Kersploosh! (a.k.a Splash or Crash)
3DS Download | Nintendo / Poisoft | 1 Player | Out Now | $2.99 / £2.69 | StreetPass Support
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26th March 2013; By KnucklesSonic8
Kersploosh! is an arcade, high score-oriented pursuit that transforms wells into vertical obstacle courses, as though compressing a skydiving experience into a more claustrophobic, less flexible context. It was originally developed in 2011 by a studio by the name of Poisoft under the title "Hyu Stone", but it's only now that Nintendo has seen fit to localize it for overseas markets. Incidentally, it's a title I've long thought would make an easy transition, so it pleased me to see its official confirmation via a Nintendo Direct showing in February. Sadly, Kersploosh! is not as clever as it thinks it is, and it is due to a series of improper design choices that the name "Kersplat!" would be a more appropriate name choice.
Using a wishing well as its basis, the game gives you control over a stone that descends through a lengthy vertical tunnel, briefly meeting with obstructions in the form of thick boards, cannons, and fans that cover the entire passage. As to the make of the course, you'll get the impression that the person responsible moonlighted as a passionate bakery owner, since a vast majority of obstacles are large doughnuts, cookies and pies that follow your movement, and whole pizzas with partial slits. I guess this was their way of leaving their mark on society!
You'll also discover that the well interiors aren't limited to just stone, as there are also extended portions where walls are covered by streams of water, made up of a long industrial vent with air gushing forth through Swiss cheese-style openings, have molten magma running along the side, or even portray a dark abyss under the idea that the pit is either bottomless or the landing is really deep down. These changes may not seem like much, but it's quite relieving to observe that the game didn't limit stage distinction to changes in obstacle patterns. As a result, the game is less repetitive for it.
While you do start off with only a stone, nine other food items and trinkets become available over the course of the experience, including a watermelon, a handheld instrument, and a jewel. Each control in slightly different fashions according to the physics governed by their weight. For example, the iron ball doesn't descend as quickly as the plate. But the more fragile items also come with an added variable of a strict health condition that limits how many hits you can sustain before it shatters mid-descent. In these cases, balloons help restore lost HP.
Additionally, all items react differently when passing through doughnut holes. Some experience a drastic speed boost, while others only get a small push before returning to normal speed. Yes, it does sound rather senseless when you think about it, and it's probably for that reason that the developers tried to endow the game with a quirky skin. Each trinket selected will introduce you to a silhouette of the person who last possessed it but decided to toss it after having found a new direction in life, discovering they were lied to, or because of some other mishap. None of this changes the aimlessness of the entire affair, but it does help that the game has a sense of humour and doesn't take itself too seriously, as if encouraging players to emulate that same attitude.
At the heart of it, the very idea of tracking a stone from a top-down perspective as it is pulled down by gravity is one that lends itself to natural incorporation of 3D. Evidently, the developers recognized this, as there is a striking pull at work that enables you to zone in on what's taking place on-screen in a way that's essential to the thrill of the experience. Not resorting to a mere marginal effect, excellent 3D use is undoubtedly the best element Kersploosh! has going for it.
Along with the amplification of distance, the game makes sure not to overlook the finer details or those that are higher in importance. Visuals adhere to a cel-shaded look that, rather than being overblown, is semi-muted in the scheme of things, respecting the 3D usage and the weight it carries. The state of the textures and the accompanying colour schemes all manifest a surprising, above-average quality that aids the visual depth without outright distracting the player. Pleasant music is also to be observed, with the Main Menu adopting a tone that one would associate with a garden, while the trek down the well is supported with a capable, techno-driven track.
Of course, just because the visuals are depth-centric, does not mean the gameplay is. And both from a conceptual and interaction standpoint, it needs to be understood that Kersploosh! is still a thin game. No embellishment or frenetic pace can change that. Even so, there is indeed room for the game to still provide something of a novelty. It's just a shame that in being forced to look at things for what they are, the game can't overcome its biggest conceptual hurdle. In fact, it actually manages to, worse than that, cater to it with design that mechanically isn't always well-focused.
Since you're being propelled by gravity, not having a brake option is an obvious omission. But with that impossibility of being able to slam on the brakes comes the imperative that the design accords enough resources so a balance between a smooth drop and a bumpy one can be achieved. And try as it may, this just isn't the case, and it actually sours the game considerably.
There are concerns here that deal with control and response, as well as the hasty scrupulousness that is expected of players but the obstacle arrangement foils. The sense of control on some of the trinkets is downright horrid. Controlling the jewel, for example, can only be done with light movements, otherwise you'll quickly lose control and it'll prove too disconnected to tame. And the bouncy ball's physics make it an absolute pain to play with, as the resulting effect is one that is shared with one or two other items -- that is, that it makes certain obstacles almost unavoidable to bypass without experiencing a thump or collision.
With some obstacles, it's like trying to fit a mannequin's hand into a glove made for a child, except more problematic when size plays such an important role in your ability to pass through crevasses and holes smoothly. Instances when your item fumbles or is even stopped for a few seconds instantly sever the thrill, as though you were driving along perfectly on-pace to your destination when a red light puts the brakes on your plans to arrive on-time. Whether it's because of brushing the blades on a fan, getting trapped by planks that move in and outward, or wood pieces that you collided with that combine with another protrusion to create a new trap, this sort of bracing, when prolonged, is destructive to the game's ends. And when, even on your best performance, you struggle to get within several feet without crashing into something, it's a real downer to have the pace interrupted so often.
To speak to the positive, knowing that not all items are universally slim enough to pass through some of the gates, it could be said that the line-up of stages vary in terms of which item is best-suited for that particular layout, and as such, it triggers some experimentation on the player's part. But even under these terms, your navigation is still impaired to some degree and not open to manipulation in the most accurate sense. Because of this, avoidance rests more with chance and flukes than skillful reaction, which makes the metal plates (i.e., trick doughnuts) seem like they were added in bad taste.
is a game that thrives on memorization and players having the motivation to continually better their performances. Granted, some of the assorted issues just mentioned still aggravate, but you do learn to withstand them better the more you play. For challenge-seekers, the Matryoshka (a doll that downsizes with every hit) will be entertaining in certain levels while also being a headache in others, and if you really want to get serious, the Mutagen (an evil formula) acts like a Survival Mode for the game, breaking apart with a single hit.
The game stops short of providing a healthy amount of wells to dive into (ten in total), but comparing stats with friends will help with the game's replay value... or at least it would've worked wonderfully for that purpose if you had a more dedicated option for it. This isn't to discredit the StreetPass incorporation, but if you're someone who doesn't come into contact with many 3DS users in local areas, then you're completely without what should be a key strength for the game's longevity.
I wanted so much for the game to stick with me, but the truth is, Kersploosh! fumbles more than it flourishes. What inhibits it from becoming a craze or an ideal pick-up is the somewhat incoherent and sometimes sloppy design, as well as problems to do with control and physics that ultimately prevent the game from having a pure pick-up-and-play appeal. Had it not been for these issues, the game would've still had to combat the likely possibility of being quickly forgotten, which I suppose still couldn't be helped. Either way, the lack of lasting or even temporary aroma does thwart its effectiveness in other areas. For all its problems, Kersploosh! remains an example of a concept that lends itself to game-changing 3D incorporation, and among younger audiences, the game will become a quick favourite. But just as quickly will it be swept aside in favour of something more alluring, and for that reason, you may be better off admiring Kersploosh! from afar.
19/30 - Okay/Average
Gameplay 6/10 - Creativity seen in the execution, thin but not too repetitive, physics aren't always sound, discrepancies with the design management
Presentation 8/10 - Striking and exemplary use of 3D as per the concept, pleasing visuals that don't distract or overstep, appreciated scenery changes
Enjoyment 3/5 - Thrilling when you get it going, pace often interrupted, doesn't take itself too seriously, pick-up-and-play appeal not well-harnessed
Extra Content 2/5 - Ten wells available, StreetPass incorporation present for sharing records, limited replay value even as a high-score affair
Equivalent to a score of 63% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System