You know how Frankenstein assembled his Monster by collecting and attaching the body parts of several people in order to create a new creature with life of its own? That image crossed my mind as I was playing Splashteam’s first game, SPLASHER. Picture a mix of the art style of a Behemoth game like CASTLE CRASHERS, the fast-paced 2D platformer gameplay of SUPER MEAT BOY, PORTAL 2’s bounce gel, and some Spider-Man parkour moves thrown in for good measure, and you’ve got yourself the fantastic, thumb-wrecking platformer that is SPLASHER, easily one of the best to come out this year.
Before starting the game, I glanced over some of the promotional material and felt somewhat overwhelmed by the idea of playing through a hair-yankingly hard platformer revolving around twitch reflexes and speedrunning. However, much to my surprise, I only found myself craving more by the time I beat the game. SPLASHER bridges the gap between casual entertainment and the hardcore nature of speedrunning games, which I had historically felt disinterested in. On certain occasions I would enjoy watching someone blaze through OCARINA OF TIME or ALADDIN at a Games Done Quick event—however, the additional challenge placed by the player to finish the game as quickly as possible was never something I aspired to do. I’d much rather stop and take my time to smell the roses.
Little known fact, most giant trains in video games have some sort of death trap in it.
That’s why it’s impressive that although I’ve avoided the urge in other titles to hone my time score, by the end of this game I felt the need to continue testing myself, returning to the previous levels in order to improve my time on each one, even by just a second. SPLASHER’s additional speedrun modes are designed around the concept of wanting to finish the game as quickly as possible, rewarding your participation so that by the end of your play time, you feel as if your skills as a gamer have drastically improved.
In SPLASHER, you play as a humble factory worker of the large, weirdly potato-focused Inkorp and discover that your antagonistic boss, who in addition to flipping you off every chance he gets, has also been mistreating your co-workers. It’s up to you to traverse the factory and save as many co-workers as you can on your way to defeat your evil boss. That’s pretty much all you need to know regarding story, seeing as how the heart of the game is its gameplay.
Potatoes are present everywhere in the game, like everywhere everywhere
The cartoon-like art style and animation fits SPLASHER’s wackiness. The cutesy characters and the bizarrely constructed potatoes and roots running throughout the factory appropriately complement and accommodate the insane gameplay revolving around paint-splattering and running. The immense level of detail poured into both the background and foreground of every level helps the atmosphere of the game seem massive as you traverse through the factory floor.
SPLASHER appears daunting at first, with its high-speed running style and the steep difficulty curve, but the game mercifully starts you off slow with just running and jumping. Shortly after, you gain the ability to spray water from your backpack, followed by red and yellow paint. Water can be used to remove paint, red is used to stick to walls, and yellow bounces the player into the air. This is where SPLASHER separates itself from other platformers. Every spray is mapped to a different button on your controller. This creates a unique platforming experience, as in other platform games, most of the input is reserved to a stick for movement and a button for jumping. This allows for faster gameplay and a more hands-on experience. As you progress through the game, you will eventually be introduced to the new kinds of obstacles, puzzles, and paints. The gradual addition of features helps players of all stripes ease into the action, but you will eventually have to master these mechanics in order to fully experience the game.
Splash your way to victory!
While this approach seems disheartening to some, SPLASHER is encouraging and teaches anyone from the most casual of players to the most diehard time trial fans how to get better. Every new obstacle and challenge is presented in a way that allows you to fully master the controls and the environment, feeling as if your skills have improved before proceeding on to the next section. This is all made possible by clever and deliberate level design that gets increasingly difficult. Every previous skill you have learned is put to use, so even if you are just a casual gamer, by the time you end the game, you are compelled to return and re-do all the levels with your newfound platforming skills.
SPLASHER does reach some challenging heights, but this shouldn’t scare anyone away from trying this game out. Its unique button layout makes for a refreshingly detailed take on the platform genre. Not only is it a great introduction for casual gamer into the speedrunning world, but is an excellent entry for more hardcore lovers of the genre. SPLASHER nails it with its smooth animation, tight controls, and comprehensively addicting gameplay. There’s hours of replay value and the constant desire to achieve a better score still lingers with you even after finishing the game.
Reviewed on Xbox One, also available on PlayStation 4 and PC