Bree somehow managed to weasel her way into a game design degree, is perpetually writing, and hasn't stopped playing Skyrim since it first came out.
PC, Nintendo Switch
September 3, 2020
Queen Bee Games
Imagine a world where on your way to get a snack from the kitchen, your pride flag jumps up and tries to take a bite out of you. This is the world of Spinch. A world where colours themselves are hungry, and they’re hungry for you. With the enormous number of indie platformers out there nowadays, a company needs to do something to make their game stand out and having a psychedelic world with pulsing music and kaleidoscope enemies surely is one of the ways to do it. Spinch is a fine-tuned platformer with tight controls, focusing on reviving old school difficulty. Checkpoints are not close together and Spinch will have you replaying sections until you master your timing and reflexes. It’s a game that is both designed to be approachable for casual players, and also nail-bitingly difficult for those looking to complete a perfect run.
At first glance, Spinch plays a lot like a flash game that you might have found on the internet while avoiding writing an essay in school, but there is actually a decent amount of depth below the surface. You have a jump and a dash, and pressing dash mid jump gives you a long jump. You’re also able to wall jump when the need for it arises. While the move-set is simple, there are a bunch of different ways that you can use it to make massive jumps that can’t be performed without a deep understanding of the controls.
For example, you are able to dash off a ledge, jump while still in the air, dash again and then find yourself landing all the way on the other side of the screen. Anyone familiar with Donkey Kong Country would be able to adapt to this pretty easily, as it’s pretty much the same as the roll cancel in that game. Someone not familiar with platformers wouldn’t learn this combo without prompting, and this is a great display of Spinch working to appeal to speedrunners. If playing the game at your own pace, you would have no need to learn these moves, but if working to beat a stage as quickly as possible they’re practically necessary.
The game’s stages offer plenty of variety. While the bulk of them are by-the-numbers side scrolling platforming, there are ones that shake things up. There’s a stage where you run away from giant rainbow worms, one where you have to hide from flying moondogs before they drop an insta kill bomb on the stage or even levels that are entirely vertical. Boss fights are also cool, where most platformer boss fights revolve around jumping on the boss’ head a bunch of times, the fights in this game are different. You load all your sweet babies into a gun and shoot them out again at the boss. The button to reload and the button to fire are on either side of the stage, so you have to duck and weave past the boss as you switch from side to side. It feels really fresh.
Collecting the sweet babies to fire from the gun is a big part of the game as well, there are three of them hidden throughout each stage and while you might just want to collect them because you are a good parent, it’s also essential to save as many as you can for “firing from gun” reasons. You can also help out your pointy pink cousins by finding them hiding in a stage and playing through a minigame where you have to catch the cousins before they splat on the ground in a pile of pink goop. Saving enough cousins gives you a bomb to use in the next boss fight and that makes everything a lot easier.
While the gameplay is punchy and has a decent amount of depth, it does feel unrefined at times. There were several times where I would attempt to jump or dash and the game simply wouldn’t respond, it didn’t happen often, but in a game that relies on such precise movement it was an issue. Everything also feels very floaty, like your character doesn’t have enough weight to them, but it is something you eventually get used to. My largest gripe though, would be how quickly the difficulty ramps up, the game is intended to be difficult but unlike modern platformers such as Celeste, the checkpoints are very far apart and having to do the same section over and over becomes frustrating very quickly. I found myself turning the game off and ignoring it for hours more than once. The game also currently had several lag issues, mostly just when loading the player back in after losing all their lives, but the developers have indicated that they know this is a problem and are working to fix it. So I’m not really letting it effect my score at this time.
“Every stage is a kaleidoscope of colour, pulsing and wiggling around the screen”
Though it is bright and colourful, there is danger around every corner in this world. The opening says that in order to maintain its vibrancy, colour needs to expel lots of energy and to create more, the colour must feed. Colour’s favorite food is Spinch, but not adult Spinch, that is too gamey, not rich enough. So they look to eat the babies. What an interesting world! The fact that these aren’t creatures that are colourful, but are creatures made of colour is very appealing.
Every stage is a kaleidoscope of colour, pulsing and wiggling around the screen. Sometimes it even becomes hard to look at, but most of the time it’s just a psychedelic wonderland. Anything that is colourful cannot be touched or it deals damage, and it makes it very easy to know what to avoid. The giant rainbow worms are especially great, as they chase you, their colourful bodies take up almost the whole screen and it’s amazing. The bosses are something else entirely, each phase of the fight their shapes and colours shift, everything in the world of Spinch is moving, flashing and spinning. It’s a vibrant, beautiful, dangerous world. Probably not good for anyone with epilepsy, that’s for sure.
Overall Spinch is a feast of colour and everything is so interesting to look at and absorb, but the game is very clearly designed to be difficult. The length between checkpoints is just too long, especially with much harder modern platformers using more forgiving checkpoint systems. Difficulty needs to be counteracted with speed, if every time the player falls into a pit they have to watch the camera scroll all the way back to their last checkpoint, it begins to feel like such a waste of time. Spinch is definitely a game for people looking for a challenge, and is not going to be easy to stick out if you’re someone looking for casual fun.