26th Oct2018

Digital Shorts: ‘Spencer’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Britt Roberts

In DIGITAL SHORTS we review some of the latest video games that are only available digitally (at least in the UK), in a short-form review format. In this edition we take a look at Spencer – a new puzzle platformer available now on the Nintendo Switch.

spencer-screen

Feeling like a low-end budget Playstation 2 title from 2001, Spencer may look cutesy and fun in screenshots but there are too many negatives in the actual playing of the game to make it a recommendable title.

Spencer is a 2.5D puzzle-platformer in which you play as the titular Spencer as he makes his way around the various stages, collecting coins in order to open up the level exit. There are also gems to collect for bonus points and power ups such as invulnerability along the way. There’s also the added challenge of a ‘ghost’ appearing after all coins have been collected, making it a race against time to pick up all the bonus jewels before making your escape.

The game sounds like pretty retro platforming fun on paper but there are a few issues which really detract from the fun factor. Firstly, the controls feel unsatisfying. The jumps, movement and other actions feel light and floaty and it’s not helped by the enemies in the game which are all very similar in style and can either be punched (an unlockable attack which takes a few seconds to charge) or, in classic platforming style, get jumped on. The problem here is the levels are designed in such a way that the enemies get numerous pretty quickly and are locked in set patterns which means that the jumps and platforms are cluttered with gems and characters which limit the space of movement and lead to cheap deaths as you often get cornered, this claustrophobic aspect of the game also isn’t helped by the collision detection which means that you can jump in a shallow passage and sort of hit the corner of an enemy as opposed to satisfyingly plonking down on them from above, it’s difficult to describe but is constantly happening throughout the game and adds to the overall sense of floatiness in the controls.

There are quite a few worlds in Spencer with each world being separated into twenty levels, so whilst there’s longevity here (especially at the price tag), the levels don’t really change much beyond the backgrounds and all end up pretty much feeling the same. There are some points that work well, the way the game introduces new powers and aspects is quite clear and simple, making Spencer a very accessible game and the rounded characters, bright colour scheme and all-round family-friendliness will appeal to younger players and the straightforward approach will make sense to beginners.

Although generously priced, Spencer’s general repetition through various aspects of the design detract from the experience, that said, it could be a fun game for younger players or for those who prefer a more casual, stripped-back experience although in any case, I can’t imagine people would play it for too long before looking for something more polished and with more variety.

Spencer is available on the Nintendo eShop now

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