Platformers are the comfort food of video games. After spending time shooting monsters, exploring a vast open world, and flying around Arkham City as Batman, it’s nice to come back to the comfort of a simple game done really well. The basic formula for platformers is simple: Jump onto or over things, and try not to die. Depending on your age, you probably started with Donkey Kong or Pitfall!, but the king is arguably Super Mario Brothers. Over the years, designers added new twists to the formula to keep things fresh, including the ability to shoot stuff (Mega Man), and RPG elements (Castlevania).
Recently, some companies have started going back to the essence of the genre. Last year’s Super Meat Boy was just a wad of meat jumping around, but the levels were ridiculously and insanely difficult—in a mostly fun way. Another great game was ‘Splosion Man, in which you could do only one thing: ‘splode. You would explode off of platforms and through obstacles. The levels started to get really hard as you progressed, and it was very rewarding to reach the end.
A sequel was inevitable, and this one’s worth it. Ms. ‘Splosion Man plays just like its older sibling, but the protagonist is less crazy, more pink, and obsessed with ‘80s and ‘90s references. She’ll randomly shout out Spice Girls lyrics, or tell you that nobody puts baby in a corner. Aside from the obvious cosmetic changes, this one’s difficulty curve is way steeper. You’ll notice early on that the levels are pretty tricky—especially if you’ve never played the original. I would suggest checking out ‘Splosion Man before tackling this one.
The level design seems more varied and interesting here. That is NOT a dig at the first game; I just think they’ve learned some things over the last few years. The graphics are top-notch, and as good as anything the “big” studios are putting out.
One of the best things about this—and the original for that matter—is that there is a completely different set of levels for multiplayer. You can play through with up to four players, and you’ll have to work together to move forward, as the levels are designed in such as way that Player A has to hit this button while Player B jumps at just the right time to launch from a barrel into Player C, who has to ‘splode off B to get to the platform above. The timing is critical, and I speak from experience when I say that there’s a lot of pressure to play up to the level of your compatriots.
Stuff to consider:
- Violence—Ms ‘Splosion Man ‘splodes stuff constantly—including the hapless scientists who created her. But rather than exploding into bloody messes, they just fall apart into various cuts of meat. It’s cartoonish and silly rather than gory.
- Language—None, though some of the lyrics and phrases are definitely suggestive—such as, “If you wanna be my lover…” from the Spice Girls, “Like a virgin, woo!” and, “Not tonight; I have a headache.” Everything she says in the game is rapid-fire—and comes while you’re trying hard not to die—so they usually breeze by before you can register what she says. But she does say it…
- Sex/Nudity—The final boss fight is a bizarre homage to Mike Tyson’s Punch Out. It starts out with a woman dressed as a bride who has large, exaggerated breasts. Then when you’ve beaten her to a certain level, she morphs into a huge monster, also wearing a wedding dress and also with large, exaggerated breasts. The breasts from the first bride, it turns out, are the eyes for the monster. It sounds crazy, and I’m not describing it well. Just know that it’s weird and awkward and might be enough for me to not recommend the game at all. There’s no nudity; it’s just…weird.
I liked this game as much as the first one. The only thing that keeps me from giving it an unabashed thumbs-up is that final boss. I’ll let you decide if it’s for you.
Rated T for Cartoon Violence, Drug Reference, Mild Lyrics, Mild Suggestive Themes.
Scott Firestone is the editor of Group Magazine and youthministry.com. He has fond memories of afternoons spent doing speed-runs on Super Mario Brothers. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/firestone.