|System: Xbox 360|
|Dev: SpikySnail Games|
|Pub: Microsoft Game Studios|
|Release: April 11, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Mild Fantasy Violence|
by Shelby Reiches
It's only in a society that assigns monetary value to pleasure activities that one can view "fun" as a consumable resource in the same way that one regards basic necessities, such as food and water. The amount one gains of that resource for the money invested is the item in question's relative value. It's sad, in a way, that a game can then be "fun," doing nothing that is wrong or that strongly detracts from the experience, yet comes across as a waste of money whether because its price is set too high or the enjoyment it provides simply isn't strong or enduring enough.
The Splatters has a solid enough premise: One doesn't directly control a character, instead seeking to kamikaze bright, primary-colored blobs with broad, smiling faces against the terrain to burst them (or "splatter" them, as the game would probably prefer) into splashes of similarly colored goo. When the goo touches a bomb of its color, that bomb lights up and goes off. Dramatic increases in score can be achieved by splattering large groups of bombs all at once and chaining together a variety of combo abilities that are taught over the initial 19 levels of the game. These help add some depth to the otherwise simplistic gameplay, entailing the ability to redirect a Splatter in mid-air, accelerate it so that it dashes against a wall in one quick burst, or reverse the direction of everything on motion in screen, condensing clouds of goo, pulling airborne bombs back through them, or accelerating a Splatter back and forth around a half-pipe until its momentum peaks.
These antics serve players in two modes, other than the introductory levels that gradually acclimate them to the game's mechanics: a combo-based score mode, in which chaining together abilities and having Splatters left over between rounds to continue the action even as the next phase sets up (sustaining the combo meter and boosting one's score) is absolutely critical; and a stunt-focused sub-game in which the levels tell you which stunts must be performed in the pursuit of bomb-exploding goo splashes. You are not limited to these stunts alone, and are in fact encouraged to perform as many stunts as possible in order to maximize your score (going about simple tasks in the most complex way).
And that's it. That's the entire game. After the introductory levels, the game does not evolve. It certainly becomes more difficult, demanding more judicious use of one's Splatters, conserving them as much as possible, but later stages don't demand more creativity, just more caution as one uses the same basic tactics over and over again. Often when a strategy works out spectacularly, it isn't because of what one planned, but because of the seemingly random chance that has at least some say in exactly when and to what degree the Splatter you're controlling bursts apart. Yes, you guided that Splatter to the right area, but the fact that it hit all of the bombs in the cluster this time instead of just ten out of fourteen was a matter of pure chance.
For a while, this alone will prove satisfying. The graphics are pleasant, with the anthropomorphized gelatinous blobs yelping and giggling as they're shot around the level, smiling all the way as they stretch into a blur before careening head-on into a wall or a spiked outcropping. On impact, the bursts of liquid they form feel dense, yet have a certain, syrupy flow to them. Their droplets seem to catch on the environment before either fading into it or sliding off of it, thick and yet mobile all at once. It's very satisfying to watch, knowing that you were the force behind this phenomenon. Juicy: that's the word I was looking for. Impacts and the splatters of color they create are juicy and viscous. There are neat touches in the game's HUD elements too, which include clouds shaped like the symbols for the actions you must perform in stunt mode, which break apart as you complete them.
The end of level rating, too, is somehow immensely satisfying to see; The Splatters is presented as though it is a television game show at times, with an implied audience that makes its presence known through its "ooh"s and "ahh"s as you perform aerial acrobatics. The cries of the blobs themselves are endearing enough, rarely ever passing into the realm of annoying. Nothing about the sound design particularly stands out, though; there's a bit of a hard rock chord when you finish a level, which is kind of cool and all, and stuff like the jet engine roar when you rocket a Splatter off in a new direction mid-flight is neat, but doesn't really provide new information or anything, y'know?