A new (and refreshing) take on one of the oldest genres
Over the past decade the platformer genre has become more prominent in gaming, and a resurgence of 2-D games has come naturally with the flood of Indie games to the Switch. Arriving on the Switch eShop comes Splasher, a platformer/shooter with a twist. Instead of just jumping around like every other game, this time the player uses a special Paint Cannon that shoots different types of ink used not only to attack enemies but also to traverse the areas in a fast-paced groove.
The story isn't very complex, an evil scientist "Le Docteur" is testing his inky experiments on humans and our nameless hero (a purple haired dude) witnesses him in action. The main hub world is the lobby of the evil company "Inkorp" and is a giant level in itself. Every level you complete unlocks a new door somewhere located in Inkorp, and you use your abilities learned in the previous level to get there, a clever design indeed.
The first thing that jumped out to me about Splasher was the unique art direction. The colorful cartoony aesthetic has its charms, like a mixture of Spy vs. Spy and Rayman Legends (and to no surprise, developer Romain Claude previously worked on Rayman Origins & Legends as a designer). Little cut scenes appear every now and then that add to the atmosphere, keeping the player on their toes and creating a nice sense of urgency.
The gameplay and level design are the two most impressive things featured in Splasher, with a sort of synergy created between the two. The controls are pretty simple, press B to jump and use the Y, X and A buttons to spray different inks. Red ink lets you run on walls and ceilings, yellow ink provides a huge bounce when you touch it (think Flubber) and water can remove and wash away any ink. The jump may feel weird at first, as it's designed to let you move more horizontally than vertically. As I continued to learn the mechanics I soon realized how nice and cohesive the running, jumping and spraying felt and how good it felt with the layouts of each level.
The level design is top-notch all the way through the campaign. Every section is skillfully constructed to make sure that e jump is both exciting and satisfying to land. As soon as you've mastered the controls of one type of ink they introduce another to add in to the mix. Every time this happened it was never overwhelming or complicated, but was always exhilarating. I kept on saying to myself "Oh, now I can do this?!" and wanted to dive deeper into the controls to find out what carefully designed obstacles they had coming up.
You know that feeling when you are playing Mario and you kick a Koopa shell into 20 other Koopas and get like 10 1-UPs? That same sense of satisfaction happens all of the time in every stage. The combination of moves required to traverse parts of the levels made me feel like I was both a ninja and Batman, but most of all - always in charge. For instance, shooting enemies midair while dodging spikes and running on the ceiling was a regular occurrence, and it never felt difficult. Of course there are super tough parts of each level that took plenty of attempts to clear, but it never stopped being fun while trying to conquer the challenge.
Just getting to the end of each level proves to be no picnic, but definitely an achievable goal. If you want some more challenge there are 7 of your buddies to rescue in each level, sometimes hidden but most of them provide mini challenges that dare you to move out of your comfort zone to save them. Golden ink can be found in level and collected by spraying it or defeating enemies. Collecting it all will let you unlock the final buddy locked up at the end of each level, so if you want more challenge you are in luck.
The music is a bit of a letdown in Splasher. The quirky themes and characters shine in the spotlight, but are drowned out by the relatively mediocre sound track. When the whole experience is so unique and animated, the music makes it feel like nothing special. It's not that it's technically bad per se, just not wacky or fun like the rest of the game, which really is such a darn shame.
In the world we live in now where more and more platformers are popping up all the time, it's so nice to play through such a refreshing (and dare I say "fluid") adventure. Splasher's interesting paint cannon mechanic paired with the excellent level design will have you bouncing through each level feeling like a boss from start to finish. If you like a great challenge, charming animations and a new take on an old genre, look no further.