Remember when the word "port" conjured up terrifying visions of developers taking your favorite arcade game and cramming them into cartridges that spat out blurry graphics and fuzzy sound? Twisted Pixel does, and they know it wouldn't be proper to make gamers revisit those dark days, so they put forth a solid effort teaching their Xbox Live platformer, Ms. Splosion Man [$2.99], how to speak mobile. Solid, indeed, except for a bothersome implementation of an IAP pay wall.

(Unfortunately the 'sploding star also speaks teenager, and that just won't do. Immediately open the options menu and disable VOX, her constant "Oh mah GAWD!" jibber-jabber. Done that? You're welcome. Okay, then. Let's continue. )

Unlike ports of 3D games that require more virtual buttons than you have fingers, Ms. Splosion Man keeps things nice and simple. You've got a slider to move around and an invisible "splode" button anywhere your right thumb pleases. You can enable a virtual stick, but as you only need to prance left and right, the slider feels better and more responsive. Exploding pops you into the air. Press it twice and you'll do the Ms. Splosion Man equivalent of a double jump.

The controls are as tight as they are simple, providing the responsiveness platformers demand. Twisted Pixel also took some clever shortcuts to boil the controls down even further, such as not requiring you to hold the direction you want to jump when wall-jumping. Just throw yourself against the wall, 'splode, and Ms. Splosion Man will do the rest.

Most levels present a nice mix of platforming and puzzle solving. You'll hop over pits and enemies, whom you can take out by exploding next to them, and eventually arrive at a Rube Goldberg-like set-up that requires quick thinking and quicker reflexes to pass. On one occasion I came up to a wheel that moved a floating wall back and forth near my position. Positioning the wall to my left and bounding off of it flipped a switch that popped a canister up from the floor that immediately began to descend, like the bell in a strongman contest.

The trick was to detonate Ms. Splosion Man just as she and the canister crossed paths in midair, propelling me over a laser beam and straight off to the next stretch of level. It took a few tries to figure out, but nailing the trick was satisfying. There are also challenges such as finishing a level while spending as little time on the ground as possible. It's a tricky feat, but pulling it off will leave you feeling accomplished.

A little trial and error is expected in platformers, but a combination of few-and-far-between checkpoints and some technical gaffes caused some frustration. Many sections auto-scroll, forcing you to spot certain objects such as switches and take action without pausing to think. That's fine too, for the most part. Switching your brain to autopilot and letting your fingers do the thinking is exhilarating and a big part of what makes platformers fun.

Except many times your smarty-pants do exactly what you needed them to do, but the game didn't register your 'splosion even though you clearly overlapped the trigger, or the screen zoomed out so far you couldn't separate one jumble of pixels and polys from another, or distractions such as a scientist thudding against your screen or Ms. Splosion Man's fiery combustions blocked your view and made you bungle a jump.

I can overlook those stumbles; they occur infrequently and pale when faced with such beautiful graphics--on par with the Xbox 360 version of the game--and clever level design. The real strike against Ms. Splosion Man is a nasty IAP barrier. Beginning with level 1-4, you have to pay coins you earn in-game to unlock levels. You can unlock levels individually, or unlock each world over two payments, but pay you must. And of course, should you come up a few coins short, you can always fork over real money for coin packs.

Ms. Splosion Man is not a pay-to-play game. That term gets thrown around too casually. But the line between grinding levels to earn coins or taking the easy way out and buying IAP feels like obvious attempt to herd players to the App Store. Earning coins that I can cash in for optional power-ups, I don't mind. That's pretty much a given where mobile platformers are concerned.

But even more a given is the expectation that beating one level in a platformer will open up the next one. Purchasing the rest of the game won't cost you much more than the game's base price on its native platform, but finding out that the $3 price tag opens up what amounts to a demo unexpectedly soured the experience for me. Still, if platforming is your bag, don't let grinding or opening your wallet keep you from missing out on Ms. Splosion Man's gorgeous, fast-paced, and rewarding adventure.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • http://twitter.com/BeRad_Ent Be-Rad

    Grind to unlock levels? No thanks.

  • Nickofullysicko

    I don't agree with this review. Her voice and personality is part of what makes this game so charming, having to source a few extra coins gives me an excuse to go back and master a level.

    • lifeat78

      Agreed. I haven't had this much fun with a game since Rayman Jungle Run. The game has great personality and character (the tutorial alone is nearly worth the purchase price). I've only had to go back and replay a handful of levels to get enough tokens to purchase the full level pack. Hardly a major burden.

  • Th3R3n3gad3

    Wait, didn't one of the touch arcade people say they played ms.Splosion man for the entire trip on the airplane?

    • http://www.facebook.com/boris.nguetie Boris Nguetie

      Lol!!! Is this the same toucharcad which rated real racing 3 4/5 with all the iap frustrations!! For all those who deletedthe game you obviously dont get what is the purpose of the game!! I just can t understand how the best ios platformer ever got a 3/5 wow!!!

      • SumoSplash

        Real Racing 3 is free. This is paid. That's the difference.

    • Nick

      The joy of different reviewers I guess. I understand opinion, but lord. This here is silly.

  • Madison Gerritsen

    The iAP paywall is SO in your facd that it is the reason I deleted the otherwise brilliant game off my iPad. The port alone would have been epic. IOS consumable powerups in a shop and steep level unlocks ruined what could have been the best platformer on iOS.

    • Nick

      Oh for lords sake. Play the levels properly, and the grind is nonexistent. What's with this mentality?

      • http://www.facebook.com/dlcraddock David Craddock

        You seem to have a different definition of "properly," man. Not everyone wants to turn over every rock in every level, so to speak, and they shouldn't have to.

      • Nick

        But you don't have to. That's the point. Playing through the level cleanly and under the par time will net you 2-300 coins. Multiply that by the levels and I don't understand how those numbers don't average out for you or anyone else.

  • ODMay

    When is Football Heroes releasing?

  • themostunclean

    I'm pretty confused about all the griping about a paywall in the App Store reviews and on TA. I'm just at the end if world 2 part 2 and I have yet to fork over any real money or grind excessively to gain coins.

    I always seem to underestimate my gaming skills compared to others (Game Center has done wonders for my gaming ego) but this seems bizarre that I don't seem to have the same problems everyone else, including paid professionals, are having here.

    There are only two reasons I could think of. A) I will NEVER buy powerups and B) I'm extremely obsessive and if I see I'm going to be beaten by the ghost, I restart the whole level.

    I disagree with the review as well. The "teenagerisms" are part if the humor and charm of the game.

    • FutureMan

      I'm with you. You get infinity lives, and the accomplishments are incredibly reasonable. I'm really surprised it pisses so many people off. The fun part about this game for me is playing a level real fast, after spending some time learning it on the first go through. It's possible to spend very little time on the ground.

      • themostunclean

        YES!! The whole point is to learn the levels and repeat them until you get that perfect "flow". If you're playing the game right then you should have no problem opening up stages. This game reminds me more of my NES/SNES days than almost any other on the App Store. That satisfaction that comes from EARNING the progression instead if just having it given to you.

        I chalk the complaints up to people being too spoiled by all of the interactive cartoons that pass for games today.

    • SumoSplash

      It isn't a matter of not being able to advance. It is a matter of not being able to advance without repeating yourself or paying to get around the repetition. The goal of the excessive grind is to annoy you to the point that you get so sick of doing it that you pay. If you can get around it, great, but no matter how you slice it, it is being forced upon you, which makes you have to settle for a lesser experience in a game you have already paid for.

    • Nick

      I agree. For all the insanity of the RR3 love, and now this?

      I questioned the paying of of coins for all of 5 minutes before I realized it served a purpose and did nothing to diminish the game. It's easy to gain coins with minimal effort, no grinding is required, and, well, that's it.

      I see it no different than needing x number of stars to unlock a level in a puzzle game. This requires you making sure you've actually done your job and not just sloppily forced your way through.

      Is it a grind if you need to play one or two levels over to get the equivalent of 3 stars? I've NEVER, EVER had to do that. Grind? No. Hardly.

  • http://twitter.com/crunchewy Crunchewy

    I was put off by the requirement for coins to unlock worlds/levels as well. I don't know if it requires spending real cash because I stopped playing right after I finished 1-3 and couldn't play 1-4. I will get back to it eventually, but for now I'm playing other stuff instead.

  • TheFrost

    I found her refreshing and funny

  • The Mad Mule

    This is the first iOS game I've regretted buying. I partially blame myself for being impatient and going off of other's gushing first impressions of the game, since they probably didn't play far enough yet to be hit with the "keep paying with in-game currency to unlock every subsequent level!"

    I may have already given up my money, but that has only encouraged me to speak up and say that it sucks that such a fun game has screwed itself over by even suggesting that the only way to proceed to the next level is to pay to do so, whether it's from in-game currency or real money. I've uninstalled it from my iPad.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dlcraddock David Craddock

    Greetings TA readers,

    Thank you all for the feedback on the review. I knew this one would get people buzzing, and I'm glad I was right. Ms. Splosion Man's use of IAP warrants discussion, so let's continue discussing it.

    First, about the character's chit-chat: I liked it at first, but it wore thin after a few levels. Reviews are opinions, albeit (one hopes) informed ones; I left the chatter on for a while but eventually had to turn it off. I don't feel the game suffered from the character's silence. I didn't mind her talking while I was bounding through levels, but it became incessant and repetitive, and I found the game more enjoyable after disabling it.

    Now, my beef with the IAP. It boils down to this: I, like all of you, saw a price stating $2.99 in the App Store, and bought the game based on that price. I was dismayed (the gentlest word I can use) to find that the game expected me to buy levels after completing only a few stages. I didn't have to buy them with real money, but in-game currency. And no, the grinding required to save up coins and buy stages is not too strenuous. But it does exist, and that impacted my impressions.

    Progression in a platformer follows a simple formula: you beat a level, you unlock a level. I should not have to go back to old levels and ace them just to see what's around the next bend of the map. Some of you have mentioned in a comment that the point of the game is to replay the levels to master them. I disagree. Some players--probably the majority, though I can't show statistics to prove or disprove the claim--just like to cross a level's finish line and move on, and the game's implementation of IAP discourages that.

    Near the end of my review, I mentioned that paying to unlock all the worlds "won't cost you much more than the game's base price on its native platform, but finding out that the $3 price tag opens up what amounts to a demo unexpectedly soured the experience for me." That's the real issue. The price of the game as listed on the App Store is misleading. The first few levels cost $3. The rest either cost in-game or real money.

    Do you HAVE to pay real money to unlock the rest of the game? No. But nothing in the app's description led me to believe that I would be getting anything less than the full game, right from the get-go, by paying the asking price.

    • Boobi

      Spot on, and if the unlocks are doable with repetition, why have them there. Specifically to force your hand to sink in more time or money which ever you value more. I for one want to play my way.

    • shelbypanayotou

      my classmate's sister-in-law makes $69/hr on the computer. She has been unemployed for 8 months but last month her pay check was $17856 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more on  Fab99.c­om

    • Greyskull

      Yes, like thousands of other games which often score high reviews. Oftentimes the "feature" isn't implemented until an update, however.

  • SumoSplash

    If you are able to finish a level, then you have done what is required. The only logical progression is to advance to another level. If you are able to reach the end of a level and not be allowed to progress because you missed something, then you should not have been able to reach the end of the level in the first place. This scenario is a forced redundancy, with the only possible motivation being IAP. It's an insulting approach in Freemium titles. When it comes to a paid title, it is simply underhanded.

    • Nick

      What about puzzle titles when you need to have x number of stars to unlock a level? It's not that different from that, unless you're blowing money on power ups.

      • SumoSplash

        It all depends on if IAP is involved. If there is something you can buy to be able to advance, skip over or cheat, then chances are some aspect of the gameplay will be tailored towards selling the IAP to enable you to do that. If the game has no IAP to begin with, then a requirement is just a requirement. So, if you finish a level and you can't advance to the next level and there is no IAP in the game, then it is strictly an issue with the design.

        We are so plagued by IAP that we justify the argument and look for the least acceptable forms of IAP. I even do it myself. However, the reality is optional IAP doesn't exist because, if it's there, some part of the gameplay will be compromised for you to use it.

      • SumoSplash

        Excuse me, I meant we look for the MOST acceptable forms of IAP, haha.

      • Nick

        The game is almost exactly the same as the console version. Heck, I'd almost say it's literally no different from what I have played of the two. So, if it's no different except for trying to monetize a bit more, which I'm not a HUGE fan of but I'm not a corporation with shareholders, then where's the issue?

        Compare it to the Xbox version which costs $10. The iOS version that runs on phone/iPod/iPad costs $3. If you were to put another few dollars into it via the "IAP" without even so much as completing the levels, you'd STILL be paying less than the Xbox version. There is a $5 option that gives you 20k tokens, WAY WAY more than enough to unlock everything.

        What has happened is that Microsoft seems to have made the mistake of giving us a very very inexpensive way of getting a game that normally costs 3x as much and then offers a way for people to unlock levels without doing any real work.

        Actually, I just did a bit more math, it costs about 5,500 coins to unlock everything. Now if you never play the game and earn zero points, spending

      • SumoSplash

        If the experience is the same as the XBOX version, then let me pay the same ten dollars.

      • Nick

        You can unlock the whole thing in total, for less than $10. It is as simple as that, I don't know how I can explain that better or more clearly. Buy it for three dollars, unlock the rest of the levels for four dollars (20,000 coins), you're at seven dollars and it's cheaper than the Xbox version, you have it on mobile, what else is there to explain?

    • FutureMan

      You get infinity lives, so it's easy for me to consider just getting to the end of a level as having not really "beat" it. Otherwise it would be impossible to lose. When you play a racing game and get last place, do you expect to be able to move on? I guess I just see it different. I'm really anti-IAP and I just don't see any issue with it in this game. To each his own, so all due respect to both opinions,

  • Nick

    The "nasty IAP barrier" is incredibly wrong and the BIGGEST issue I have with this review.

    There is only a barrier if you are throwing money away on power ups and are really terrible at completing the levels. It's very similar to the star systems in most puzzle games, you need to use stars to unlock new levels. Here, however, it's the same basket. You can pay with coins to buy power ups, or you can use those coins to unlock levels.

    You don't need to pay to complete the game, you don't need to excessively grind. You may need to "3 star" a few areas and beat some levels faster to gain coins, but I've NEVER had to even moderately grind to unlock. Ever.

  • Skullinton

    If I'm not mistaken, the game Vector used a similar mechanic where you had to buy moves to play levels and I didn't see anyone complaining...

  • Texazzpete

    I'm sorry but this is a REALLY REALLY BAD review. How the heck is this different from all those Mario games where you need a certain number of stars or so to progress to some levels?

    Even if the reviewer has to dock points for his own ineptitude, why TWO stars off one of the best platformers on XBLA and now iOS?

    • http://www.facebook.com/dlcraddock David Craddock

      Do you mean the gates in Super Mario Bros. Wii that you unlock by paying star coins? Those are optional paths. You don't have to take them to complete the game.

  • MrSHakerEsq

    Despite all the ignorant criticisms against my opinion it looks like I was correct: not worth $2 IMOHO.

  • Torkin

    3 Stars for Ms. Splosion Man? Is it a joke? I know why I don't trust your reviews anymore.

  • pizzaman262

    Why the h do I have to push 1 for English?

  • http://twitter.com/phonecats phonecats

    You don't even have to unlock levels in order.
    The locking of levels is one the worst use of IAP ever.
    Someone old and greedy ruined this game.

  • Cameron Fenton

    Would it have been better if they had just released it at $9.99 without any IAPs? I know they wouldn't do that because most app store customers are crazy and think $9.99 is way too much for a game, but would that have solved the problem?

    • http://www.facebook.com/dlcraddock David Craddock

      It would have for me, yes. I state several times that I enjoyed the game; the IAP's implementation, as well as the fact that I thought I was paying for a full game straight out, were my only hang-ups.

      As far as price goes, $10 is pricey, but look at Square Enix. They charge $15 and up for ancient FF games. That's steep, but at least I get what I paid for.

  • seviu

    I think everybody agrees that thisis a greatgame. It is just that IAP use is misleading, almost like hidden till you get to level 3. It makes you wonder why... First you pay for a tier 3 game

  • seviu

    ... And after paying for a tier 3 game they sneak on you, in cold blood, this IAP. Regardless of how difficult or not it is to gain coins, it looks almost like a deliberate malicious decision, from the developers, to suddenly assault you with this form of IAP. When I saw that I deleted this game, disgusted of this greedy, sneaky, malicious IAP implementation.

    • Nick

      Sigh. I guess you just.. I don't know how to argue with this crazy logic.

  • seviu

    ...to continue the bad review, all people defending this game in the forum... Wouldnt be surprised if they are also the developers

    • lifeat78

      I'm certainly not one of the devs. I can start to understand some of the IAP gripes, now. I still don't agree that it's all that big of a deal, but I can at least understand where people are coming from when they complain. It's sad we seem to have reached the point where most IAP are blown out of proportion, but it does seem to be the case.

      • seviu

        I am ok with many forms of IAP but... This one took me really by surprise. They introduce it late in the game, and it is designed not to look like it. It immediately blew away the magic of the game

  • SumoSplash

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: Give people a Lite version to try, or give out the first board for free and have an IAP unlock for the rest of the game, like SilverTree does with Cordy. If developers want to suck more money out of people with Freemium, then make a Freemium AND a premium version, so that way the sheep can play the Freemium and the gamers can play the Premium. IAP in ANY form should not exist in a PAID game, no matter the asking price.

  • araczynski

    I found the concept of the original to be pretty lame, glad to see they managed to frack up the port.

  • drloony

    This is the game TA wants to be harsh on for IAP? Really? There is no "pay wall" in it either unless you suck at games, then maybe you shouldn't be playing or reviewing them for that matter

Ms. Splosion Man Reviewed by David Craddock on . Rating: 3