Spitlings are pretty terrifying. A myriad assortment of animate blocks with lolling grins, pointed horns and horrifically arrayed teeth, they’re an unpleasant bunch to look at. Even more unpleasant is their primary form of interaction: spitting. You spit to jump, you spit to fly, you even collect your fallen spit to spit it back out again. It’s Thomas Was Alone: ASBO Edition, but that’s not as bad as it might sound.
Whatever they might look like, the Spitlings start out pretty happy. The Story mode – told through a series of colourful comic book panels – has them enjoying a sun-dappled moment before a giant dollop of pink goo falls from the sky onto the Spitling’s condo and invites itself in to stay. In the process, many of the Spitlings are trapped in levels spaced out across the apartments, and it falls to you, the roof-bound Spitlings, to seek out and save your fellow squares.
Each ‘apartment’ is made up of a group of single screen stages, and the Spitlings simply have to get rid of the invading goop by spitting them into non-existent cleanliness. Each Spitling has a certain number of shots of spit, indicated by the disappearance or decay of their teeth, and you can recharge them by picking up fallen spit or collecting it from different points around some levels. It is possible to slowly re-grow those teeth, but it requires you to find a quiet corner, which don’t often exist, and it slows your progress when Spitlings is otherwise a pretty snappy game.
Spitlings sits somewhere between a saliva-based shooter, and a puzzle game, with each stage requiring a slightly different approach in order to succeed. Things are made ever more complicated by different stage layouts, from springs that change the predictable bounce of the evil goop, to sections that the goop can pass through but the Spitlings cannot.
Admittedly, that is still mostly ‘spit them, before they goop you’, and with one hit kills you’ll find yourself hitting some stages over and over again. The frustration monster was awoken fairly regularly as it’s nearly always the bounce of the final bit of goo that does for you, forcing you to work your way across the whole screen again.
Spitlings is clearly from the school of straightforward visuals, and besides the differing gurns and colours of the Spitlings themselves, the levels are mostly single solid colours with the odd bit of saliva to travel along or around and goop bouncing about to be destroyed. It’s effective and bold, and it does also mean you can focus on the task at hand without marvelling at the draw distance. Trust me, there’s enough going on.
There are a couple of occasions where the different coloured goo strays a little too close to the colour of your spit, and it becomes nigh-on impossible to differentiate between the two, but you can cycle through different colour themes that you’ve unlocked with the shoulder buttons, avoiding more of those problems and removing issues for those that suffer from particular kinds of colour blindness.
Overall I found Spitlings to be a fairly chilled out game when played alone. Its cool electronic soundtrack thumps along with purpose, shifting tone as you head deeper into the block, and the whole experience can just wash over you if you let it, even with multiple resets on some of the tougher levels.
Multiplayer is a less relaxed experience. Up to four players can hook up in local multiplayer, or online, and you can tackle each of the levels, from the Story through to the Arcade mode, co-operatively. However, a single misstep will see you all fail, and given how easy that is to achieve alone, it’s four times more likely with others. It’s a lot of silly, angry, fun, and it’s great to have the option of playing at home with others, as well as the expected online component.
There is also the incoming level editor, which will allow you to create your own masterpieces filled with saliva and gloop, and then tackle them online with all those friends you’re not currently allowed round your house.