As bizarre a notion it might seem now, once upon a time Microsoft was the home of burgeoning indie talent. Xbox Live Arcade brought countless hits and GOTY contenders, and helped the Big M foster some remarkable partnerships and exclusives as a result. Twisted Pixel was one such studio and one of its biggest hits, 2009’s Splosion Man, proved a real digital highlight in the days of the previous generation.
Now that the Austin-based developer is fully independent and its exclusivity deals have expired, it’s bringing its own brand of hectic platforming to new platforms, namely Nintendo Switch. Interestingly, it’s not Splosion Man that’s getting the port treatment, but its 2011 sequel, Ms. Splosion Man. However, much like how Ms. Pac-Man showed her iconic male counterpart how things were really done back in the ’80s, the more explosive of the species ups the ante with levels that are faster, more complicated and far more challenging.
As her name suggests, Ms. Splosion Man is a being of pure kinetic energy. Rather than being able to jump (a rather important ability for any platforming heroine), she can ‘splode’ in order to both destroy scenery and leap off the ground. You can chain up to three of these elevating moves at once, but you’ll need to touch back down on the ground - or slowly slide down the side of a wall for a few moments - to recharge your innate powers.
As a 2.5D-style platformer, Ms. Splosion Man resembles Trials - another indie hit that reached super-stardom thanks to the same development scene on Xbox 360 - mainly in the sheer speed and acrobatic flair each level demands. As a newly-created creature, the titular character is a ball of rabid excitement, so she speeds through every level with wanton abandon. The entire time she’s babbling like someone on the world’s biggest sugar rush, quoting films and other snippets of pop culture as she goes.
She’ll somersault, pull quirky poses in mid-air and tap-dance at speed as you control her through 50 different levels. She manages to be more excitable and energetic than her male forebear, which is quite something if you’ve ever had the chance to play the first game. Her effervescent nature is indicative of the game as a whole; a brightly-coloured and silly experience that never stops throwing you into increasingly stranger locales (in which you’ll explode, naturally, and cause plenty of mayhem).
You shouldn’t let that silliness lull you into thinking this will be an explosive walk in the park, however. It’ll take a little while to gauge the optimum moment to use each of your three successive splodes to reach the most height, how you can use walls to change direction and harness momentum to leap across seemingly impossible gaps. When you add in the myriad extra elements that facilitate your high-speed platforming - such as switches that move platforms the longer you stand by them and barrels that send you flying even further should you splode them - things get really tricky, really fast.
There are also lots of over-the-top boss battles that will test your ability to string splodes together, both to evade giant attacks and wear each monolithic baddie down. The opening boss - a giant robot hell-bent on containing your explosive antics - is atypical of Ms. Splosion Man’s set-piece battles as you use your splodes to outrun its gigantic hands and make the most of handy electrical zip-lines to launch yourself at its optical weak point. These memorable encounters also help punctuate its high-speed levels nicely.
Alongside the single-player campaign, the Nintendo Switch port of Ms. Splosion Man also includes support for multiplayer. You can play locally with up to three other players on a single console, or connect via wireless to another Switch. You can even play online, so you can compete with total strangers in some multi-coloured destruction. Oh, and if you want some multiplayer action but you don’t want to actually play with other people, you can utilise the ‘2 Girls, 1 Controller’ mode and use either analog stick to control two exploding heroines at once.
As a port, Ms. Splosion Man is slick and slowdown-free experience, with the one-button setup suiting the feel of the Joy-Cons down to the ground (especially if you’re playing with a split one in multiplayer). This is, after all, a seven-year-old former XBLA game so it’s not going to push Switch too hard, but Twisted Pixel has still done an admirable job of porting over a game that still feels fun, fresh and exciting all these years later.
As with a good proportion of ports, Ms. Splosion Man is another old game that’s been given a new lease of life on another indie-friendly console. Free of its Xbox 360 exclusivity, Ms. Splosion Man’s fast and frenetic platforming and over-the-top boss fights hasn’t lost a step since 2011 and with support for all manner of single-player and multiplayer options it’s still got plenty of legs here and now in 2018. With a clean and smooth port on Switch, this digital delight will feel right at home on the eShop.