Without a physical edition of Gamescom, one of the best things to come out of Cologne this month is HandyGames’ new arcade action puzzler Spitlings. Out for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC, we checked it out on a PS4.
While jelly-based creatures and firing spit at enemies doesn’t sound like the tastiest recipe for fun, Spitlings combines the two in an arcade-like experience that brings back memories of games that were released back in the late eighties and early nineties, but although the graphics are retro-inspired the on-screen action can get quite hectic, especially when playing cooperatively with others.
Levels and enemies in Spitlings follow a simple design formula – every level is only as big as what fits on one screen and the use of bright colors makes sure it’s easy to tell the difference between the backdrop, level borders and characters. Smoothly rounded corners that symbolize a world of slime give the game a nice modern touch as well, but the retro roots are unmistakable.
The spitlings themselves have relatively simple designs as well, some of them not even featuring eyes with others looking like a sandworm straight out of Dune. What they all have in common is that they have plenty of teeth, and they’re ready to spit them out. They can do so while aiming for enemies, but the other mechanic is that you can also spit downward to launch yourself up in the air.
You combine these two abilities in order to take out enemies and proceed to the next stage, but your “ammo” is limited and you need to either stand still and re-grow teeth or go ahead and pick up some of the ones that are still out there in the level. It doesn’t sound very tasteful, but the cartoon-like visuals make you forget about what it is you’re actually doing.
Taking out enemies reminded me of playing games like Pang! back in the day. In that game, balloons would split into two when shot, and so do the enemies in Spitlings. Take out the smallest variant, and you’ll see them explode – possibly hitting other enemies in the process, thus making your life a little easier.
Levels can contain elements that you can interact with, either to help you move around or dish out damage, and there are a large number of levels to get through with plenty more on the way when a level editor gets added post-launch. The included levels showcase plenty of variety in terms of how they emphasize either offensive tactics or a thoughtful approach that might even include some light puzzle-solving.
Completing levels, you can unlock all 100 spitlings, but you’ll have the most fun if you decide to play together with a few friends. The game supports cooperative play both online and locally, and is a blast to play though things don’t necessarily get easier with the help of your friends. While you can take out enemies quicker this way, you also fail the level (as a team) when even one of you kicks the bucket.
Those looking for a (narrative) campaign or something like that might find Spitlings to become repetitive when played in long bursts, this is a fun arcade-like game that’s great fun in a social setting.