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'Splosion Man

With the Summer of the Arcade upon us, there should be plenty of titles out there that are tempting you to drop the money on those Microsoft points. Granted most of those are on the horizon, but some of them are finally here! 'Splosion Man is one of the first out of the gate, and if this game is any indication we're in for a long, fun season.

Developed by relative newcomer Twisted Pixel, 'Splosion Man is a side-scrolling semi-3D platform title that forces you to use your noggin while navigating the obstacle course. It's goofy and simple, yet oh so complex all at the same time. It's basically a comical version of N+, but with more explosions, dying scientists, and a cracked-out combustible hero instead of a little ninja. Let it be known that if you enjoyed N+ you'll love this game since it has a nice twist on a similar style of play and there's plenty of challenge.

What's it all about? Well, nothing really. 'Splosion Man is about a creature made entirely out of explosive materials. He loves to blow stuff up and doesn't care if it's living or inanimate. From scientists to robots this orange ball of fire runs around each stage looking for his next victim. He's also looking for a way out. The scientists have him sealed within some underground structure and the entire game is them failing to contain their latest subject. It's basically one big platforming puzzle and you have to figure it all out if you want to get anywhere.

The game starts out slowly and gives you some of the basics. Well, really the game is about as simple as you can get. 'Splosion Man's only mode of transportation apart from running side to side is blowing up. You can do so three times in a row before he has to stand and pause for a moment. Use those three explosions to go wild and get from one platform to another. That's basically it. Granted there's much more to it than initially meets the eye and soon enough the game is throwing explosive barrels that give you an extra shot, launchers that shoot you across the screen, fire sprays that charge you up, and cake that...well...ok, it does nothing; it's cake.

Standing in your way are a multitude of challenges on each stage. Simple navigation is sometimes the hardest of all, but add to that rivers of acid, water, ice sprays, spiked platforms, robots with laser beams, robots without laser beams, giant bosses that fire missiles, churning meat grinders, and scientist controlled lasers, and you have one heck of a path laid out in front of you! The going gets much, much harder once you get past the first few stages and you should expect to die. A lot.

Granted there's honestly nothing wrong with a difficult game these days. There's a certain sense of reward that comes once you finally master something that's been eating away at your stress levels for a few minutes. It's not that the puzzles here are mind-numbingly difficult, it's just that what you have to do requires some intense reflexes and practice. Jumping across a large pit, leaping from platform to platform, dodging lasers, and running through a tunnel while acid rises up from beneath you takes a lot more concentration than you'd think. It requires precise timing and if you hate doing stages over and over again, then this game probably isnít for you. Luckily Twisted Pixel included a Coward's Way out that lets you skip a level entirely. Just be prepared to see 'Splosion Man embarrassed in some way during the next stage.

Once you finish exploding your way through three chapters and 47 stages you'll be pleased to note that an even harder difficulty unlocks! If that's not your thing then you should definitely explore the multiplayer content since it's quite a lot of fun. There is an impressive amount of content for the co-op inclusion and it's clear that Twisted Pixel intended the game to be experienced in this form due to the amount of polish. Whether you're tackling this game by yourself or with a few buddies it certainly has a lot to offer and it doesn't disappoint.

The Achievements in the game are limited to the 200 gamerscore Arcade cap. You'll get achievements for making 5,000 steaks out of scientists, watching the credits, beating the game (single player, multiplayer, and on the hardest difficulty), finding cakes, and going spastic on the controller. There's a nice range of challenge to these and it will take some serious dedication to get some of them.

In terms of graphics 'Splosion Man looks really good for an Xbox Live Arcade title. The game is rich and vibrant, the animation is solid, the stages are designed well, and the characters are nicely detailed. The game utilizes a dramatic camera effect that zooms in on the action from time to time and even up close the game still impresses. There are some moments that don't look quite up to par as others, but they are few and far between and are easily dismissible. As far as the sound is concerned the game is equally impressive. From 'Splosion Man's insane ramblings to the music and sound effects everything here sounds really good!

If you're looking for a solid Arcade title to pick up then you could do a whole heck of a lot worse than 'Splosion Man. This game is a blast from start to finish and it's even better with friends. I don't see there being much replay value with this title, but it's a lot of fun to play through and it will keep you occupied for a while. In my opinion it may not best N+, but it's a fine alternative that keeps you on your toes and laughing the whole time. Personality and polish are this game's strongest assets.