Sunday, April 1

Review: Spartan [Nintendo Switch eShop]

No matter what class of game, whether indie or AAA, its genre, or its level of polish at the end of the day enjoyment makes or breaks the game experience. No doubt there will be disagreement on the specifics of what makes it all worthwhile but when a game isn’t fun, and instead playing it leaves you with a creeping feeling of tedium, it’s not a good sign. Unfortunately, through my time with Spartan, an action platformer that’s looking to emulate the feeling and style of more classic play, for the most part I spent my time aggravated at poor level design and frequent unnecessary loss of progress.

In terms of the positives Spartan does have a decent sort of cut out look that is clean and colorful. Some of the bigger boss enemies, in particular, have nice detail and the 4 worlds have varied art and enemies that try to keep things interesting. There are moments where you can see some of the ideas coming through, with some levels having sorts of puzzles to solve in terms of how they flow, and that force you to move through them with a specific path. For the most part checkpoints are well-placed and their frequency feels about right.

Now, getting to the less positive the biggest casualty is the overall experience. There’s a lot of almost cookie cutter repetition in some levels with nearly identical screens that feel almost like filler. The same holds true for an abundance of coins everywhere, which aren’t necessary or useful for anything but unlocking art and getting 100% in the game, but so many of them are just there to be there and are a chore to collect. There are levels that wrap over themselves and allow you to fall through to a previous spot, and if you accidentally hit the checkpoint flag beneath you you’ll need to redo portions of the level again.

Of course all of these faults may have been a bit more palatable if the core movement and combat were satisfying but they’re not only pretty limited in their depth but they simply don’t feel tight enough. Jumping and movement just aren’t very crisp and satisfying and your somewhat feeble attacks and shield defenses are both slow and spotty in their effectiveness. For as fearsome a warrior as you’re supposed to be you would never know it based on how the game plays, and that’s a shame.

Regardless of the amount of total content in the game the fact is that if it feels like a chore to get to the bulk of it, and the overall play isn’t satisfying, it really drains all enthusiasm out of the process. Spartan has some glimmers of hope here and there but the overall experience simply comes up short through a combination of shortcomings. If you’re out to grind through an experience for the sake of saying you did it you may find some appeal but for the vast majority of people out there the Switch has far better offerings than this in the same price range.

Score: 4

  • 4 worlds with a load of content
  • Some ideas come through well in places

  • Unsatisfying and frustrating combat and movement
  • Periodic examples of poorly-planned level design
  • Overall a pretty joyless affair