Thursday, July 2, 2009

Splash Lake

NEC Avenue

It usually takes just one look at these overhead-view "action-puzzlers" to thoroughly disgust me, as they always remind me of Bomberman, which I think is one of the most overrated franchises around. Splash Lake certainly has commonalities with Bomberman: the player proceeds board by board, clearing each field of strange little enemies. But SL's eclectic cast, which features an oddball ostrich and amusing villains such as a chain-smoking tree stump, has charm that stupid-looking, "spacesuit"-wearing Bomberman and his dull circular foes lack.

Peck away at segments of bridge to drop your charismatic opponents into the lake. It sounds simple enough, but unlike many of the dimwits who oppose Bomberman, some of Splash's villains are pretty bright and can pull a few quick ones on the unalert player. Evil ostriches leap from falling platforms and then perform some structural obliteration of their own, snails nullify your efforts to bring the bridgework down by undoing the damage you've done, flames avoid fragile ground, phantoms play teleportation tricks, and snakes charge forward a la Zelda Ropes once they've spotted you.

It's a great bunch of bad guys. Sadly, there are no real bosses to lead them. Occasionally, you encounter larger creatures and one-off foes, but no particular scene really comes off as a "dramatic confrontation."

You'll have your hands full with the action as things are, though. And there's another element to take into account: each of the sixty (core) stages holds a secret item for you to poke around for and snatch up. Matters seem more frantic when you're trying to find and obtain these treats, especially during the already-tricky final stages.

But while the levels get trickier as you go along, they don't offer up much variety visually. It would've been nice if some boards featured backdrops other than water. How about some lava lakes or tar pits or something?

Well, not many chances were taken with the visuals, but the soundtrack is a different story. This is some of the silliest stuff you'll ever hear from T's Music. I can't say it isn't annoying at times, but I must admit that it fits the wacky adventure quite well.

Some appropriately humorous cinematics in the form of "Ostrich Theater" skits were also included, though they probably aren't exactly what you've come to expect from Turbo CD intermissions. Still, I bet they'll make you smile...

...and the game will do little to make you lose that smile before you reach the scene of the final sunset.

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