Release Date: April 1st
Price as of Article: $11,99 USD, £9.99 GBP
Here you are a Spartan trying to save the land from evil monsters which inhibit the lands. That’s as far as the story really goes, there’s nothing much in the way of cutscenes and a lot of the explanation is done right at the beginning. That’s a shame for sure as the whole historical aspect could have added something special to the game.
The audio in Spartan is not bad, for a game wanting to take the old school feel of games in the 80s and 90s, the soundtrack is certainly a more modern affair and doesn’t use chiptunes. After our interview conducted with William at Sinister Cyclops, we know that he isn’t too keen on the beep beep bop bop as he put it sounds. Here the soundtrack takes you back to Ancient Greek lands and it was pleasant enough with its more exotic nature than you may be used to.
Visuals and performance
Here the developer has used Unreal Engine 4 to bring cartoony graphics and has not gone the pixel route which makes a bit of a refreshing change. The levels look bright and quite colourful and while there is nothing spectacular going on, things look functional and work well enough. Loading times though take an inordinate amount of time for a game like this but the good news is there was little to no slow down.
When it comes to the Nintendo Switch and platform games in general, especially Indies the bar has been set very high. We are talking about a year in which we have had games such as Celeste, Owlboy, Dandara, Splasher and really tough games like Super Meatboy or Slime-San which Spartan is more in line with. These games mentioned have exceptional tight controls and are superbly designed and while difficult and at times frustrating you persevere because they are so fun and each death is a learning experience and usually due to the players skill not yet being good enough.
This game then is supposed to be a throwback to yesteryear when platform games made you cry out in anger at the millionth time you died. I am certainly not against these tough games as I grew up playing them but they need to be hard for the right reasons and if you die it needs to be because you as the player are not skilled enough not because the game is unfair.
There are 24 levels over 4 different themed worlds featuring around 20 hours worth of gameplay. Unfortunately, the issue is that this action platformer aims to be as hard as games like Ghouls ‘n Ghosts back in the day but it’s fraught with problems and just isn’t very fun to play not for me personally anyway. We received two codes for review purposes and so I gave another to Jordan in the team and we both played the game and came to the exact same conclusions.
One of the fundamental issues is Spartan’s platforming physics feel incredibly floaty and quite inaccurate to control, making avoiding enemies and obstacles a complete pain and deaths will be inevitable.
One of the ways in which the game differentiates itself from other platformers is that none of the levels is completely linear which means you can take multiple paths which, in theory, sounds great but then you have to find five chests in every level to open the portal at the end. This is actually incredibly frustrating especially when you reach the end of the level only to realise you have missed a chest somewhere. Now, this wouldn’t be so much of an issue if Spartan was great to control but he isn’t so expect multiple deaths on the way back finding that one random chest you missed. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s because you’re bad at games!
One of the perks of the game is that you can just destroy yourself at any point in the pause menu to take advantage of the checkpoint system allowing you to go back to your last checkpoint and traverse the levels quickly. This brings to the fore another annoying issue. There will be times when you fall from a great height on a level and activate an earlier checkpoint thus when needing to go back to where you were you can’t. The placements of the checkpoint flags are just placed in bad positions,
This would have been a good system if you had the ability to open up a map and then choose one of the checkpoints to go to if you had activated it. Collecting all the coins in a level grants you a picture at the end and, if you collect all of them in the game, then you have managed to 100% the game. Unfortunately, I just don’t see that many people sticking with it for that long.
Hit detection is also off, you have a sword that you can swing to kill enemies but good luck hitting them correctly, sometimes the blade hits them, sometimes it goes through them. Your hitboxes are also undefined, even when you have your shield raised arrows will still probably get you even if they look like they went over your head. It’s just so unpolished in places that it’s difficult to see this as a finished article.
It’s always tough to give negative feedback on a game especially when someone has spent many years of their lives making it but we are here to give you our honest opinions and while I have sympathy with independent developers like this spending so much time on these projects it doesn’t always mean that the final product is a good one which is unfortunate.
I would say that as a first project there is a lot to take away from it and learn for the next one. As a reviewer, it’s a joy to do what I do and even when a game is not enjoyable I will put in the hours to see if it gets better with time. The first world is a tutorial and things do hot up as you get further but because of the issues, this game has, it just never felt fun for me and if I have to push myself to play a game then there is a problem.
Value is a funny thing as it’s so subjective but my view on this is that if you look at hours of entertainment then you can easily get 20 hours gaming time out of it. If you can put up with its flaws then you will get some value out of this but I think for this game and the issues it present’s it’s too expensive to compete. If it was half the price then it may have stood a chance but for me personally, I can’t recommend spending your hard earned cash on this especially with so many other great platformers already on the platform.
Visuals are quite nice
20 hours gameplay
Some questionable design decisions
Feels like a chore to play
Checkpoint system is flawed