Twisted Pixel's upcoming Ms. 'Splosion Man is part sequel, part Ms. Pac-Man homage. The action platformer treasures three things above all else: speed, skill, and women's shoes. We had the chance to get our first look at the game during this year's GDC.
Ms. 'Splosion Man begins right where 'Splosion Man left off: in the Big Science laboratories, where a bunch of nutty scientists are throwing a big party to celebrate the capture of 'Splosion Man. Little do they know that Ms. 'Splosion Man has been born, and she's hungry for action (as well as justice, gossip, pink stuff, shoes, phones, dancing, and…exploding).
As 'Splosion Man did in the last game, Ms. will use her "sploding" ability to effectively triple jump and ricochet off things like walls, barrels, and the heads of confused scientists in order to solve platforming puzzles, defeat traps and enemies, and make her way through each level. The game will take the action outside the laboratory, introducing new, outside levels, one of which we will see later on. After navigating an easy escape from the lab in which she was born, Ms. comes across her first boss: the Mighty Eternal, a giant robot that made an appearance in the first game and is modelled after the game's art director, Dave Leung (whose name apparently means "the mighty eternal" in Chinese). After saying something sarcastic about Mr. Darcy (the game's first official movie reference, at least the first one we picked up), Ms. takes to defeating the boss with a series of well-executed explosions from barrel to wall to Mr. Eternal's eyes, which she eventually manages to gouge out using a series of quick-time events, in which the word "splode!" flashes onscreen prompting players to explode at the right times. The sequence ends with a Predator reference.
We are then taken to the new world map screen, which has been updated from the last game to include difficulty settings. Now, there will be more than one way to complete each level of the different worlds, with the hardest way clearly marked by a skull and crossbones flag. (We were told that 'Splosion Man's Way of the Coward mode will make a comeback here too, but no more details on how until later on.) We make our way though the second level of World 1, where we meet our first scientists, who seem to be more aggressive towards Ms. than they were towards 'Splosion Man--they insist on pegging a multitude of energy orbs at us (which deplete our exploding power) until we're forced to explode on them as we make our way to the first outside section of the game, which takes place on a series of platforms in the clouds outside the lab. Here we encounter what the designers of the game refer to as "Donkey Kong barrels": barrels that will shoot you either in whatever direction they want or in whatever direction you decide you want to be shot in, depending on which colour barrel you land on. In this level, we also encounter a new gameplay mechanic: the zip line. Suspended midair, the zip line lets Ms. effectively explode from one platform to the next without ever touching the ground, adding speed to both her vertical and her horizontal movement. Twisted Pixel has also given the game more midair checkpoints, which means if you fall to your death during a particularly difficult platforming sequence, you will no longer be required to restart from the last major checkpoint.
After a long midair sequence, we land back on the world map and into another outside level, where we get our first look at some Jetsons-inspired air cars and comical sequences of scientists flying into the camera as they fall to their death after Ms. explodes on their vehicle. We also found some collectibles: a pair of shoes for Ms., which she can collect and wear throughout the levels (although cake would have been nice too). On the world map, players will be able to access a shopping mall, where they will be able to buy unlockables.
The final stage of the demo took us inside World 2 to an outside tropical resort, which sees Ms. running away from a bunch of scientists (who are all apparently modeled on Twisted Pixel employees). After a cutscene featuring a very obvious Total Recall reference, Ms. bumps into Mandy the scientist, whom she can use as a shield against the scientists' guns by jumping inside her body and controlling her. After a few gossip-fueled cell conversations, Ms. finishes the level (and demo) with a triumphant dance.
Ms. 'Splosion Man is exclusive to Xbox Live Arcade and will ship sometime in 2011. We look forward to seeing more of the game ahead of its release later this year.