Spitlings is a game whose appeal is evident upon seeing a few minutes of gameplay. I do not say this flippantly; as I was playing, my brother took a brief look at the game and laughed and complimented the character designs right away. A moment like that is unsurprising after a glance at the visual style of the game, gaudy and gleeful as it is.
After a couple hours of gameplay, however, I feared that the audiovisuals were the only significant merits to Spitlings’ name. Luckily, in addition to its superb character designs and pumping soundtrack, Spitlings soon finds its footing and offers up challenging, absorbing action platforming and a veritable deluge of saliva.
- What is Spitlings? It’s a side-scrolling action platformer with beautiful, cartoonish visuals and an energetic soundtrack. Free your fellow Spitlings, bust some blobs, and bring some friends along if you feel like it.
- Developer: Massive Miniteam
- Publisher: HandyGames
- Multiplayer: 1-4
- Website: www.handy-games.com
- Reviewed On: Google Stadia
Welcome to the World of Spitlings
Some of Spitlings’ virtues are immediately apparent, while others take some time to become fully realized. The visuals especially turn in a strong opening, and they only continue to delight as you progress through levels. The comic strip-style cutscenes are colorful and silly, occasionally rendering the characters in hideous, granular detail reminiscent of scenes in cartoons out of the early 2000s. As for the titular Spitlings, they are consistently charming and adorable.
The Spitlings’ designs are silly, cute, and varied to the point that you could be playing as an eldritch fish monster in one moment and as a coffee cup the next. Additionally, if you begin to tire of a given color scheme in a level, you can change the theme with the click of a button. Touches like this are peppered throughout the experience, contributing to a delightful aesthetic overall.
One great interaction between gameplay and visuals comes from the teeth of the Spitlings, which deplete as you spit in order to jump or attack enemies (or both), then replenish when you pick up gobs of spit or stand still and hold a button.
Another aspect of the aesthetics that pulls off a strong early showing is the soundtrack. The music is energetic and catchy, and it fits harmoniously into the larger structure of the audiovisuals. The only disappointing part of Spitlings’ music is that it becomes somewhat repetitive over time. There doesn’t seem to be a significant evolution in the soundtrack as the game continues, slightly harming the memorability and staying power of the music. Still, this is more of a missed opportunity than a genuine flaw in the game’s soundtrack.
Also, as an aside related to the audiovisuals, if you wind up playing this on Google Stadia, I can report that the experience was smooth and seamless. As I mentioned in my review of Stadia, the service tends to degrade the visual quality of a game, causing pixels to clog up the screen or frames to drop. This problem never reared its head during my playthrough, which will come as no surprise given the relative graphical simplicity of Spitlings, but it’s nonetheless worth noting and appreciating.
Hardcore Arcade Action?
The gameplay of Spitlings takes a little longer to come into its own. Things start off promising enough, with some deft tutorialization on the part of the developers. Specific controls are explicitly conveyed to you, but beyond that, the learning comes from careful, deliberate design. You learn out of necessity, as part of a process of problem-solving. And later, this tutorialization remains understated yet reliable.
For instance, you enter levels through portals that you open with your spit. If a new mechanic is introduced, often the rooms holding these portals have examples of new mechanics and obstacles, allowing you to familiarize yourself before diving into a level rife with them.
However, once you get the hang of the basic mechanics, Spitlings seems to struggle getting the hang of what’s fun about its gameplay. Early levels are a little too simplistic and repetitive to be particularly enjoyable, and the enthusiasm imparted by the audiovisuals begins to ebb away. There’s a basic formula wherein you enter a series of related levels and progress through them, platforming and shooting spit at blobs before reaching a gigantic blob imprisoning a fellow Spitling. For a couple of hours, this formula seemed like a known quantity: fixed, static, and rapidly becoming uninteresting.
This perception evaporates once the difficulty of Spitlings ramps up. Blobs and obstacles become more numerous, the platforming becomes more complex, and the whole process takes on a very different feel. Where once the sense of progression felt routine and even a little boring, managing to free a trapped Spitling after a particularly tricky section feels like a genuine reward, and watching the other Spitlings cheer and sweep it off the screen carries with it an added sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. If some early sections were trimmed and consolidated, the overall flow of Spitlings would be better for it. As it stands, the beginning is a bit of a slog, while the middle and the end are considerably more challenging and engaging.
Zoom Out: Verdict
Visuals - 9/10
Platforming and Level Design - 8/10
Soundtrack - 7/10
Pacing and Progression - 6/10
Spitlings is colorful, charming, and occasionally becomes a gauntlet full of nail-biting moments and tricky maneuvers. Character designs are diverse and delightful, displayed beautifully every time you free another Spitling and watch the lot of them joyfully swarm the newcomer. A stale early game and somewhat repetitive soundtrack are minor disappointments, but overall, Spitlings is a blast.
- Soundtrack and Atmosphere
- Visuals, Especially Character Design
- Level Design, Particularly in the Endgame
- Monotonous Early Game
- Repetition Never Truly Disappears
- Music Becomes Slightly Tiresome Over Time