Pop quiz, hot shot: What videogame hero moonwalks, quotes outdated pop culture, blows up evil scientists, and loves shoes? If you guessed Ms. Splosion Man, you deserve a cookie. Now, in a very well made port, her zany Xbox Live Arcade platformer is available on iOS.
First off, this game is nuts. Not only is the hero kooky, but the game itself has a manic energy running through it, with stuff breaking everywhere you look, as well as stage-long boss battles, and anxiety-inducing music. It’s like a carnival ride made by a highly caffeinated genius. There’s nothing else quite like it.
You play as the title character, a science experiment gone wrong, who’s trying to escape the laboratory she’s being held in. Ms. Splosion Man’s body is made of explosive energy. You move left and right by tapping the arrows in the bottom corner, and explode/jump by tapping anywhere else. You can explode three times before having to rest, so navigating the tricky lab terrain takes a little getting used to.
Once you get a handle on the controls, though, moving feels totally natural. This port is extremely well done, with responsive controls and graphics that easily match the XBLA version of the game.
The game might be bizarre, but the levels are expertly crafted. They’re filled with pits, lasers, enemies, saws, and helpless scientists. Choke points are everywhere, and figuring out how to proceed requires a healthy mix of platforming reflexes and puzzle solving skills. Rarely have we seen a game throw so many consistently excellent puzzles at players without running out of ideas.
One thing that might turn off some players is the sheer difficulty of the game. You have unlimited lives and you’ll need them, because the death toll quickly rises into double and triple digits. Some parts are so tough that many players might actually give up.
Each level has a handful of achievements to earn that give bonus coins. One achievement in each level is to beat a ghost Ms. Splosion Man to the exit. We don’t mind beating a certain time for an achievement, but having a distracting ghost onscreen caused us a number of otherwise avoidable deaths, so we’d like to see an option to remove it.
But the biggest turn-off by far is the pay structure. At the time of this writing, the game costs $2.99 to purchase. That only gets you three levels, which take about 15 minutes to complete. After that, you have to spend in-game currency to unlock more. When we beat the first three levels, we had exactly enough coins to unlock the next four levels. Once we beat those, however, we either had to go back and grind away at levels we’d already completed, or pony up more cash to unlock more levels.
And while we wouldn’t bat an eyelash at this if the game were free to download, when iOS gamers pay for a game they expect the whole thing. This pay structure is a major misstep in an otherwise Must Have game.
So. We highly recommend playing Ms. Splosion Man, either on XBLA or iOS. Just know that buying the iOS version means you either have to do a lot of grinding for coins, or spend more money to play the whole game. It’s a brain-dead pay structure that we hope they change in an update very soon.