Spinch is a serviceable platformer on an acid trip. If that is enough information for you to get a game, then Spinch is right up your alley. If you’re looking for anything more than that, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.
You play as Spinch, a white circle exploring a world of bright color to save your white babies. Each world contains a series of levels with unique styles and platforming challenges followed by an end boss level. Once the boss is defeated, the game pulls a “The Princess is in another castle” as a series of colored lines eats your babies and sends you off to the next level.
Let’s start with the good. The levels themselves are really cool to look at with most of the enemies flashing through a series of psychedelic colors. There were plenty of moments where I would stop the game just to stare at a new enemy or group of enemies blinking through different colors in time with each other. The bright colors also make it very easy to distinguish between what will hurt and you what won’t.
The boss levels are also pretty uniformly fun. Each boss level revolves around the same concept. On one side of the screen is the button to load the cannon while the button to fire the cannon is on the other side. The boss, meanwhile, hops around in the center in different patterns, forcing you to learn its patterns and properly dodge past it to get to the next button you need to press. The timing of the cannon pressing can also be important, as a mistimed push can cause most if not all of your shots to miss.
The platforming levels are where the game tended to lose me. There was an uneven balance between challenges that were fun and rewarding to master and the challenges that were just frustrating to play. The worst of these was a series of jet streams which plunge you into spikes unless you are constantly fighting them while slowly maneuvering your Spinch to avoid them. These challenges also had some trial and error built into them, as some paths would lead to doom or failure without you being able to see which in advance.
Some of the platforming was less frustrating, but was made frustrating by the locations of checkpoints. A platformer can be extremely hard, yet fun if there are a large number of checkpoints in the level. Celeste and Super Meatboy fell into this category. Alternatively, you can have a minimal number of checkpoints as long as the individual challenges are not too tricky. This captures the Sonics and Marios. Spinch runs into issues in stages with a small number of checkpoints but very tricky or long challenges. One such challenge had multiple phases of waiting for enemies to pass before you can proceed, which is fine once or twice but infuriating the sixth time you go through it.
This isn’t to say the platforming is all bad. There were a number of challenges I really enjoyed. For instance, one recurring challenge has you racing between safe zones while a bomb is preparing to explode. These challenges were fun and intense, with each success feeling like you barely pulled off the impossible. Yet even if only one fifth of the levels frustrated me, it’s always the frustration I would remember when I walked away.
The immortality pickups is also an interesting touch. Immortality is nothing new in platformers, but in Spinch you get this immortality when you pick up a certain number of squares. This means that your super awesome kill everything moment will happen at random times during a level. In some cases, the things I killed while in this state stayed dead for subsequent runs. I don’t know if this was a bug or intentional, but I liked the fact that it made each run unique in how and when the game is made a little easier.
In terms of story, there doesn’t appear to be much aside for a justification to play. The evil color shapes keep eating the white babies and you are running through the stages to get them back. Maybe there is some intended symbolism in the fear of being destroyed by those that are different, but none of this is really remarked upon. If there is any theming around the whites being under constant attack by the flamboyant colors, it appears to be unintentional.
Overall, Spinch is a very beautiful looking game that mostly nails the fun of a good platformer. The visuals and sound design are stellar (with a perfect 8-bit score) and there are a few interesting ideas in it. It is unlikely to be the best platformer you play and your mileage may vary with some of the challenges, but when it succeeds it gives you that sense of mastery over your environment which is at the heart of any good platformer.