Sometimes, a game catches your eye. Spinch looks like one of those adult coloring book covers where someone was encouraged to get creative and use every marker in the box to fill out a page. But I say this in the best possible way, because it features the distinctive style of Jesse Jacobs. It catches your eye, which means you’ll realize, “Hey, this could do something really neat.” It’s trippy and, funnily enough, can have a way of tripping some players up.
At first glance, Spinch might seem like a colorful, but typical platformer. You follow Spinch, who is attempting to save kidnapped babies from ravenous colors. Each level isn’t terribly long, but long enough for a few save points, and has three children hidden in it. You can dash, jump, and wall jump, and it seems fairly normal.
Except Spinch quickly ramps things up with how enemies behave and what they might do. There are times when it can be as unpredictable as the characters you’ll encounter next, with certain levels gradually developing gimmicks. To avoid spoilers, two of the more notable ones happen right away after you’ve been eased into the formula and are recurring concepts.
One is a sort of stage where worm made of a series of colorful balls will chase Spinch through corridors. The first two only chase you briefly, giving you a reprieve. Then, you come across the ones that will chase you around corners and tunnels, with their reach possibly exceeding your expectations. Outpacing it comes down to dashing and wall jumping efficiently.
An enemy in a following level is like an ever-present Lakitu keeping up with you. Except its attacks don’t hit one small spot. It essentially bombs the whole area, acting as a one-hit kill if Spinch isn’t safely stowed away in a sheltered space. Here, you have to pay attention to the music to know when that bomb will be dropped.
Sometimes, these gimmicks can work really well. The first boss is a fairly easy to figure out one and comes down to timing, so the game builds on the idea with future boss battles. (Basically, you load up your kids and bombs, then shoot them at the foe.) However, there are times when some of these ambitions can hamper things and lead to Spinch not being fun. For example, I had the worst time with the fourth world’s water segments. Especially since it takes the boss fight formula and… puts it underwater for Bossy Breath. (Honestly, surviving and trying to get screenshots at the same time was a little much for me.)
And when you have all these different, sometimes new, elements happening while you have to make precise movements and listen for occasional audio cues, it can be a lot. I love how it looks and how it sounds. But it’s almost too much. I’d say in certain levels where there’s a lot of color cycling or environmental details, it can be distracting. I’m not saying it will be distracting or too much for everyone, but it could be a lot when I was trying to focus on not-dying.
Spinch is definitely distinct. It’s the sort of game that catches your eye in a good way. It sounds good too, and it tries to implement sorts of challenges that keep pressure on you and build so you keep getting better at handling them as you play due to the difficulty ramping up. There are times when it might feel like too much for some players, though. Also, some challenges might end up bordering a bit on unfair. Still, it’s a novel game and fits well on the Switch.
Spinch is available for the Nintendo Switch and PC.