Let’s just get this out of the way right at the top before we go on – Spinch is hard as balls.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Whilst on the surface it may seem like your typical indie darling, with its robust colour spectrum and basic 2D Leftfield Collection fodder with an aim to be the Next Big Indie Thing™, Spinch chews you up and spits you out without a second thought if you’re not damn near immediately robust with its controls and mechanics.
Your rather robust titular character is fast, able and can climb walls in a single bound. He’s born to be a platform game protagonist, adapting to his surroundings with aplomb at any given opportunity. It’s up to you then to ensure he is using his abilities the best way he knows how, and the challenge comes from picking it up from the get-go and utilising them at the absolutely correct moments in order to claim success. Now this may seem rather typical for the genre but let me be clear; there’s no real sneaky ways through Spinch’s levels. Like a 32-piece orchestra belting out Nessun Dorma, each strike of a button must be timed perfectly to gain speed at the correct moment, jump and climb at the right time and move as swiftly as possible to avoid certain death. A fate that welcomed me with open arms on several occasions during my playthrough.
Fortunately those age-old live savers known as checkpoints are spread through each level, so progress feels a little more achievable when you have the chance to stop for a second and learn the levels layout the more you succumb to its punishing difficulty.
Now, as game premises go, Spinch is a bit of a doozy. In Spinch, the colours it uses to draw you in are alive, and need constant nourishment in order to survive. Why? Because indie game. Colour has ‘evolved’ to become a highly dangerous predator, and its main food source found on Astral Island, home of the ‘critically endangered’ Spinches. A mature Spinch’s flesh is undesirable to colour, and instead it seeks out the young Spinches for colours sustenance. It’s up to you to destroy colour and bring peace back to Astral Island and save your young. It’s certainly something. Fortunately you haven’t got to worry all that much about it once the game begins as it’s all spelled out for you at the top.
Spinch plays out across multiple worlds and it’s up to Spinch to rescue its children, spread out across the levels. They add up nicely to help you in a later boss, but you can tear through each level without collecting them at all, if you so wish. Each level is timed, encouraging replayability should you want to beat the time on a certain level you died over and over again (never happened to me, honest).The boss fights are a visual feast for the eyes, much like the game and involve loading up a cannon with your available Spinch youths and firing them at your enemy that’s made of the evil colour taking over their perfect world.
There are gentle reminders throughout that you’re playing a platformer and not just staring blankly at a screen chock-full of multicoloured sadism. You begin with three hearts, which can be refilled or added to as you discover them across the level, and there are collectibles throughout in the form of white cubes which grant you the power of invincibility upon collecting 50 of them. Handy in moments, but not always when you need it most.
And whilst the colour may be evil, my word is it pretty. The Switch screen is a perfect place to experience the visual feast that Spinch is all about, and its greatest asset is just how beautiful its palette is. It’s far and away the reason the game caught my eye in the first place, and I’m delighted it looks just as glorious in my hands. To utilise colour as your mortal enemy is a cool concept and it works here to a degree. With large swathes of colour in the form of worms chasing you through narrow caves to flying creatures that drop colour bombs – which if you get caught in will shoot you back to your last checkpoint without hesitation. It’s fun like that.
Using colour as your antagonist and then making it look so hypnotic can’t be unintentional. Getting suckered in by the gorgeous palette on display only to be taken out by its very presence is a fun mechanic, as you find yourself staring lovingly at your Switch screen whilst your brain is trying to tell you to get the hell out of its way.
So there’s plenty to love about Spinch. It’s a genuine challenge which will appeal to those who are aching for a Cuphead-esque experience with a unique visual style that’ll kick your ass up and down the rainbow surrounding you.
It may be a little too tricky for younger members of your family and there are levels that make the entire experience feel damn right unfair, but if you’re willing to die mercilessly and endlessly, Spinch is an Indie Darling worth looking out for.
Spinch is a gorgeous psychedelic platformer that will both delight and infuriate you, aimed solely at an audience that eyes up the challenge and won’t relent until it’s conquered.
Spinch is available now on Switch (reviewed) and PC via Steam.
Developer; Queen Bee Games
Pubisher: Akupara Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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