Coming from Massive Miniteam and HandyGames is a new game for up to four players, featuring, according to the developers, “frantic gameplay, juicy visuals and hypnotic beats”. Complete with an interesting gameplay hook, does this hardcore arcade game live up to the hype, or should you ignore it? I dived into the depths of Spitlings to find out.
The story of Spitlings, played out in the story mode believe it or not, is that the Spitlings are a happy bunch of square creatures who live in what looks like a tower block. The only fly in the ointment is the weather, as when it rains, instead of cats and dogs, it rains slime. This slime forms bubbles, floods their town and entraps the Spitlings, requiring them to be rescued. It is here where the remaining Spitlings gird their collective loins and set off on a journey to the lower levels of the tower to rescue their friends and rid the world of the bubbles. The story is presented in a series of graphic novel panels, and the artwork on display is very good indeed, portraying events in a suitably exciting fashion.
The hook in the gameplay is found in the way your character attacks the enemies in the levels. The enemies in this case are bubbles, and we all know how deadly they can be, right? Well, yeah, as at least in this game bubbles are lethal to the Spitlings and to prevent themselves from being killed by the rampaging bubbles, they must spit their teeth at them. Yes, you read that right, the Spitlings spit their teeth at the bubbles to burst them. The large ones when shot split into two smaller bubbles, and these smaller bubbles require only one more hit to rid them from the level. Now, as you’d expect, Spitlings have a finite supply of teeth, and when they are all spat you either need to pick them up from the floor, or with a press of a button, any loose teeth can be attracted to you, as long as you stay still. But staying still is a bad idea when bubbles are out to get you. Now, Spitlings can spit upwards, with a press of the X button, or they spit downwards with a press of the A button. Spitting downwards also has the fortunate side effect of allowing the Spitling to fly, as long as their supply of teeth lasts, of course.
This then is the essence of Spitlings: load into a level, spit teeth at bubbles until there are none left, and then rinse and repeat. Along the way, there are various natural hazards to make your life that little bit harder. There are jelly walls, which you can move through but bubbles can’t, there are lava pools that are lethal to touch, spring pads that not only lift you but make the bubbles lift higher, and so on. There is actually a fairly strong puzzle element to the game, as planning your way through a level is required before sallying forth and dispensing tooth-based justice. Each stage has a time limit to beat as well, and doing so unlocks the b-side version of the level, making it even harder. As you progress through the story mode, more Spitlings can be freed and recruited, and then utilised in game – with 100 Spitlings to find, and over 100 levels to complete, the story mode will keep you playing for a long time.
Obviously, this kind of game is crying out for a multiplayer mode, and luckily it is all present and correct. In a nice touch, up to four players can play either locally or online, and so multiplayer fans need not be delayed just because your mates aren’t sat around you. This multiplayer also has a unique hook, as if one person dies, the whole team has to restart the level. As you can imagine, if one person keeps dying and dragging the team down, it can cause a little friction, and I’d like to apologise to my co-partner – my son – for branding him as rubbish. In party mode, it’s also possible to add a number of mutators to the gameplay to change things up, with options like playing upside-down or always having to be jumping, making life a lot harder than regular gameplay.
All in all then, Spitlings on Xbox One is a fairly unique proposition. I certainly can’t think of another game I’ve played where spitting teeth is your primary weapon, and with the myriad of levels, mutators and Spitlings to go at, there’s no shortage of content. However, at around level 30, deja vu does begin to set in, and the game doesn’t really manage to surprise any more. Still, with some friends it’s a blast, and the single player does enough to keep you wanting to play.