Microsoft’s summer of arcade is here! Two of the games are out and….what’s that? Oh, the two games I’m reviewing are NOT summer of arcade? They’re older? Are you questioning Faceplant’s sense of timeliness? Well ok yeah, Enosh did just review a British crime film from 2009 but I don’t think that’s fair. Haha that is so true voice nobody but me can hear, Enosh DOES suck. Anyway, two games! Granted, they may not be part of the official “Summer of Arcade” that Microsoft does, but it’s always nice to get some high quality XBLA games. One is a sequel to a previous summer of arcade gem, and the other is a port of a PSP game. Both remind me of old school gaming experiences, though in completely different genres. Maybe I’ll get to Bastion or From Dust, but for now, let’s do some sploding or play an entire epic RPG quest in 30 seconds.
Ms. Splosion Man
After Tophat and I earned our Big Science avatar t-shirt awards from last years Splosion Man, trying to do the same for the sequel was a no brainer. For anybody not familiar with the sploding genre, the game plays like a platformer where the only ability the title character has is to splode. She can splode three times before needing a few seconds to recharge, which basically means you have a triple jump at your disposal to navigate the games levels. It’s the small things in the levels, like exploding barrels, zip lines, or Donkey Kong Country style shoot yourself out of barrels that make the gameplay stand out. Just like the it’s forbearer this game is challenging. Reflexes will be tested and controllers will be tossed. It never seems unfair though, and even being terrible at the game makes for some epic moments. Fail a level enough times and the game will give you the option to skip it. However, as a penalty, for the next level the normally shapely Ms. Splosion Man finds herself now having a giant ass, complete with totally insane song that now plays in the background for said level. The first game forced you to wear a tutu for skipping a level, so this is not unprecedented. The song is a rap about the new junk in Ms Splosion Man’s trunk….it’s hard to describe, just skip a level and experience it as intended.
The humor in the game is the one thing that sets it apart. As a newly created Splosion being, the goal of Ms. Splosion man is to escape the science facility you’re trapped in, so of course you blow up a fair amount of scientists. Why do they explode into meats? Who knows. But virtual burgers, hams, steaks, and other tasty goodies will fly. The title character will sing a surprisingly high number of pop songs while running through levels, everything from Beyonce to No Doubt. No reason is ever given, it’s just one more audio goodie. The game has a ton of content, there are full and different campaigns for both single player and cooperative play, complete with different endings. Throw in the ability to download ghosts from the leaderboards and run against them for time trial supremacy, credits earned at the end of each stage that can be spent at “The Mall” for various behind the scenes Splosion stuff, and downloadable challenges that vary from week to week, the game is well worth it. It’s the old school platforming feeling, only now with lols and more content.
It’s a good game to play with a friend, as Tophat and I’s conversations while playing generally go like this: “Ok here’s the timer…..go….OH MY GOD HIT THE SWITCH HIT IT HIT THE SWITCH…..JUMP…..I’m dead, I hate you, we’re not friends anymore.” If you hate YOUR friends, you owe it to yourself to play this game.
Half Minute Hero
I remember coming across this game while browsing the internets, it sounded really cool. Then, sadly, I realized it was a PSP exclusive, which is a shame, because nobody plays PSP. Fast forward about five months, and hey! The game finds it’s way on to Xbox Live. Half Minute Hero is an RPG, in a way a very traditional RPG. You play as the hero (whom you get to name whatever you want). You will set out on a quest to prevent a dark lord from destroying the world. The quest itself will lead you to multiple towns, new armor and weapons will be acquired, various characters will come and go from your party, and guiding you through it all will be a time goddess and some trusty friends who are part of your caravan, offering advice and some magical help as you travel across the world in pursuit of a dark lord.
This sounds like almost every RPG ever made, and it’s supposed too. The trick here is that the quest I just described is on a timer….specifically, a 30 second timer. Start, run to a village, get in a few battles along the way, spend your earned gold as fast as possible, run to a dark lords castle, defeat him, and move on. See, there are a great number of dark lords, and some sort of supreme evil being is teaching them a spell that will destroy the world. THIRTY SECONDS AFTER THEY CAST IT. Battles take place entirely by you literally running into monsters over and over until they die. Most battles will take less than second to complete. The level gains come fast and furious, which is good, because the dark lord will take a few gains to defeat. You will know you’ve reached the right level when a giant “YOU > EVIL” message pops across the screen. The challenge is not battles, as pressing forward will do the job there. The challenge is mapping a route and completing all the quests involved in getting to the various dark lords within the thirty-second window.
It’s amazing how much RPG content they manage to pack in to small quests, and make fun of it. A bard who joins you for a trek through a forest (this takes a grand total of about 11 seconds) asks you to regale him with tales of your past exploits along the way, then when he departs the party when you reach a bridge, comments at how much activity you’ve packed into such a short amount of adventuring. Getting a blacksmith back his hammer so a bridge can be repaired results in him saying “It’s kind of silly I only needed one hammer to fix a whole bridge!”. These are the RPG clichés of my childhood and I adore them being made fun of. There are rare monsters, townsfolk, full item sets, even SIDE quests…all in 30 second chunks. Praying at a time goddess statue, which costs money because she’s a greedy bitch (she freely admits this) will reset the 30 seconds on a given quest, but every time you do it the cost increases, so this is not an unlimited timer. It’s a hilarious take on RPG’s, punctuated by full end credits after every 30 second scenario. Luckily holding down A lets you zip through those in about 4 seconds.
Sure it took me longer to write this review than to play the game, but that’s the charm. An old school but good-looking graphical style is the default setting, but one can even turn back the clock a little more and use 16 bit pixel graphics, which doesn’t look quite as nice but adds to the old school feeling, for those who are interested. It’s a charming game that doesn’t take itself seriously in the slightest, much like Ms. Splosion Man in that regard. If fighting a rare Giant Ostrich and taking his riches thus letting you buy a set of Valorous armor sounds like your childhood is coming back to you, play this game.