The platformer genre in general has had a lot of hit and miss titles since the '90s. Given, a lot of that has to do with the transition into three dimensional gaming and it's caused a lot of developers to leave this original genre in the dust. With the rise of the independent game scene however, times are changing, and this is allowing some more of the classic genres to rise from the ashes in downloadable form. 'Splosion Man is one great example of how a genre can still remain timeless with a modern twist.
'Splosion Man is the second Xbox Live Arcade article from Twisted Pixel. It features the main protagonist 'Splosion Man on a 2D platforming frenzy through secret underground labs, exploding scientists into assorted meat products and wreaking havoc on his environment along the way.
Gameplay in 'Splosion Man can essentially be described in two separate parts. It's primarily a two dimensional platforming game, but it's also a bit of a puzzle game. Levels consists of running and "'sploding" off of floors and walls to navigate through mazes of underground tunnels. The 'splosions are limited to three, so it's wise to be cautious with how they are placed to get across the level. The puzzle aspects involve placing jumps properly in order to get around. There are also environmental aspects such as switches and barrels to open gates, which allow safe passage through the stages.
The sheer number of levels in the game are also fantastic. There are four levels split up into sixteen stages, each finishing with a boss battle. The difficulty ranges from stage to stage with most being fairly difficult depending. However, this is dependant on whether it's a race against the clock, or a tricky puzzle based level. One great thing with the game however, no matter how difficlult the level, is if 'Splosion Man dies enough times there is the option to take the "Way of the Coward" to skip the stage at the cost of running the next stage wearing a tutu.
With the amount of levels to work through in the game, there is a lot of time to be sunk into it in single player alone. Once the single player is done though, there is still the full multiplayer mode which can be played with up to four players either online or on the same console. It includes an entirely different set of levels with the exception of boss battles, not to mention online leaderboards for every stage to compete for the highest score, which can be achived by causing more destruction, finding hidden areas, and completing the level as fast as possible. Expect to see a lot of high scored speed runs to keep the challenges ramping up in online competition.
The great thing about 'Splosion Man is that it's practically a love letter to 2D platformers. The pacing of the game, whether single player or multiplayer, is just perfect. In single player mode the levels are challenging in the sense that most levels are very timing oriented and give a sense of excitement to clear a frantic stretch at any given point. The multiplayer is set up with the awareness of more than one player in the game and gives a whole separate set of levels specifically catered to more players. The timing is slowed down a little more, but tasks are set to help each other through obstacles and separate paths.
Graphically, the game as a whole looks great with a unique art style. The music is equally appealing as it has a fast paced score which keeps up with the frantic gameplay. There are also a lot of really fun and light-hearted little sound bites, including a great song all about doughnuts that plays when picking up a chubby scientist.
With the two dimensional platformers of today usually falling pretty short of being a better than mediocre game, a game like 'Splosion Man is easily among some of the best platformers out there. With great graphics, a fun theme, challenging levels, hilarious music, and unmatched single and multiplayer gameplay all rolled into one package, it's impossible to pass up this opporitunity. This is easily a contender for one of the best games of the year, and a game of this calibur in the genre hasn't really been seen since the days of the original Sonic and Mario games.