On October 20th, the mobile puzzler Spiral Splatter will be released for PS4 and PSVita. Originally developed by Luc Versleijen and Neonchimp Games, this port is handled by Neonchimp Games and Sometimes You. Let’s get straight to it.
Spiral Splatter is a straightforward puzzle title in which you must guide a white circle through each level to its goal, a gray-and-white bullseye. Of course, if your little white circle touches the walls in the puzzle, it splatters and you have to start over, either from the beginning of the level or a checkpoint you pass through. More on the checkpoints later. For now, don’t touch the walls. No touchy touchy. You control the ball with the left thumbstick and you can give it a bit of a speed boost with X in order to clear the level quickly enough to earn one, two or three stars. However, when boosting, you obviously have to consider turns and those pesky walls. No touchy touchy!
There are a few other elements in the game to consider, though. Complicating your journey to the bullseye are black lightning bolts which kill you on touch (also no touchy touchy!), switches that turn them on and off, portals that transport you from one part of the level to another and finally sliding walls/barriers that also kill you when you touch them (I said no touchy touchy!). Also, by the third or fourth set of levels (out of 11 sets), the difficulty ramps up considerably and you’ll be faced with multiple available paths and switches to use in order to complete the level. Hit the wrong switch at the wrong time and you could end up blocking your path with more lightning bolts. I got stuck several times doing this.
So, being such a simple title, I think I can hit the pros and cons on this game pretty quickly. Spiral Splatter runs as smooth as butter dripping off a hot biscuit. Sure, that’s because of how little of the processor it requires to run, but so what? Deaths remind me of Sound Shapes – your little white ball splats and it’s back at the beginning before you realized what happened. Instant restart. I like that more than the types of mobile games/ports that punish you with long death cinematics and loading screens and so on. Also, the music (although an admittedly small selection) is the stuff of dreams. It belongs on Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Vol. 2 or in movies like Solaris or 2001: A Space Odyssey. Puzzles are clever, obtaining your three stars per level is challenging but not maddening and the overall gameplay and visual aesthetic go well together. It’s not, by any means, a “bad game.”
On the other hand, there are some areas in which it’s lacking. From the outset, it’s clear this is a mobile port, not disguising itself quite as well as Neon Chrome. That may be the root of its problems – its mobile colors shining through too brightly. The mobile versions are free, though they require a $2.99 buyout to escape its ads. However, the problem with the mobile version is that you drag the ball with your finger, which is big enough that it blocks your view half the time, so maybe PS4 is the way to go after all? Given that, it’s by no means easy, but it’s so simplistic and straightforward that I kept wanting more and waiting for more to come. And then there are those checkpoints. So, earning stars in the levels unlocks further sets of levels for you, and in order to three-star a level, you have to go through it fast. I mean fast. There’s little wiggle room to be restarting at checkpoints – maybe once if you just hit the checkpoint and died immediately, but I spent more time pausing and restarting the levels after respawning at a checkpoint and losing my three-star window than you could believe. They tend to get in the way more than anything.
So, with my only gripes being a faulty checkpoint system, clear mobile origins and lacking that something special, I’d say that the game is good, not great. I wanted to love it, because it’s an original IP that looks and sounds lovely, but aside from challenge, Spiral Splatter is missing something elusive but important. I’m scoring it at a 6 out of 10, though I respect the talent and effort that clearly went into the title.
Disclaimer: AIR Entertainment was provided a review copy of Spiral Splatter for PS4.