Never in my life did I ever think I’d hear three grown men complain about wanting a pair of shoes more than I heard during a co-op session of Ms. Splosion Man. The game takes the tried and true formula from the first Splosion Man title, adds a ton of polish to itself, and gives it a unique and feminine twist.
I guarantee you’ll laugh before you even reach the main menu in Ms. Splosion Man. Twisted Pixel’s humor continues its dominance right from the engine splash screen - and a few dozen watches later - I still chuckle at the BEARD engine video. It’s this humor that propels Ms. Splosion Man forward, otherwise you’d be stuck a solid platformer that makes you want to throw your controller for almost no reward. Instead the reward is the continued jokes, the original music, and the personality the explodes off the screen with every idle animation. Seriously - The Carlton Dance? Amazing. Instead of gibberish, Ms. Splosion Man speaks and sings many “female” oriented songs, like Where have all the Cowboys Gone, surely something to get stuck in your head.
The core of the game remains the same - you have one button that causes you character to explode. You can explode up to three times in a row launching yourself at or off objects to reach new heights, areas, and unlockables. The puzzles are equal parts timing, physics and luck.
But don’t think of Ms. Splosion Man simply as a sequel with a fresh coat of paint and 100 new levels- 50 in co-op and 50 in single player. Twisted Pixel has gone and added a whole array of new devices to make your left to right traversal that much more perilous - and that much faster. You have zip lines, trampolines, launchers, flying cars, and backgrounds that let you continuously splode till your heart is content. You’ve got a fat woman who you can possess and barrels that launch you into the background adding another layer of complexity to an already mind numbing amount of environmental puzzles. If there’s one big difference I felt it’s that the game wants to continue moving you forward, something that made it feel like a Sonic game of old.
Game mechanic changes aren’t the only change to the game - a huge addition is the ability to play with ghosts of either your previous level runs or off the leaderboards. A great way to improve your times or help to chea...errr..solve a puzzle. Speaking of cheating, the game now offers the ability to skip ahead checkpoints after so many attempts. It comes with only a minor penalty, though I don’t want to ruin it for you, but it almost makes me want to cheat more often. Beyond this the game is broken up into three worlds on a Mario World style map that allows you to choose pick your poison. You’ll earn coins for completing levels that let you unlock other goodies as well at the "mall."
While I found the core single player gameplay equally as rewarding as it is frustrating, in small doses it was something manageable. The true beauty of the game is in its co-op mode where players not only have to worry about navigating the environment and their own timing of sploding, but the sploding of others. The co-op is an entirely different set of 50 levels with their own unique mechanics and even a different story ending. Up to four players can play locally, online or a mix of the two each controlling their own specific colored Splosion woman.
The intricacy of the cooperative puzzles are almost artistic, at times the players motion will look like a Rube Golderberg machine. Completing puzzles will yield cheers from your co-op partners, failures often exhibit laughter and plenty of swearing. Each play session involved the discovery of several new naughty language bits. The strategy and group problem solving are incredibly rewarding and most of my play sessions seemed to go by in minutes when in reality, hours had passed.
All in all it’s a love and hate relationship I have with Ms. Splosion Man and games like it. In short bouts by myself, it’s rewarding. Anything longer usually involves me swearing and throwing controllers like a two year old who wants ice cream for dinner. The co-op makes the game more tolerable to longer session, laughing and conquering with friends is just that much more enjoyable and entertaining. Plus there's shoooooooes!