May 17, 2011

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Review: Spoing

Review: Spoing

Chillingo has brought many successful titles to the iOS in recent years.  Not only have they helped publish the original Angry Birds, but they’ve also brought great games like Defender Chronicles and the chart-topping Cut The Rope. Chillingo aims to help publish games from independent companies, and the newest addition to the family is the adventure-platformer Spoing.  From the Swedish developer Games2Be, is this game worth your dollar, or would it be better spent on one of the above-named games instead?

Play consists of helping Spoing on a mission to retrieve rainbow diamonds stolen under his watch.  He must make it through 50 different dungeons utilizing springs he finds and creating his own with smaller green diamonds.  Upon landing on the springs, players slingshot Spoing and help guide him using the iPhone’s tilt function.  While there is no time limit, to achieve the best score (three gems) you must get to the rainbow diamond at the end of the level as quickly as possible.  Aside from crashing into walls and downright missing your jumps, players can also die from random enemies, bullets, and falling spikes.  It’s not explained why everything is out to kill you, but regardless, everything is a hazard.  Gameplay progressively gets harder with more difficult jumps, disappearing platforms, and even more enemies as you make you make it to the end of your journey.  There is no multiplayer, but the game supports leaderboards.  Sadly, instead of supporting GameCenter, Spoing uses Crystal achievements instead.

The graphics are charming in the beginning, but easily become tiresome after a few levels.  The levels are drab, the palette is poor, and throughout the 50 dungeons, nothing seems different.  Each dungeon falls into a different cave area, but this ultimately makes no difference as each level looks identical.  Be prepared to see the same random black silhouettes over and over, as the only thing that changes is the layout from the starting point to the end.  iOS titles are known for their repetition, though, and some games can easily pull it off as long as they have something else working in their favor.  Games like Doodle Jump and Tiny Wings are perfect examples of repetition done right, because they’ve perfected their controls and have decent sound effects (at least in regards to Tiny Wings.)  Sadly, Spoing grows stale quickly and the music itself is nothing to write home about.  You can create your own playlist or choose an ambient song, but my favorite choice is “rythm,” as not only does it not fit the mood, but it’s pretty funny to see the lack of a spell-checker.

It’s hard to be so critical with the game because its ideas are fairly decent, just lacking in terms of execution.  Oftentimes I found myself wasting green gems because instead of grabbing Spoing and flinging him across to a new platform, the game registers me as dropping one of the gems directly underneath him.  This isn’t a problem in some levels since the green gems are common, but others provide you with just enough to make it to the next platform and once they’re dropped, you either have to drop an adjacent gem to create a platform, or wait until the gems reappear.  This wouldn’t be an issue except for the fact that you’re constantly rushing through trying to simultaneously create platforms and spring to them in an effort to get a quick enough time to achieve a three-gem score.  Unfortunately, upon being launched, it’s often hard to gauge how far to tilt your iDevice because the mechanic feels broken.  At times I was able to easily nail jumps and utilize the leaning, but at others it felt like doing so did nothing to affect the outcome.  These problems result in an experience much more frustrating then enjoyable. Hopefully these issues can be adjusted in a future update, because when the gameplay works, I found myself somewhat enjoying the game.

Some levels require you to blindly launch yourself across the stage in an effort to luckily land on a random platform.  Upon successfully doing so, I quickly realized that these blind launches of faith were one of the easiest ways to get the best score and it saddens me that I’d resort to doing so.  This is a true testament to how severely lacking the game is in fun factor.  I’d rather blindly get lucky then attempt to skillfully succeed in order to just get through each level.  Also, in a game based on careful accuracy and quick timing, it’s sad to say that the collision detection is also sketchy.  Sometimes I could go clear through the environment and enemies yet I couldn’t land on platforms I was clearly above.  It’s frustrating to see myself clearly over the platform only to plunge down to my death and be forced to continue from a save point.  Even more frustrating is that after getting through various levels and quickly closing in on a three-gem run, the game would randomly crash on me.  This occurred more then a few times and added even more waiting time to the already lengthy load times.

All in all, the game isn’t worth the small admission fee in its current state.  I quickly beat the 50 levels, but found myself bored after the first dozen.  Even if the issues stated above were fixed, the game would still be hard to recommend.  The story will still be dull, the levels repetitive, and the overall charm severely lacking.  Perhaps with future updates Chillingo will add on more levels and different gameplay mechanics like their excellent Cut The Rope, but for now I’d recommend passing on this one.

Platform: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad (iOS 3.0+)
Genre: Platformer
Release Date: 5/12/2011
Developer: Games2Be
Publisher: Chillingo Ltd
ESRB Rating: 4+
MSRP: $0.99