I’m not actually sure if I’m technically allowed to write this without breaking my NDA, but I’ve emailed Twisted Pixel to ask and I’ve had no reply, so I’m going to hope this is ok. 🙂 They can sue me later! :O
I was lucky enough to get onto the Ms Splosion Man beta recently. It’s also now been dated for a 13th July 2011 release, and I realised I hadn’t yet shared my thoughts on the beta beyond some of my close friends – so it was about time I said more.
The beta is pretty brief – it seems to be just the XBLA demo unlocked early essentially; so you only get 2 single player levels and 2 multiplayer levels. Everything else is locked. However the main thing I can tell you from playing the beta is that it’s pretty much more of the same as Splosion Man really. And in this case, that is actually great news, since Splosion Man is probably the greatest platform game ever made at this point in time. The graphics in ‘Ms’ have been spruced up a bit, and in the single player levels on offer there were even more “3D” camera swings – however none were detrimental to the playing. One of the new graphical effects I wasn’t keen on is that Ms Splosion Man’s splode has a much more prominent lingering graphical effect on the screen. It looks nice but it really obscures your vision a bit too much – however this is something I think I’d just get used to once I played it more.
I am pleased to tell you that the humour remains incredibly funny. I was pissing myself laughing a number of times just in the beta – in fact, without giving away any spoilers I can tell you I cracked up just viewing things in the menus before I even got to the game. The game’s approach to the inherent sexism in “Ms Splosion Man” is also really amusing – they basically go so overboard with the sexism that it becomes part of the joke itself. The music is also still absolutely top notch; dramatic and exciting & fits the game perfectly.
Playing the multiplayer levels of the beta has been interesting. I got really lucky one night and had three friends around for offline co-op, and it was fantastic fun. As before it takes EXTREME amounts of co-ordination, communication and patience. However on the basis of the beta levels, it seems the design has become a little bit more forgiving with regards to having 3 or 4 players. In the original game, having more than 2 players just generally made things a lot harder: For example, instead of needing to time 2 players jumps together perfectly, you’d need to get all 4 co-ordinated. Or after a difficult section of jumps there’d be 4 switches you needed to stand on, so if anyone had failed the sequence, you all failed. In the limited experience of Ms there were quite a few sections where it only needed 1 or 2 players to “make it through” for everyone to succeed to the next checkpoint. Rather than making 3-4 players much easier than 2 though, it seemed pretty neutral (as it should be) as there were still some parts where you needed everyone working together, and also the general chaos of having four sets of sploding madness over the screen (including all the accidental splode bounces that can occur) was a pretty nice balance – at least in these two levels. Online co-op however, was another matter. Although the lobby system and netcode etc were all fine, either in-game voice isn’t working for the beta, or no-one was talking. Despite the still helpful “countdown” to give a timer though, without being able to explain what to do via voice, the game was simply unplayable with random people. I’ve had no response from Twisted Pixel about this – but I suggested that they have some ways to filter lobbies by voice enabled (or enable it if it isn’t!) or at least offer “buddy keys” for the beta another time around.
One other thing I’m not especially liking is that there is a renewed focus on time-based challenge as opposed to a fixed skill-test and exploration emphasis. I am not sure how far this will manifest itself in the game though; it might not have much impact.
There’s a loads of “extra content” – cheaty warp zones and cosmetic grind add-ons and all kinds of fluff that will interest non-challenge gamers more this time around too, but what will really make or break Ms Splosion Man will be the level design. If the levels are as good as the original Splosion Man, then this will be another classic. Obviously this is impossible to tell from the beta, as you only get some of the simpler early levels suitable for a demo, although one of the MP levels is a much later one that shows very good signs!
Overall you can probably tell I’m cautiously optimistic about Ms Splosion Man having played the demo. It’s got a RIDICULOUSLY high standard to live up to from the original game, and the awful Comic Jumper is very worrying. The emphasis on stupid grindy fluff and time challenges have me nervous, but everything else looks good. I’m already tempted to book 13th July off work – partly because I will be so excited and desperate to play this I will be very distracted all day anyway 😉 If you want to find out even more about Ms Splosion Man, including some very funny videos about the “2 Girls 1 Controller” mode then I recommend you head over to MsSplosionMan.com.
But always remember, don’t look to the screen for Splosion Man, he’s in my heart!
… Splode Again!