When I sat down at the end of last week with my review copy of Splasher by Splashteam and published by Playdius Games, I figured I’d log a few hours and get a good rich impression of the indie platformer before running back to the arms of my one true love, Breath of the Wild.
Several hours later I took a break, having giggled and yelled at my TV quite a few times at this fun and very well polished indie release.
The plot is simple: you’re working in the Inkorp factory when you see the evil Le Docteur experimenting on your co-workers by injecting them with ink that causes massive and grotesque mutations. In short order you find a water gun, and set off to rescue your fellow ink covered colleagues through trial and error over 22 levels of platforming goodness.
Now, this is not necessarily an original game by any stretch. This feels like playing Super Meat Boy if he had access to the propulsion gel from Portal 2 with some of the tear-your-hair-out difficulty scaled back. Even the main antagonist, Le Docteur, strikes me as being cut from the same cloth as Dr. Fetus, minus the beating up on Bandage Girl.
Still, there’s many a platformer out there and paying homage to one of the best indie games released in the last decade is a solid choice for many a developer. What’s unique about Splashteam is that they pull it off and add a wrinkle that makes Splasher its own beast: Speedrunning.
The developer, Romain Claude – veteran of Ubisoft’s Rayman series (Legends and Origins), worked with speedrunners at NesBlog to ensure the game hit the high points necessary for a true speedrunner’s platformer, and boy does it show. In the 10 or so hours I was able to dedicate to the game, I played quite a few of the levels, but I spent an inordinate amount of time replaying the first few on the speedrun mode, trying over and over again to get the best timing for jumps, slides, sticks, and enemy destruction.
Coming from someone who spent more time on the Batmobile racing in Arkham Knight than the rest of the game, I felt like this hit that total sweet spot of just enough difficulty to keep you on your toes, but not so brutal (hello Meat Boy) that you eventually give up or break a controller.
Romain’s past work on Rayman shows well here, in that the audience for those games tends to be a little bit younger than an old grizzled gamer like myself, and as such the brutal curve of Meat might feel a little out of place.
Let’s also give some credit to the art and music side of the house with Richard Vatinel and Aymeric Schwartz, their quirky artwork, character designs, techno music, and Looney Tunes-like sound effects make the game stick with you. I’m still humming some of the almost Daft Punk-like early level themes a few days later. Pay attention to the areas that are not part of the playing field, and Richard’s oddball aesthetic shines through.
Splasher is just fun. The level design is done well enough for the speedrunning to be rewarding, the difficulty level is high enough (or low enough I suppose) to keep your controllers in one piece, and if it can get me laughing like the Black Betty level in Rayman Legends, you know it’s doing something right.
Now, it’s not perfect. The lack of a difficulty level selection I think hurts this game in the long run, as eventually the levels are rote memorization, and there’s no doubt you’ve played a game similar to this quite a few times. It’s not breaking any new ground at all in an already crowded platformer market. It also feels pretty short and linear, so if you’re not a speedrun fan, I’m assuming this is a less than 10 hour completion.
Splasher is currently available on Steam, and releases on September 26th for Xbox One and Playstation 4 at $14.99. There is also a future release on Switch impending, which might be the perfect platform for an indie like this, as the ability to bang out a level in a few minutes feels like the perfect on-the-go-play.