It is an unwritten truth that female protagonists can wipe the floor with their male counterparts. This fact began many a decade ago with Ms. Pac-Man, whose gameplay and maze designs made her husband's title look like child's play. (I'd pick Lara Croft over Nathan Drake in a battle-to-the-death, and I believe that Zelda would be able to outwit and outplay Link if she was in Sheik form.) Thirty years later the battle of the gaming sexes continues to be in favor of the women's side, as evident in Twisted Pixel's latest release Ms. 'Splosion Man.
A sequel to the popular 'Splosion Man the hero of the first game finds himself captured by Big Science, but during heavy celebration a bottle of champagne is tipped over, causing circuits to fry and create Ms. 'Splosion Man. From here the Mademoiselle 'splodes her way through the remnants of Big Science, solving tricky puzzles and making death-defying leaps that would make The Great Gonzo nervous. Split into three worlds and forty-seven levels Ms. 'Splosion Man does all that a single lady can to save her hopefully dreamboat of a 'Splosion Man.
Gameplay continues to be as straightforward as the first title. You simply move around, and 'splode to jump, destroy obstacles and defeat bosses. However unlike its predecessor transportation such as power lines and automobiles will also be there to help your Señorita get from Point A to Point B. New baddies will keep you from reach that goal, not to mention electrical and acidy traps that aim to kill you. Even the level setup is different, looking similar to that of Super Mario Bros. 3 with its map layout. And yes, instead of cake there are hidden shoes to find.
What makes Ms. 'Splosion Man stand out from its forerunner is its challenging aspects, which come in the barrel load. At just about every turn of the game you will find yourself having to think quickly to reach the next checkpoint. For example in one level you'll have to turn off the light door using the switch at the end of the room, but in order to reach it you'll have to 'splode towards it using the recharging wall, all while avoiding the electrical fences that are on the top and bottom. On top of that there are robots that will explode if you 'splode on them, sending you barreling into the electrical fence killing you. I died nearly forty times before I finally managed to complete the task, only to find myself dying before I can get to the checkpoint and having to do it another seven times to get it right once more!
Saying that Ms. 'Splosion Man is frustratingly hard is an understatement. Your fingers will be in tremendous amounts of pain hours after gameplay, and there will be moments where you will want to fling your remote through your expensive TV in a screaming pit of rage. Fortunately there is plenty to love about this game that will help you simmer down your anger. In fact you might find yourself filled with pure joy while bearing witness to the whimsicalness of Ms. 'Splosion Man.
Of course you cannot talk about Twisted Pixel without discussing its humor, and as always they know how to make gamers laugh. Whether it's a video tutorial showing you how to play the game or the blatant movie references there is so much comedy to be found in this game. Much credit must be given to Monica Rial (Sgt. Frog, Shin Chan, Moonphase), whose take on our heroine is nothing short of comedic genius. Channeling the "Valley Girl" in Frank Zappa's loony ditty Rial has 'Splosion-chan spouting film quotes and Lady Gaga lyrics with the vernacular of a high school dropout. Then you've got the inspired music from Matt "Chainsaw" Chaney, ranging from the fat suit ditty "Mandy" to the greatest song about big butts since the era of Sir Mix-A-Lot.
Single player mode might take you roughly ten hours to beat, though there is plenty to go back to in order to find all the shoes and collect coins to unlock all the goodies in the Mall. For those looking for multiplayer need look no further, as up to four players can get their 'splode on in fifty levels, all of which are completely different from the single player ones. There is also the "2 Girls, 1 Controller" mode, where one player (or two if they're very close lovers) can play the multiplayer mode with one controller. It is indeed a rough task to do on your own, so those who have the worst hand-eye coordination may do well to not try it; otherwise they'll have a massive aneurism.
- Lots of challenges to be found
- One of the funniest games of the year
- Great voice acting, catchy songs
- Some challenges unforgivably hard
- Not enough checkpoints
- Donut man is missing
Ms. 'Splosion Man continues the tradition that women are better gaming protagonists than men, as it is filled with lots of great gameplay, stellar humor and tons of replay value. There may be some frustrating moments here and there, but what you get out of the game in the long run is totally worth it. Hopefully Twisted Pixel will continue on with the adventures of these 'Splosion Men, as there's plenty more life to be found in this series. Maybe an "edutainment" parody game 'Splosion Kids could be next on the horizon, where players will learn such mathematical equations as 2 + 2 = open-face-loose-meat-sandwich!
FINAL GRADE: 9.3 (out of 10)