There’s no shortage of platformers on the Switch eShop nowadays, but that certainly hasn’t done anything to deter Splasher from carving out its own niche in the library. Created by some staff that worked on the likes Rayman Legends and Rayman Origins, Splasher works as a brilliant callback to that style of twitch platforming while adding in a little bit of Splatoon to make something that's rather fresh.
The premise of the game is simple: you’re a common worker of the evil Inkorp who has realized the company’s sinister intentions. Utilizing the might of your paint gun, you’ll run, jump and splash your way to freedom, freeing your fellow workers from captivity along the way. It’s fun, irreverent and weird, perfectly fitting the style of gameplay by keeping the tone light and upbeat throughout.
Gameplay is reminiscent of the above mentioned Rayman games and Super Meat Boy, aiming for a decidedly rapid pace that encourages constant retries. Your character is precise but slippery; this isn’t a deliberately paced platformer, it’s one that actively encourages you to keep moving. The gimmick here is that ink plays a significant role in both the obstacles and the way you navigate levels. Red ink makes you stick to surfaces, yellow ink acts as a bounce pad, and water can wash both types of ink away.
Levels are designed in a brilliant fashion that somehow strikes that balance between being fast-paced while still taking the time to teach you mechanics by way of showing and not telling. Nothing in Splasher comes at you as a surprise, obstacles and mechanics are introduced in a safe environment and then the game gradually takes the training wheels off as it steps up the difficulty. On top of that, levels are made with the idea of flow; there’s really only one way to get through any given set of obstacles and the game encourages you to keep retrying until you can find the right moves. Checkpoints are plentiful and there are no lives - when you die you quickly reset and have another go.
Splasher excels at providing the right amount of difficulty at the right time, and manages to feel fresh throughout its run. Though there are several recurring themes and obstacles in levels, it’s quite keen on introducing alternative spins on old ideas and bringing in new ideas at a decent clip. You’ll rarely find yourself bored while working through the campaign, and just when you find yourself becoming familiar with its tricks something new gets tossed in to re-engage you once more.
The campaign is relatively short, but this is because of the game’s broader focus on replayability. Every stage has an optional seven workers to save, each of which spells out a character in “SPLASH!”. You’ll find these workers scattered about levels in hard to reach places or in special Quarantine Zones that act as Donkey Kong Country-style bonus levels. Beyond this, however, there is a speedrunning focus. Beating the game once through is essentially just a long training run for the speedrun modes, which task you with beating the game as fast as possible for glory in the leaderboards.
This is where the real beauty of Splasher emerges - every level is fine tuned for you to blast through, and you’ll gradually drop time as you get the muscle memory worked out, much like a 2D Sonic game. It takes practice and work to get right, but there are few things more satisfying than shaving some extra seconds off your time and knowing that you completely mastered a given level’s challenge. It’s here that players will likely invest the majority of their gameplay time; there’s always something that could be done just a little bit faster or tighter to shave off some extra time.
From a presentation perspective Splasher doesn’t necessarily have a wow-factor, but it gets the job done. The artstyle adopts a quirky animated 2D look that utilizes bold lines and simple colours, perhaps evoking memories of mid-2000s Flash games. It’s not exactly a stand-out in this regard, but it looks quite smooth in action and the levels are all designed to have lots of activity and weirdness going on in the background and foreground. The soundtrack opts for an industrial dubstep sound, which somehow manages to feel both fitting and strangely out of place. It doesn’t sound half bad, though, and there are some tracks that bring to mind the music of David Wise’s Donkey Kong Country soundtracks, which is a nice bonus.
All told Splasher is a smartly designed, tight platformer that offers up hours of replay value on top of the creative ideas it delivers. It takes the Super Meat Boy template and builds upon it in a notable way, creating an experience that feels just the right amount of familiar and fresh. Though there isn’t a whole lot to write home about when it comes to the presentation, the core gameplay is more than enough to keep you engaged.
We give this one a strong recommendation, especially to those who are looking to dip their toes into the twitch platforming genre. Splasher is easy enough to pick up, yet difficult to master, and stands as a worthy addition to the Switch eShop.