The titular character in Ms. ‘Splosion Man is not only an allusion to Ms. Pac Man, but also a science mistake; an explosive, pink humanoid with a yellow bow. Escaping the labs after ‘Splosion Man’s capture and her creation, she sets out on a journey across three different, themed worlds, each with 15 levels (including six secret levels) and a boss, to rescue her counterpart from his captivity.[boxout]Ms. ‘Splosion Man’s personality is explosive – naturally – she’s an extremely hyper, Americanised woman, obsessed with shoes and with a tendency to quote popular songs and films (which gets quite annoying). She’s ‘Splosion Man’s equal in every way – perhaps even more deranged, and she’s a brilliant character for it. The game, however, isn’t about that… it’s about the addictive, 2.5D platforming action, which is some of the best around.
The controls are delightfully simple, yet also solid: there are no dedicated jump or attack buttons, instead you use the left stick to move and press any of the face buttons to ‘splode, which acts as both your attack and jump. You can explode three times before Ms. ‘Splosion will need to recharge; by landing, sliding down a wall or exploding a barrel. Controlling Ms. ‘Splosion feels better than it did controlling her counterpart in the first game, this makes complex sections in which you’ll have to jump from barrel to wall to barrel to cannon and then back again a joy to play.
As you progress, other mechanics are introduced, some new and some of which we’ve seen in the predecessor: rocket cars, different types of barrels, wires which you can slide along and numerous hazards which you’ll have to avoid. You’ll often have to think before you ‘splode, but this can be hard when you have a split second to avoid a hazard. It’s very frustrating in this respect and you’ll realise that timing is crucial, although it’s all the more rewarding when you finally do it right, and it’s undeniably fun no matter how many times you try due to the tight controls. That’s not even on Hardcore mode, which has no checkpoints and you die in one hit.[drop2]There’s also puzzle sections, which require working out when to activate certain switches, unlock certain things and even take over bodies – notably the one of a scientist on the larger side, named Mandy – to open the way and progress. These are fun and a good change of pace from the fast-paced, ‘sploding platforming areas. This required thinking helps extend the levels, although none of these are ever too taxing.
You’ll recognise some of the enemies that return from ‘Splosion Man (it is the same labs, and straight after, mind); the scientist enemies themselves aren’t too hard – they’ll run away or shoot a paltry gun at you, although the spinners are formidable foes if you’re not careful, whilst the bosses throughout the game are colossal and require strategising, although don’t appear frequently enough. Hazards will leave you devastated as you’re transported to the last checkpoint and have to do an entire section again.
The checkpoints are well placed, however, and if you can’t overcome a section, then there’s the option to skip ahead. Skipping a checkpoint does come with a curse: Ms. ‘Splosion Man will become… heavier… and annoying, albeit funny, music will play. Add that to the fact your completion time for the level will be impossibly high and you won’t gain a score at the end, and it’s something you’ll only want to use when you’re desperate.
Whenever I play a platformer, there are two main things I want: a fun game and lots of collectables. Ms. ‘Splosion Man exceeds with the former, although it fails with the latter – there are a singular pair of shoes to collect in each level, but these are hidden away and there’s nothing in the way of collectable coins, rings or fruit dotted around the levels. There are leaderboards, which track your time and scores at least.
You do get some form of coins, which are awarded based on how well you did in the level. You spend these at the Mall to buy items such as Avatar Awards, videos, music, photos and other things, although collecting these throughout the level would have been a great idea and I’m really not sure why it’s not that way.[drop]Another thing that makes a platformer great is a co-operative mode. Thankfully, this returns, with 50 levels in both online and offline varieties support for up to four players. It features different levels and puzzles, some altered mechanics – such as ‘sploding into each other to get higher – and a new story, which really adds longevity to the game once you’ve finished the singleplayer levels, though the co-op levels do seem to be shorter. There’s also the inclusion of a ‘2 girls 1 controller’ mode that you can buy from the Mall, in which you play both characters yourself: the left stick and LB and the right stick and RB to move and ‘splode each character respectively.
The humour is always spot-on, literally from when you boot the game up, with laugh-out-loud moments that will leave you smiling through the anger. The game is also a joy to look at, blending 2D and 3D together – it’s more colourful than the original, which matches Ms. ‘Splosion Man perfectly. Some of the animations in particular are great, such as when Ms. ‘Splosion dances or skates along the floor. The sound is grand, too, there’s some nice, funny original music in there and the menu beeps play the theme tune as you traverse through them, which is a nice touch.
- Lots of explosions.
- Some of the best recent platforming action.
- Perfect tone and sense of humour.
- Various solid gameplay mechanics.
- Co-op mode isn’t just tacked on to the singleplayer levels.
- Frustratingly difficult at points.
- Collectables are disappointing.
- Ms. ‘Splosion Man’s ramblings can push you over the edge when you’re angry.
If you’re a fan of platformers, then look no further. Ms. ‘Splosion Man is a great example of how an excellent yet simple control system and superb gameplay mechanics can make a wonderful game; players of the first game will feel right at home whilst newcomers will get on with it after a brief introduction. With lots of options, modes and not too many down sides, this is a must buy for fans of platforming, and an absolute steal for the asking price of 800MSP. It’s funny, it’s frantic and it’s a whole lot of addictive fun; Ms. ‘Splosion Man is perhaps the greatest scientific mistake that the human race has ever made.