Review: The Splatters

TheSplatters

Perhaps you’ve grown tired of flinging feathered friends at packs of thieving pigs and toppling towers of blocks in Rio and in orbit around the moon. If you’re suffering from an A-grade case of Angry Birds fatigue, say a sloppy hello to The Splatters, your new physics-puzzling addiction.

SpikySnail’s game shares some basic elements with Rovio’s unstoppable mobile–game juggernaut, but it has more than enough style and tricks of its own to offset any sense of itinerant deja vu. For starters, you’re charged with flinging piles of gloppy, liquid-filled goo—with eyes and teeth, no less—around slide- and spike-laden arenas to hit teeny, jewel-like bomb clusters. Within seconds of smacking into something solid, your splatters erupt into a shower of messy liquid (complete with accurate liquid physics) making a satisfying and sloppy mess. The colorful and clever levels are really eye-catching. Pay special attention to the materials that make up some of the walls.

Initial gameplay options are limited. You’re forced to march through the game’s Become a Talent mode, learning the ropes in a dozen-plus levels and tutorials that teach you a set of button-pushing moves you can use to control the chaos. Moves like snipe, which allows you to hit the “A” button in midair, accelerating and changing the direction of your cute lil’ splatter into a deadly and destructive divebomb.

Speedy manipulation and stunt-stringing proves the key to Splatter success. About halfway through the training levels, you gain the ability to use the trigger buttons to execute a move called “tilt.” Once you do, it’s like an entire universe of new physics possibilities opens up before you. Tilting essentially reverses both time and direction for the splatter you just launched, so instead of careening down a slide to the left, your blob is suddenly rocketing to the right side of the screen at Mach 5. Careful use of the tilt and snipe functions in quick succession can result in some pretty amazing splatter moves, making it possible—possible, not easy–to clear an entire screen with a single shot.

Once you’ve mastered the basics, it’s time to take on the Combo Nation and Master Shot modes, longer exercises where the level of challenge ramps up significantly, demanding some serious button precision. The latter in particular will bend your brain, forcing you to use environmental elements (those slides and spikes again) that you’d totally dismiss as window dressing in a different level to ace the challenge. If you get stuck, you can press a button at any point to have the AI show you one possible solution to the puzzle, but even if you resort to this cheap out, you’ll still need the button dexterity to pull it off, and that’s not a given at all.

Rovio isn’t the only development shop SpikySnail was watching—there are some nice Popcap/Peggle touches here as well, from the dramatic, drum-roll closeups that accompany the final seconds of your level-clearing splatter, to the way the game records and tracks your stats and exploits, all the better to share your most amazing stunt combos with the rest of the world. Expect to hone your chops quite a bit before advancing up the leaderboards. Unlike other puzzle games we could name, landing the coveted three-star ranking isn’t a walk in the park, even on the easiest levels.

The only messy splash here is control-related. In the game’s more advanced levels, you’ll need to slam the A button several times to snipe your Splatter in multiple directions before it loses its viscosity. If you’re not careful about your button-pushing, you’ll accidentally trigger the launch of the next Splatter in line, at best wasting a shot and at worst ruining your level and forcing another reboot. Traitorous controls are a bummer, yes, but there are enough possible solutions to these puzzles that it won’t take you long to find another way.

And just be glad you’re not the one stuck mopping up the rainbow-gloppy mess.

BuyIt

Pros:
+ Stringing stunt combos=satisfying puzzle-solving
+ Colorful and cartoony art style
+ Stat-tracking and stunt sharing turn a lonely single-player experience into a splatter community

Cons:
– Need for quick button-pushes and trigger-tilts sometimes leads to premature splatter launch
– Best enjoyed in smaller doses

Game Info:
Platform: Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade (coming soon to PC)
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: SpikySnail Stuidos
Release Date: 4/11/2012
Genre: Puzzle
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

[nggallery id=2343]

Enhanced by Zemanta

About the Author

Aaron R. Conklin has been writing about games and games culture for more than 15 years. A former contributor to Computer Games Magazine and Massive Magazine, his writing has appeared on IGN.com and in newspapers and alt-weeklies across the country. Conklin's an unapologetic Minnesota sports fan living in Madison, Wisconsin, home of the Midwest's most underrated gaming vibe.