No need to ‘cherchez la femme’ — the heroines here will find you

Growing up, I always preferred Ms. Pac-Man to the original. The level design was more intriguing, and the cutscenes were injected with more humor.

Ms. Splosion Man

Platform: Xbox Live Arcade

Genre: Platformer

Publisher: Twisted Pixel

ESRB Rating: T, for Teen

Grade: 3.5 stars (out of 5)

Growing up, I always preferred Ms. Pac-Man to the original. The level design was more intriguing, and the cutscenes were injected with more humor.

History repeats itself in Ms. Splosion Man, as the female-centered game bursts with challenge and a heaping amount of fun.

The original Splosion Man is captured by evil scientists, but a female protagonist is created and sets about to release her male companion.

She wreaks havoc on the scientists’ labs and just about anything else she touches.

The game is a throwback 2-D platformer, so there is a ton of combustible enjoyment to be had as you scroll up, down and sideways across the lengthy campaign.

The level design is often complex, so don’t get discouraged if you must replay a particular section a few times to solve the puzzle.

When finished, the game unlocks a multiplayer mode that features new level designs and rivals the campaign mode in fun, which makes this an incredible value.

The most annoying drawback is the heroine’s voice. Thankfully, you have the option to mute the audio.

If you can keep up with all the frantic action, I bet you’ll agree that Ms. Splosion Man is a fantastic send-up of classic 2-D games and one that you won’t stop playing soon.

Catherine

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

Genre: Puzzle

Publisher: Atlus

ESRB Rating: M, for Mature

Grade: 3.5 stars

A man faces a difficult choice: The woman who loves him but pressures him to marry, or the adventurous temptress with a jealous streak.

Vincent has it tough here, and as you guide him along you will soon begin to feel his stress weighing on you.

Such is the power of how Catherine presents its material.

The game is split into two distinct premises. In the daytime you talk to friends and acquaintances while juggling your loving girlfriend Katherine and the mysteriously seductive Catherine.

The dialogue choices you make are not inconsequential; a morality meter gauges your responses and alters the path you take and the possible conclusions available to you later.

At night, however, there’s a whole other kind of experience because Vincent’s dreams are a nightmare of puzzles.

You guide him up large towers of movable blocks, shifting them around in order to climb ever higher to the goal. This is made difficult by the killer sheep and enormous demonic babies that attempt to kill him, all while a clock ticks down to your doom.

Trial and error wins the day, but prepare yourself for failure. These puzzles are not easy, and more than once I stopped playing out of frustration.

The mixture of intense and perplexing puzzles with an adult story where few decisions are coated in black and white makes for a video game probably unlike any you’ve played.

Follow Chris Campbell at twitter.com/campbler or email him at game_on_games@mac.com.

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