Kersploosh!

Kersploosh! may be one of the best game names on the eShop so far. I know that’s a little hard to believe, seeing as it’s on a console with such great game names as Tokyo Crash Mobs and Pushmo, but it’s fun to look at, fun to type, and everyone knows that exclamation points are the mark of quality in any medium you find them in (it’s why I always have 20 or 30 included in every review I write!). It’s also completely evocative of the final result of the game—you throw a rock down a well, dodge a bunch of obstacles, and, with a mighty kersploosh, land in the pool of water at the bottom.

Fortunately, games journalism hasn’t gotten to a point where we just give out scores based on game names. With the ways video games have changed in the handheld market, there have been a lot of questions about whether “premium” handheld systems have the ability to offer similar experiences, namely the low prices and quick pick-up-and-play puzzle game concepts that have been the iPhone’s bread and butter for so long.

In that regard, Kersploosh! seems like an answer to that kind of game. At a mere $3, it gives you 10 wells and 10 things to throw down them. While that initial run-through doesn’t really take too long, especially since two of the early unlocks are items that are near impossible to destroy, the game surfaces the high score charts well enough to make you want to go in and try with each item, especially some of the more unique ones. Strangely, every item has its own introduction as well, identifying why it gets thrown into the well in the first place. It’s kind of odd, from kids who get bored and just chuck a rock down the well to a man who gets really upset at a beach ball that seems to have ruined his life. The stories don’t develop over the course of the game (which would have been weird), but it’s a nice little story the first time you see it to explain exactly WHY you’re playing as a matryoshka doll.

What it doesn’t explain is the contents of the well itself. Why is everything food? What’s with the giant pizzas? How ridiculously deep is a well that takes me over a minute to reach the bottom of, despite my falling at over 60 mph? The loading screen does read “imagining well,” which makes it seem like the people in the cutscenes chucked these items in and just imagined their journey down. It creates an irreverent look for the game, definitely, and the 3D looks great as you roll past the many strange objects on the way.

I’ve had a very good time with Kersploosh!. The controls are unique for every object, but they feel really good, and the challenge posed by some of the harder or weirder objects makes for a fun experience. While I’ve never ACTUALLY chucked a watermelon down a well and tried to control it, I can say that it seems to accurately model the items exactly as you’d have expected them to feel. The game even keeps track of every run on high score boards by well. Unfortunately, and this is what makes the game difficult to recommend, the high scores are only from YOUR 3DS. The only way to get more scores is to StreetPass someone who’s played the game, which sucks. The 3DS DOES have the capability to do leaderboards, as shown in Fractured Soul last year, but the fact that this game doesn’t have that seems like a mistake. If I can’t view my progress in comparison with someone else, a lot of the replayability is lost. While it’s still fun to challenge myself, I know I’d have more fun if I could see someone else’s time and figure out if I really AM any good. Otherwise, it’s like I’m just existing in a vacuum, and I’d love to have something to compare it to.

The best way I could recommend Kersploosh! would be to have a friend or two with a 3DS agree to buy the game as well. Turn on StreetPass, so every time you see each other after playing, you’re updating your scores and challenging each other indirectly. It’s something you’ll want to do, as well, even if it's a little bit of an unrealistic thing to ask in order to make this game fun. Kersploosh! is a fun, if brief, game. The controls feel good, it looks great, and core concept is both simple to understand and challenging enough to keep you trying again. It just needs some kind of competitive aspect to the high scores so you’re not just competing with yourself. We’re in the age of the Internet now, so not having some sort of more integrated, more direct leaderboard system is baffling, and makes the game much more difficult to really recommend.