Ms. ‘Splosion Man was the first title released as part of Microsoft’s Summer of Arcade deal this year. Emerging from pretty much out of the clear blue, this game is a triumph of simplicity in gaming. It demonstrates how excellent game development can be when your entire control scheme is one stick and one button.
The game itself is simple: you are Ms. ‘Splosion Man. A tiny little cartoon man comprised of glowing red flames who can explode in sequence up to three times without having to recharge by resting on the ground or against the wall. While it may sound simple, the game is brilliantly so. During the lengthy game, you will be confronted with new obstacles and new objects to overcome and interact with using your explosive powers.
The main object in the game is barrels. Some of which propel you slightly higher in the air. Others sending you to new areas of the level. There are other items such as grenades and torches to interact with. But the game never forces you to do anything more than press one of the face buttons on your controller to use each of these nifty little items.
The game also throws in enemies, and it does it in a charming way. The game, which is set in a science facility that oftentimes looks a bit too repetitive, will zoom away from your character and show you a terrified cartoon scientist running in fear to pull a lever which turns on a turret, blocking off the next area.
Sometimes the game will have you get around behind him by jumping. But often you will get to pick up a pump, donut-munching scientist and run him through the lasers to the soothing. Jovial tune of “Everybody Loves Donuts”, as the scientist gets turned into cartoony filets of Omaha Steaks, and then you personally get to explode up the skinny, cowardly scientist and turn him into a much smaller number of filets. Ms. ‘Splosion Man is filled with charming, funny little moments like these, but the donut song does take the cake.
Ms. ‘Splosion Man’s first level is fairly easy, and the learning curve doesn’t get too much sharper as the game goes on, simply because there’s not much new to learn. The game is more about applying your explosive ability in different ways, and in that manner, the developers have delivered. There are tons of challenges: some are demanding and unforgiving, others are easy and simple. Nevertheless, every time you complete a challenge, the game sets a checkpoint for you.
As long as you don’t exit back to the main menu, your progress here is saved, and you may try in the coming area as many times as you like. If you die enough, the game also gives you the option to skip to the next level altogether, called “The Way of the Coward”. The game doesn’t muddy the waters with pesky ‘lives’ and scoring system, instead of allowing the enjoyment of the experience to drive players to continue.
Ms. ‘Splosion Man is roughly fifty levels long, which, depending on how fast you learn to adapt to the game’s many challenges, can take you a good deal of time. The replay value is extended if you go back and collect all of the cakes hidden about the numerous levels, and even further should you play the game’s multiplayer, which allows up to four players to get together and even explode off of each other to create new possibilities.
Ms. ‘Splosion Man is an altogether excellent game that combines simple gameplay elements with enough humor to make it one of the best titles available on Xbox Live right now. It is an excellent buy and definitely, worth the 800 Microsoft Points, you must pay to have it.
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