The great thing about this whole downloadable game revolution is that developers are doing creative games like Splosion Man. It's a game that requires the use of just one button plus the directional pad, draws from classic Warner Bros. Animation and 1990s video games, and is, all things considered, a truly violently wonderful experience. Daffy Duck would be proud.
$10 (800 MS points)
In this game, you are a lab experiment. You explode, repeatedly. So your explosions cause you to jump, and to destroy things. With so many games giving players a phobia for figuring out which button does what, it's magnificent to see one simplify the controls into just one button-- "splode." Walk up to an enemy or an obstacle, and blow it up. If you need to get up on a ledge, blow yourself up. It's so simple it's a wonder that nobody thought of this earlier. The main catch is you can only blow yourself up three times without pausing to recharge, by either sliding down a wall or touching the ground. It's just so oddly bizarre to see a game where you essentially take control of an invincible suicide bomber.
Boom, Baby, Boom, I'm the Evil Midnight Bomber what Bombs at Midnight
If you've played games like Thexder, some of the older Tiny Toon Adventures titles, or a lot of older arcade games, the game's format should be pretty familiar. You go through massive laboratories, blowing up scientists, finding cakes, and destroying things on your way to the exit. There are dozens of levels, ranging from pretty easy to massively annoying. Playing the demo will likely give a gamer a false sense of superiority, this is a difficult game requiring lots of patience and the willingness to try, and to try again. And then throw your controller at the TV in anger. Believe it or not, this is exactly what qualified as fun in the 1990s and was one of the ways developers got more out of the game-- make it harder, and players will play it longer.
Graphics & Sound
Graphically it's pretty simple-- a good, animated design for the main character gives the "Splosion Man" a deranged look, plus he's constantly spouting off all sorts of babble ranging from internet memes to other rants about whatever. The scientists are a bunch of lab coat-clad drudges who run in fear and react appropriately to the death of their colleagues: they clearly fear for their lives, as they should.
The game's sense of humor is amusingly anti-science, with one of the achievements describing the goal as Get Them Out of Our Schools: Eliminate 10 Scientists and stop them from spreading their filthy lies. The endless screaming, giggling, and general air of goofiness is either going to be the most fun you've had all week or the most annoying thing you've been subjected to in this generation of gaming. We found it charming, but this isn't the kind of game we can play for hours, although some levels may dictate that kind of dedication unless you happen to be Mr. or Ms. Awesome Gamer.
Is it worth buying?
It's rare to sit down and play a game that's quite like this one. Combining the works of Chuck Jones with 8-bit and 16-bit style run-and-jump platformers was a stroke of genius. The exploding main character feels like a lost concept for a great mascot game. The controls? Simple. This is a well-engineered game of that "you'll figure it out in three seconds and never be able to beat it" school. Good fun, good challenge, the kind of thing you probably wish you had around 1993 if you were a part of that gaming era. We have yet to complete it, but we're still giving it a try-- which is a good sign of a game in our stash.
Multiplayer modes untested for the purposes of this review.
October 19, 2009