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Summer of Arcade starts with a bang: Splosion Man

July 22, 2009

Just yesterday I was chatting to the owner of my local indie store and what came up in conversation? Sonic the Hedgehog and its one button. Run and jump is all it took for a classic to be made in 1990 but since then platformers seem to need gimmick after gimmick after ‘let’s put guns in cos the kids like guns’, with a few shining examples such as the fantastic Donkey Kong Jungle Beat or, erm, nope! Nothing else comes to mind.

And this is where Splosion Man comes in, the start of Microsoft’s summer of arcade and an honest to god simplistic, thrilling platformer. The game has echoes of Sonic’s speed, Donkey Kong’s level traversing spectacle, Prince of Persia/Jungle Beat’s acrobatic fluidity, and outrageous 90’s mascot stupidity. Using just the left stick and any face button you run and ‘splode’, which is just a flamboyant method of triple jumping, and using the splode technique you can wall jump, blast off barrels, and murderise scientists.

One of the game’s high points is the animation on the character himself, as long as you don’t mind silly chattering noises and baby like garbling. As you move around he has a variety of running, standing, and sploding animations that keep the humour up and give him a unique sense of character.

The levels themselves, whilst unfortunately samey looking, have a nice array of simple puzzles and fiendish platforming with hidden cake in most levels giving the incentive to replay levels and nom them all for a delicious achievement, bosses are spread thinly through the missions as well and whilst they are easy to dispatch, the spectacle they offer is welcomed.

Now if that sounds good then it lasts for fifty levels and a further ‘hardcore’ challenge is unlocked after but to go alongside this is a fantastic co-op for up to four players that can be played over Live! Many people I know were annoyed that N+’s co-op was without an online option and this was a real sour point for me, considering it was amazing, so the fact that everyone will be able to experience Splosion Man’s equally fantastic co-op is a real incentive to buy it now. In many ways it’s more tricky than the single player in that it asks players to really co-operate to solve puzzles and give each other a leg up to places, the experience tailors itself to the amount of players in the game, from two to four, and it’s another fifty levels that are arguably even better than the single player game.

Splosion Man is a great platformer with some delicious modern touches masking a truly old school experience, it’s challenging but you have unlimited lives to make it accessible to everyone, the single button controls could be explained to a toddler but knowing the way the ‘splode really works and getting through a level without stopping is a giddying experience last felt in the Gamecube’s Jungle Beat, the levels are bite sized but finding all the cakes and beating hardcore will last you a long time, probably ten hours or more.

All this and my only complaint is that perhaps the areas are a little too samey, but I’m not really far enough in to tell for sure, but hopefully this won’t be the last time we get to splode our way through labs, turning scientists into chunks.

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