Review: Spinch – Check out the Colors!

2D platformers are the bread and butter of the indie game scene. It’s a well known and beloved genre that’s proven to delight gamers with its simple mechanics and often surprisingly challenging levels. The biggest hurdle is finding a way to make your game stand out. Do you have a unique mechanic or do you just have a unique art style that makes your game pop? Spinch from Queen Bee games definitely opts for the latter.

Spinch is a 2D platforming game where you play as Spinch, who is about as simple a character design as you can get without going back to Pac-Man. Spinch is a white ball with arms, legs and a fairly simplistic face. In this crazy over the top cartoonish world, your main objective is to save all of your offspring from being eaten by what I can only describe as beings of pure color.

Apparently these little white balls are color’s favorite food, and the psychedelic ribbons of pure rainbow colors can twist, turn and transform into horrendous faces and gobble you up. The art style of Spinch is immensely trippy, which definitely fits within the style, as the main artist on this game is Jesse Jacobs, a well known Canadian cartoonist. His style definitely works for this type of game, and the visual presentation is one of Spinch’s biggest defining features.

The clash of level colors to hazard colors creates a unique style that’s a treat for the eyes

All of the stages have color in them, you’re definitely not exploring a plain white world, but things that are safe or just background always feel a bit more faded. Instead of standard platforming traps like a pit of lava or an enemy shooting fireballs, it’s very obvious what will or won’t hurt you in Spinch. When you see rainbows creating vibrant colors, it’s typically something you’re going to want to avoid. Whether it’s enemies or stage hazards, I never once had trouble knowing what I should or shouldn’t touch.

The mechanics are rather simple too, which works in its favor. Spinch can jump, slide on walls into a wall jump, and dash. It’s a very basic moveset, but one that makes player’s feel satisfied when they pull off a nice combo of using these abilities in tandem. Some of the later worlds introduce new hazards that will test your skills with these more, and for the most part it’s standard platformer fare. Ice floors that make you slide around a bit, spikes, water levels to swim through, but these generally won’t do anything to surprise experienced fans of the genre. There is one mechanic I got a kick out of where the top of the level has this capsule monster flying around and after a certain amount of time releases what I can only describe as a color bomb that will get you if you’re not inside cover.

Some stages require really quick reactions from the player if you want to survive.

In each level, you’ll be able to collect three offspring, which just look like little baby Spinch. Something Spinch does that is really cool is these don’t just act as collectibles for diehard completionists, but serve a mechanical purpose in helping you against each zone’s boss fight. Unlike most platformers where you have to jump on a boss or aim for its weak point, the bosses in Spinch must be taken down with a special gun that’s fired by jumping on the button. The ammo you use for this gun are the offspring you’ve collected throughout that particular world. It is cool to collect them all because the more you have, the less often you have to reload, which makes the fight a bit easier. I’m sure somewhere out there are Spinch masters who beat all the bosses without taking damage and only having a single offspring. You can also get a couple of bombs by clearing a bonus stage in each world, but you only get one attempt at these bonus stages, which is kind of disheartening. Speaking of disheartening, after you beat each boss, the final boss swoops in and eats all of your offspring anyway. I know this is to explain why the rescued babies don’t carry over from world to world, but it left me wondering if they’d have been safer if I’d left them where they were.

Spinch prides itself on its difficulty, aiming to recreate the retro NES challenge of older titles, and I’d say it almost does that a little too well. It doesn’t start all that rough, but later worlds, particularly the last three, have a major jump up in difficulty. Thankfully Spinch also knows that including modern quality of life upgrades makes for a better experience. There’s no lives system or game overs. If you die, you respawn from your last checkpoint, and Spinch is fairly forgiving about placing these about.

You’ll die a lot, but you can always jump right back in

Each level is also filled with little white cubes, and collecting 50 of these activates a temporary invincibility. This also turns you yourself into a cube for some reason. It only lasts for a couple of seconds, and I never really found myself getting it in a place where I’d actually need it. I think I would’ve preferred if collecting 50 gave players an item that allowed us to activate the power-up when it’d be most convenient for us. There are definitely enough unused buttons on the controller that this could have been feasible.

Spinch is sort of a mixed bag. For fans of fast paced and difficult platformers like Super Meat Boy or Celeste, this’ll probably be a great time. For more casual fans of the genre, it’s easy to get absorbed by the unique art style and fantastic music, but may have trouble adjusting to the ramp up in difficulty, particularly around the middle of the game. Spinch is a visual and audible treat for the senses, but the gameplay never really did all that much for me personally. The mechanics are simple and satisfying to pull off, but I didn’t get as engaged as the game probably wanted me to be. At the end of the day, my biggest takeaway from Spinch boiled down to “Ooooh, pretty colors.”

John reviewed Spinch on Steam with a copy provided by the developer. The game is also available on the Nintendo Switch.

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