Monday, July 27, 2009

demo monday: ‘splosion man

boom Last week, I put on my sleuthing cap and my red dress and took an educational tour through a mysterious mystery in Venice, Italy. This week, I returned to more familiar stomping grounds in Twisted Pixel’s ‘Splosion Man, a recent addition to the Xbox Live Arcade.

Splosion Man is pretty much a two-dimensional platformer. When I say two-dimensional, I am talking about the number of dimensions that the game has, not, like, the depth of its gameplay. That being said, this demo of ‘Splosion Man isn’t particularly deep. Let’s discuss.

Splosion Man is, ostensibly, the tale of a science experiment gone wrong. The result is you, a guy who can explode, and you want to get out of the lab that created you. You can leverage your new exploding powers to do that – exploding will make you jump, and exploding while sliding down a wall will make you wall jump. You can jump three times before you need to land and recharge, and you never get any other skills – the whole thing is very N. There are, however, a number of special exploding barrels that hurl you up and down and across the maps, and I assume the later levels will make more challenging use of them.

Because, see, part of this demo’s problem is that the demo isn’t very good. A demo is supposed to leave a good impression, best foot forward and all that. The demo for ‘Splosion Man is the first three levels from the game, which in any basic platformer are guaranteed to be the most elementary, boring levels in the game. To close, it teases you with the prospect of a boss battle, and then cuts to commercial. If I wanted to be tantalized with the mere promise of some potentially interesting gameplay, I’d go to GameTrailers and watch a video.

The game’s tied up in a very slick package, and it looks good. Framerate is smooth, character designs have character, and the thing was obviously put together by people who have some idea what they’re doing. The camera will occasionally focus on an area of the map, clearly intended to draw your focus to a particular element of the map, and after you leave that area it’ll stick there for a second and then lurch back to following you, but otherwise it zooms in and out when it needs to and doesn’t get in the way.

There’s not a lot to say about the nuts and bolts of the thing – it’s competently done, from top to bottom, and there’s just not a lot to say about a game like this in the context of a blog where all the readers have had some exposure to a game like this before. Unfortunately, you’ll have to get the full game to get the full effect – like I said, there’s not a lot of meat on this three-level demo’s bones.

Similarly damning for the demo is the exclusion of any Xbox Live multiplayer. If Resident Evil 5 and Army of Two have taught me anything, it’s that nothing spices up a technically-competent but otherwise average game like bringing a snarky friend along. There’s a whole other fifty levels to the game that I couldn’t get a taste of because of my self-imposed hermitage. Too bad.

Splosion Man is not without its promise, and I really wish this demo had given me the chance to play the game I’ve read about. It just has sort of a boring demo, and I don’t think it’s going to do anything to persuade people sitting on the fence. If you’re going to buy this one, you’ll do it based on the relative strengths of its review scores, not because of this demo.

Twisted Pixel’s ‘Splosion Man is available from the Xbox Live Arcade for 800 Microsoft Points, or $10.00. Played single-player demo to completion.