I’ve only ever come across one person named Spencer. He was a guy I was aware of at college, but we never spoke too much. He always wore a hat, a blue suit and a pair of cheap plastic sunglasses. He liked jazz and rolled up cigarettes and talked very loudly about books. But now, thanks to the wonders of gaming, I’ve got to meet another Spencer – just this one is very different. He’s a sort of colourful square thing with short legs, a pair of boots and big eyes. I haven’t heard him say a word, but he can jump a bit. I can’t be sure if he digs jazz or not though.
Spencer is an old-fashioned platformer that comes in with a dirt cheap price tag on Xbox One. When I say old fashioned, I mean not last generation, but the generation before that, when the people who were playing those games are now thinking about what pension plan is the best and how slippers are very comfortable.
But what is this game all about? Well, you play as Spencer, a little Alien creature (I think, the story is hardly there at all) who is found jumping around, over and through a number of platforming worlds. That’s about all I have to tell you about the game structure… but it doesn’t matter because it’s all about the jumping.
You have five worlds to explore with around 80 levels in all, which is a nice package for a game of this size. The question is whether it’s going to get your attention hooked until the very end. See, the control scheme is very simple, leaving you with a jump button and then a double jump option should you need to take it, along with three lives. There are extra items to find, like a punching glove to give you a boost, or a test tube to make you invincible for a short space of time. Your goals are to collect all the gold coins in each level and then exit through a machine. You can also collect a ton of gems in each level too, and these trigger a ghost end section. Here you have more gems to collect, all whilst avoiding the spooky ghost who is trying to get you. This is most certainly for the completionists amongst you.
But in your way are a variety of enemies; a mixture of weird cartoon creatures floating around doing their loops, waiting for you to jump on them (not all of them, mind) in order to kill them. There are also traps and all manner of other things trying to kill you.
Everything in Spencer seems to work just fine but there isn’t really much of a shift with the gameplay, except there are a larger quantity and slight variety in the enemies as you progress. And this is the problem because by the time world three turned up, I was starting to tire of the whole premise. This isn’t helped by the odd jumping that feels a bit lacking, too floaty and not very accurate. And because of this I found myself dying by hitting something I thought I was well clear of – that really started to do my head in.
The level design and whole experience is okay, at best, but this is one of those games that may well be better suited to the mobile experience, giving you something to do on a tube journey. For all the indie goodness in the world, it’s not what you might expect to find on a super powerful console like an Xbox One X and whilst I love an indie game, this just doesn’t feel right. However, that said, if you have young kids I think it might be perfect and it’s cheap enough to take a punt in order to keep them entertained, what with the cartoon world, wacky characters and fairly straightforward gameplay that it beholds.
In the visual department, Spencer is perfectly okay, but as I said before it won’t be found challenging the graphical powers of the latest console. It’s bright and cheerful with some nice character design, but the whole tone is one of a modern mobile phone game in its visual ambition. I liked the characters, and the design of the levels, but I just wish there were some variations in what it was trying to do. The soundtrack meanwhile has that repetitive platform vibe to it, which works perfectly well for the genre and will stick in your head at 3 in the morning.
Spencer is an alright platformer that just so happens to come in at a very cheap price. It might be great for the young kids out there and should appeal to the frustrated parents who want to find something for them to do without breaking the bank, but for me it’s a game with a mobile port feel to it and that doesn’t allow for any groundbreaking new experience.
At the end of the day though it was nice to finally meet another Spencer in my life, but I’m certainly not counting the days until I meet another one.