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Splasher (Switch) artwork

Splasher (Switch) review

"Movin' and a groovin'"

You've paused many a video game before. Press start, it pauses. Press B (or whatever the "cancel" button is for you weird non-Nintendo people), and the pause menu goes away. Except in Splasher. You have to navigate to the Resume button and press A. I mean, technically that works too, but why? It just doesn't feel right. And honestly, even after pausing 20 times, I was still habitually pressing B and wondering why nothing happens. And each time, despite being a minor issue, it irked me just a little bit more.

I know, weird way to start a review. And no, this is not coloring my review in the slightest; it's just an easy visual. You know what muscle memory does to you, you know exactly what I'm talking about here. Sometimes minor things are annoying. Just hang on to it, I'll come back there.

Splasher itself is a 2D platformer made by some ex-Rayman folks (so some pretty decent pedigree). Our hero, a purple-haired janitor in the quintessential evil industrial facility, accidentally witnesses the powers-that-be performing experiments on hapless employees and turning them into slime monsters. And when the evil scientist notices, our hero must escape with the help of his trusty squirt gun. Or actually, maybe he's hunting down the evil scientist, I don't know. Who cares? The important part is that there are 22 levels requiring lots of jumping and splashing.

Splashing. See, this evil company just happens to be spewing red and yellow ink everywhere. If you try to run through red ink, you'll be bogged down and slow to a crawl. Unless that ink is stuck to the wall or ceiling, then you can just run up the wall or upside down with no problem (who needs logic?). Yellow ink makes you bounce, and you can bounce pretty far. You can clean up this ink with a water spray if it's in your way, and eventually you'll gain the ability to spray yellow or red ink as well. See a giant pool filled with toxic green ooze, and a thin vertical platform with a razor blade on top blocking your way? Spray red ink on the side, hop on, climb near the top, leap over the blade while spraying the opposite side red as you fall to cling on, and then shoot a glob of yellow at your feet to instantly catapult yourself safely to the other side.

Splasher (Switch) image

And you'll face 22 lengthy levels of these challenges, each split up into 6 segments with checkpoints in between (trust me, you'll need them, and there's still plenty of space between each checkpoint). Most of these levels are built along a theme, using the standard level design approach of introducing a concept and then expanding on the concept through increasingly complex and challenging variations. Fortunately the ideas brought up are never completely abandoned; you'll often see similar ideas repeated again in more challenging segments. You'll see death beams, tripwire lasers that only turn on if you stand in their path for a couple seconds, moving platforms powered by a turbine that you need to spray to rotate, saw blades, water spouts, pipes leaking acid, and wormholes to quarantine areas that present a single-screen combat or puzzle challenge. That last bit allows you to rescue other janitors trapped and awaiting their doom. You'll also encounter these janitors on your normal route as well (6 in each level plus a seventh at the end if you've collected enough paint). Just a little extra collectible so you're not just running towards the end.

It's fun. I have to emphasize that, this game is great fun. The sticky and bouncy goo mechanics elevate it from just a normal platformer. It helps that everything interacts with it instead of just you, meaning you can splat some yellow goo at the feet of a charging robo-bull and watch as it goes sailing... or accidentally do the same to one of those janitors you were supposed to rescue and watch him flail to his doom. Oops! It also helps that the game is made with speedrunning in mind. Not that you have to do that; you can take your time and carefully plan each jump. But it's great to know that the game CAN be played at full speed, running the entire time if you know what you're doing. It means you can charge forward with reckless abandon and often end up rewarded for it. Really keeps the flow of the game moving, y'know?

And it helps that the game starts out reasonably forgiving and ends with being a crazy all-out challenge. By the end, there will be laser beams everywhere and all sorts of moving pieces, meaning your thumb is doing a manic dance to a complex pattern of jumping and spraying water and the two goos in every direction all while you are constantly moving because there is no safe space available.... Whew, this is when you'll be glad to see a checkpoint appear. But even if you die a dozen times, you'll be that much closer to mastering the complex dance, and you'll always want to come back for one more try. It was a crazy, agonizing ride, but it felt like a real accomplishment to finish it.

Yes, it was fun. Buuuutttt.... OK, remember the pause thing, how something that is technically functional but interferes with muscle memory can be frustrating? Well, the controls here are floaty. This is probably a necessity of the bouncy goo: you start with a huge burst of speed to make sure you go carooming off whether you like it or not, but then that speed dramatically dissipates so that you can control where you land. It's also a function of a game with a lengthy horizontal jump; there's a lot of falling that goes into it in order to increase that horizontal length for more fun platforming challenges. I get the reason behind it. But, maybe I was just trained to much on Mario-style controls, but I found myself fighting with it way too much. I'd jump, realize I was going too far, try to correct, but then found the correction was too much and fall short. And if I tried to undo that overcorrection, nothing happened. Time after time, especially early on, I was dying, not to clever level design, but to frustrating slipups in my jumps.

But how much of that is just my own muscle memory vs how much is the game's fault? Normally, I'd drop a game for an issue like this, but the rest of the game was so good that I just had to press forward. That's a testament to the fact that, while the controls frustrated me, they were still suitable to the game at hand. It ended up giving me an odd love/hate relationship with the game; there's a ton of good stuff here, but I wish I could enjoy it even more than I did. So while this review is an overwhelmingly positive one, I do have to leave with just a tiny bit of caution, that perhaps you may find yourself fighting the controller almost as much as the game. But perhaps not, and if you can get past it, you'll be in for a treat.

Also, don't pause.


mariner's avatar
Community review by mariner (June 08, 2020)

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