Angry Birds has a lot to answer for. It wasn’t the first physics puzzler, but its success has meant that everybody wants to get in on the genre. As with any other popular genre, this usually results in a glut of mostly awful clones of the original game, until everyone gets burned out and the whole genre comes crashing down (see also: platform games, shooting games, adventure games etc).
An unfortunate side-effect of this glut is that some people make genuinely good entries into the genre that get lost to time. A game may have something new and interesting to offer a stale genre, but doesn’t get a chance to shine because other games with bigger names behind them take all the attention (and money).
I fear that The Splatters may be a game like this. Developed over three years by a small Israeli studio called SpikySnail, the game is a really cool take on a well-worn genre.
You take control of a group of a group of small gooey and rather suicidal creatures called the Splatters, and your job is to, well, blow them up. You do this by slamming them around each level and into small flashing bombs. Destroy all the bombs in each round to clear the level.
It’s simple enough, but there’s a twist. The game rewards you for pulling stunts, and trying to clear each level as stylishly as possible. Performing a stunt scores points and increases a multiplier. To get the best scores, you not only need to clear the bombs stylishly, but also quickly, as this multiplier will decrease if you take too long between launching your Splatters.
One unique feature is that each level is broken up into individual rounds, each of which adds more bombs and Splatters to the mix. If you manage to clear a round without using all your Splatters, the ones left will carry over into the next round, giving you even more opportunity for destruction and scoring.
I have to admit that the game’s visuals didn’t appeal to me at first. Everything has this messy, gooey look to it that doesn’t sit well with my neat-freak tendencies. Not to mention the slightly too-psychotic smiles that the Splatters themselves have just before you throw them to their doom. After a while, though, I actually grew to like my gooey, suicidal charges, and found myself having a whole heap of fun with it all.
It’s worth mentioning the excellent physics the game has. Liquid physics are notoriously difficult to get right, but SpikySnail have nailed it here. It’s not surprising when you consider that one of them has a background in medical simulations, where accuracy is crucial. The game is all the better for this, and while it may look a little ugly, it plays just fine.
Like a lot of recent games with online leaderboards, The Splatters supports replay saving for the top scorers. The feature is called Splatter TV, and it’s really fun to just watch an expert do the levels and build ridiculous scores. It’s a great way for a game like this to build a competitive community as well.
Ultimately, The Splatters is a game that deserves to be a hit because it has something genuinely new and fun to add to its genre, and I really hope that SpikySnail can get this game onto as many platforms as possible. It plays well enough on the 360, but I can imagine it being really fun on the iPad or even the PC. Don’t be put off by the game’s appearance, it’s definitely worth a good look.
The Splatters is available on XBox Live Arcade for 800 Microsoft Points