"'Splosion Man" (XBLA) Mini-Review

When I first bought my Xbox two years ago, I figured that I wouldn't be using the online component much, and just buying big name titles and staying on top of the current generation of games. These days, I still pop in a disc now and then, but I find that some of my best experiences with the console were downloaded through the Live Arcade, and Twisted Pixels' "'Splosion Man," is no different.

The setup for "'Splosion Man," is very simple. You are an experiment gone wrong and the only thing you can do is 'splode, which works as both a jump and an attack. You can also use this maneuver to bounce off walls, volley projectiles, and solve any number of puzzles the game throws at you. This mechanic is barely explained, but it's shockingly intuitive and you'll find yourself squealing with glee when you get a sequence right on the first try.

I've been describing the game to friends as a hybrid between the ultra fast gameplay of "Sonic the Hedgehog," with the quarkiness of "Oddworld: Abe's Oddesy," and the tounge-in-cheek humor of "Earthworm Jim." Anyway you slice it, this is a piece of old school greatness tweaked for modern sensibilities. It is just as hard as any old school platformer and at times can be very frustrating, but never manages to beat you into submission. You have an infinite amount of lives, and can even skip levels through the "Way of the Coward" feature, but you have to wear a tutu until you go back and beat the levels you skipped (no, I'm not kidding).

What really sets "'Splosion Man" apart from most XBLA games and old school throwbacks is the completeness of the presentation. Most devs overlook things like fitting the menu sounds with the background music or seamlessly integrating cinematics with gameplay, but it's precisely those little touches that make this game a must have for XBLA junkies and casual fans alike.

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