If you were a gamer in the 1990s then chances are some of your finest memories are of getting together with a group of friends, before battling it out on one of the countless local multiplayer titles that were ruling gaming at the time. For me it was all about Cel Damage Overdrive, but with multiple party hits ruling the roost, there was never a dull weekend to be had once you had a group of friends ready to jump in front of the TV with controllers in hand.
A look at the gaming market in 2018 however paints an entirely different story, one in which multiplayer gaming is rarely even seen in a local fashion. We’ve got the growing presence of online gaming to thank for that. With that said though, Splash Blast Panic has recently arrived on Xbox One to breathe new life into the party game genre once more, but does it have what it takes to bring us a reminder of what made that local multiplayer of the ’90s so enjoyable?
Developed by the rather uniquely named studio Team KwaKwa, Splash Blast Panic is a multiplayer arena brawler, highly reminiscent of titles such as Super Smash Bros, Rivals of Aether, or generally any other brawler that allows you to go at it against your friends. Throughout the game players battle it out in screen sized arenas with water-based weapons and jetpacks, all in an attempt to knock the opposing players off the screen and out of the play area.
To aid in the frantic combat that comes from trying to blast your enemies off the screen with what is essentially an extra strength water pistol, you are granted unlimited use of an automatically equipped jetpack that allows you to whizz around the screen as you try to avoid incoming enemy fire, whilst getting into a better position capable of taking out your opponents.
Before you get deep into things though, you first need to choose from one of the available game modes. There aren’t many to choose from, but what is available are more than enough for what Splash Blast Panic wants to achieve.
Arcade mode is where Splash Blast Panic is at its best as a multiplayer game. This is where you’ll find a sniff of a mild single-player story experience, although anyone hoping for a branching narrative won’t find anything memorable besides a cutscene or two. Before you can jump in though, you must choose from the easy, medium or hard difficulties and which of the numerous characters you wish to jump in as, then heading out to take on eight different battles and a final showdown with the boss at the end. This all plays out with each stage giving players less and less platforms stand on meaning you’ll need to master the jetpack should you want to reach the boss fight.
There is also a Versus mode available, and as you’d expect this is where you come to simply battle it out with up to four players – or A.I. counterparts if you can’t convince some friends – with either a Free-For-All matchup or a Linked Team match in which two teams of two battle it out whilst linked to their team mates. There are multiple options available to customise the match such as time limit amendments, item spawns and their duration, difficulty and so on, but in all honesty, the excitement of each match boils down to the gameplay itself. However, when that starts to become repetitive, there’s not much on offer to spice things up.
One thing that does help make things more engaging is that each of the levels come with their own unique hazards to be worrying about, ensuring players never feel too comfortable within their environment. It’s also good to see each and every location – along with the 12 characters themselves – brought to life by a vibrant art style that really brings out every detail with bright colours and some rather unique designs.
As for the gameplay itself, as I mentioned before it eventually starts to become rather repetitive, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some fun to be had. The controls are simple enough to grasp early on with just a few to remember, ensuring no headache inducing combos are necessary. In fact, to nail every possible action all you’ll need is the Left Stick to move and fly, the Right to shoot in any direction and RT + Left Stick down to perform a Stomp on any opponent unfortunate enough to be below you at the time. There is also a Super Meter which builds up as you attack your opponents and utilising it when available will see your chosen characters unique move actioned. These can be devastating should you manage to land a hit – although it can be rather awkward to get on target.
As with most multiplayer games, whilst the controls are simple enough, it will take mastering for you to decide on the best time and place to use them, especially should you wish to become the water-toting assassin you’ll need to be if you want to win each battle. The gameplay can be tricky to really master, but for those wanting to enjoy a few casual games, Splash Blast Panic is certainly easily accessible to gamers of all skills and abilities.
You’ll also need to take into account various random weapon picks ups and powerups that drop in from time to time, with the weapon variants bringing numerous options that change the way your gun shoots, and the powerups delivering protective shields, mirrors and the like. All of these can turn the favour of the battle in your direction.
Even though there is a good selection of characters to choose from, some rather well crafted and beautiful art work to admire and enjoyable moments of madness as you fly about the screen trying to land that fateful shot on an your opponent, Splash Blast Panic does struggle to maintain a level of enjoyment that will keep players coming back for more. With Arcade mode done and dusted within 30 minutes or so, and multiplayer proving highly repetitive after a few games, it’s hard to see how this could provide too much to remember fondly.
The levels are great, the characters are quirky but sadly there isn’t enough content to compete against the big guns of the genre.