One of the many things that makes Angry Birds so addictive is the urge to three-star every level. The Splatters utilises the same approach; play a level once and you may get through with a one or two star rating, but that elusive third star may not come until you have tried and tried again. There are other similarities as well, from the art style and adorable charms to the physics-based nature of the gameplay. To write it off as just another Angry Birds clone however would be unfair, as The Splatters has much more under the hood to test both your brain and your skills.
Littered throughout the levels are bombs and the only way to detonate them is by flinging the adorable Splatters at them. Once they hit a solid object with enough force, they burst into liquid which in turn oozes around the architecture of the stage until dissipating. You start off using a simple fling manoeuvre, but before long other ‘Stunts’ are learnt which allow you to fling the Splatters across the screen in different ways. This range from simple slides built into the level to a fun ‘Ballistic’ stunt which propels you at great speed causing an instant goo explosion.
The most impressive stunt however has to be the Flip, which gifts the unlimited but brief reversal of time. Whilst you may think that this is just a way to reverse any mistakes, it is actually there to serve a more ingenious purpose. Once fully mastered, Flip can be used to manipulate the environment by using momentum and timing to slingshot bombs around the screen before detonating them. In addition you can effectively suspend the goo in mid air as you flip bombs back into the now slowly cascading waterfall of mess, creating massive scores in the process. By chaining together different stunts in quick succession, you combo meter extends allowing for even bigger scores and in some game modes this is the key to getting a perfect 3 star rating on a level.
There are three parts to the game in all, the first which serves as a tutorial by explaining the concepts of the art of splattering by first showing you then letting you perform it yourself. Once this has been conquered, the remaining two modes become available.The first is “Combo Nation” which tasks you with completing each stage without losing a combo chain. This essentially means that you can not stop for a break, any delay will cause you to lose the chain, so fast and skilful play is essential. The other mode, called “Master Shots”, puts a different take on the bomb diffusing gameplay. Each level will require you to use certain stunts in order to pass. This creates a different experience and also serves to make you better, forcing you to fully learn each and every stunt. Luckily a separate menu item exists to explain each and every one.
Whilst the two modes are different enough to warrant their separation, it cant hide the fact that before long the gameplay, whilst fun and rewarding, does start to wear thin. In some respects The Splatters might be better suited to mobile platforms as it is great to pick up for a short while, but long gameplay sessions are not recommended. If you take the dip in, dip out approach however, it might add longevity and prevent the experience from becoming stale. Speaking of which, whilst the overall graphical presentation is jolly and cute, there are certain aspects that seem to have been passed over almost entirely. The level art, compared to the Splatters themselves, is dull and uninspiring, and doesn’t really seem to fit in with the rest of the game. Compare them to Peggle’s excellent levels for example and the differences are there to be seen.
Something else which is shared by both games, although is even more true here is the concept that there is no one way to finish a level. Players who get creative will be able to dispatch bombs in the most visually exciting and impressive ways possible and luckily any run you perform can be uploaded for others to see. The “Splatter TV” area is built around this whole concept. Whilst it has been seen before in other titles, it’s a nice addition and adds that extra layer of community to the experience. Finally developers Spikysnail have helpfully included a colour blind option which swaps the colour palettes to be more easily definable to those afflicted souls. As one of them I can only applaud such an inclusion as it really did help me our when my enjoyment could have been so easily soured.
All in all The Splatters is a fun puzzler that differentiates itself from anything else out there. It may borrow some elements from other titles, but it also has enough inventiveness to let it stand out on its own. Throw in avatar awards and gamer pictures and your given a game which does justify its 800 Microsoft points, so long as you play it in short bursts.