The Splatters - Xbox 360 Review

The title at first glance does not sound like it is really telling you much about the game.  What is The Splatters?  It is a physics-based puzzle title.  There are small bombs on the screen and you fling little guys of good onto them to disarm them.  You splatter them - hence the unusual yet appropriate title.

It sounds pretty simple at first - you aim, you shoot you splatter the bombs.  But take a look at the images in this review and you can see that the arenas have a lot of shape to them - often plenty of obstacles.  Beyond that though, the game starts to give you various tricks you can perform, handing them to you at steady intervals - which is great since each new power makes you want to go back and try an earlier map because your job gets even easier.  The flip side of that coin is that the upcoming maps will really test your new skills to make sure you can pull off the trick.

There are additional wrinkles thrown in as well.  Later maps in particular will test you as you as well as color coordination becomes a factor.  Blobs of a certain color will only be able to eliminate bombs and bomb clusters of the same color.  I definitely enjoyed this game, and now we'll break it down a bit further.

Graphics - 8:

The game is no technical marvel, but the bright, vivid colors appeal to me much the way Peggle did.  The backgrounds have a cool, distant perspective to them as well, blurred out of focus as you concentrate on the rails, bombs and blobs.  It all animates nicely enough as well, with nothing slowing down or getting choppy.  The visual design is simply smart across the board as there is never any confusion as to what is on screen - a problem I have seen in other puzzle titles in the past when colors get a bit too similar, or objects are not clearly defined.

Sound & Music - 7:

The music is peppy and fun - fitting to the type of game The Splatters is.  None of it is particularly memorable in and of itself, but as I sit here writing this, I turned the game back on, fired up a level and immediately found it to be pleasant.  The sound effects in a puzzler tend to get pretty repetitive.  I am not sure why - maybe because there is so much going on as I played, but I never noticed any sort of annoying repetition so I would say the job got done rather nicely.

Gameplay - 8:

This is mostly a hit with a few small misses.  The fluid physics is very cool and adds a lot of variety to the game.  The new tricks you unlock keep the stages from veering into the 'been there, done that' stage.  The basic mechanic is a shooting one that plays with angles.  It was not until a few levels in I realized I could 'hop' or move around, which was cool once I understood it.  One of the modes, Master Shots, should disable this though.  It is the same button as the one you use to launch your character.  On a lot of the maps, I was just trying to set up a shot, but I accidentally clipped an edge or ledge and got yelled at about how moving pre-shot is disabled in this mode.  That makes sense for the mode, but maybe disable 'hopping' then and only make it launched shots?  That would potentially require a good deal of core code rewrite though, but it was just an annoying little detail from my sessions earlier.  The same thing can trigger your guy to explode a bit prematurely if you accidentally make just the slightest amount of contact.  These are tiny complaints though.  The game was easy to pick up - my youngest played a few matches and could tell exactly what she needed to do - but the challenge ramped up nicely by level.

Intangibles - 9:

At first glance, I thought that the game was going to be too short.  I beat the initial mode in about two hours.  Each map is a bit longer than it first appears as there are usually two to four stages to each.  Then there is a star system where your scores (made better by performing trick shots and combos) can earn you up to three stars for your performance.  There are three modes, the other two are unlocked when you beat the primary one.  They are longer and more challenging.  The achievements are good and varied also.  There is also a feature called Splatter TV that allows you to upload maps and view and 'like' uploads from others.  Nifty little feature, in my opinion.  In the introductory mode you can view a video of one way to beat a level (there really are several ways per level - one of the primary points that adds replay value) and the Splatter TV also lets you see how others are tackling levels if you are so inclined.

Overall - 8:

I just enjoyed the game.  SpikySnail managed to create an original puzzle game that is fun to play - no small accomplishment.  There is a good deal of replay value to be had here for 800 Microsoft Points, and the visuals appeal to my kids - and my wife.  She was walking through the bedroom as I was playing it and asked what it was.  I said 'The Splatters' and she looked at me oddly for a moment - and then she saw me play it and asked if it was a demo and if so, she wanted me to buy it.  I chuckled and told her we had the actual game to play and she sat down beside me and started to play away.  She's really not much of a gamer, but I think that speaks to the broad appeal that The Splatters has.

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