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The End is Nigh: ‘Splosion Man

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The End is Nigh’ is a weekly column by Play.tm’s Martin Gaston, pondering the nature of videogame endings and why we do or don’t choose to finish the games we play. This week: ‘Splosion Man and its wonderf—SPLODE SPLODE SPLODE SPLODE SPLODE.

‘Splosion Man, unsurprisingly, ‘splodes. He can do it three times in a row, with the ability to recharge when his feet hit a solid surface. It’s a very simple game. It’s also magnificent.

I’ve seen its faults reeled out in various reviews: there are too many levels; the game stops throwing up original puzzles after the first act; sometimes the camera goes a bit wonky. All true. To those criticisms I can only say this: I played through the entirety of the game in a three-day window, one where I was far too busy to possibly have time to play any games. It was hypnotic.

I do feel like a bit of a hypocrite arguing the game’s virtues when I only purchased it after Microsoft bunged it in a half-price sale the other week, but sometimes the best titles are the ones that end up on your screen by chance. The fact it features a protagonist who runs down corridors flailing his arms in the air and making gorilla noises doesn’t hurt, either.

It’s addictive, which is why I ended up blitzing through it so fast. Its main hook, that it forces you into cycles of compulsive repetition, feels similar to the more popular Trials HD, a fellow entry in Microsoft’s 2009 ‘Summer of Arcade’ campaign. The main difference to the structure is that ‘Splosion Man’s movements have greater degrees of restriction. The tiniest nudge of the analog stick won’t send him hurtling down a chasm, for example. This alone makes it much easier, and in terms of journeying from beginning to end it’s far more obtainable.

A HUNK OF BURNING LOVE
I couldn’t play the whole game in one sitting, instead opting to play it in batches of levels; it was impossible to settle with just one at a time, but more than six started to get a bit sickly. After a few hours break, the insatiable urge to boot up the 360 and carry on became an ever-present part of my subconscious until the itch was once again scratched.

The puzzles might repeat – they’re usually little more than a combination of jumping from a surface on your left to a surface on your right – but the development team at Twisted Pixel splosionman1ahave enough ingenuity to keep it interesting more often than not. It’s also filled with brilliant, mad touches: pick up an overweight scientist and the game plays a little song about how delicious doughnuts are. Complete the game and, not wanting to be beaten by the likes of Portal and Plants Versus Zombies, there’s /two/ pieces of music that play – and that’s after the game congratulates you for being really awesome.

Other things that are brilliant: the last boss, a giant meat monster, is beaten by making him inadvertently dip his hands in boiling fat and then watching as he eats them after realising how delicious they are. The evil corporation you’re running away from, Big Science, has an improbably humongous underwater lair and juxtaposes its evil science minions’ desks and offices with increasingly complex permutations of spikes, drops, pools of acid, walls that try to crush you, turrets and countless moving platforms. So many platforms.

It’s all held together by an environment that’s thin on reality but big on charisma. It’s got attractive bright colours, an irresistible goofy allure, and enemies that get turned into cuts of meat as you ‘splode near them. Even if its shortcomings annoy you more than they did for me, the hilarious animations and comedic situations will be more than enough to keep you plugging away.

Twisted Pixel describe their game as splodalicious. How very apt. By Martin Gaston

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