensify the comic horror of an out-of-control, explosive fugitive turning cowering scientists to chunks of meat with a casual giggle, but as the feminine stereotypes begin to pile up higher than the corpses, you’ll find yourself wincing with increasing regularity.
But, occasional stumbles into such territory aside, Twisted Pixel’s puzzle-platforming sequel is genuinely funny and another convincing demonstration of the studio’s flair for delivering strong characters and animation, supported in no small part by breathless vocal performances and a wonderfully knowing soundtrack. As in Splosion Man, players must make judicious use of a single ability, exploding, in order to navigate the game’s increasingly fiendish levels. You can explode up to three times in the air before needing to recharge, you can explode off walls to reach higher platforms, and you can be propelled in a variety of ways by detonating next to coloured barrels.
Much has been recycled, but notable additions include ziplines that dial up the pace and electric panels that keep you permanently charged – but turn barrels into a hindrance that threaten to blow you into whirling blades or spiked ceilings.
Many of the original game’s problems are carried over as well, however. While Ms Splosion Man may outwardly revel in chaos, it requires the kind of scalpel-sharp precision that doesn’t allow for improvisation, and often requires learning a performance by rote. Die too many times, and you’ll be offered the option of skipping to the next checkpoint, but this feels like a blunt solution.
Still, this insistence on accuracy comes into its ?own when revisiting levels to post faster times – accompanied by a ghost of your previous performance or one downloaded from the leaderboards – and here the game comes close to Super Meat Boy’s levels of addictiveness. The multiplayer levels are also a riotous inclusion, even if locating your character among four sets of explosions can occasionally prove too difficult. Ms Splosion Man might have done little to fix the ?first game’s flaws, but it confidently follows up on its raucous appeal.