Described as a classic jump ‘n run adventure, Spencer doesn’t offer up much in terms of variety and depth. There’s not much in regards to the game’s story either. The titular Spencer is an intergalactic traveler that just so happens to crash his spaceship on Earth, and as a result, hordes of on-board creatures have escaped along with a number of Spencer’s ship components. It falls to Spencer to track down these components, fight back against the creatures, fix his ship and then head back off into outer space. It’s a straightforward setup.
Loading into the game will throw you into Spencer’s hub. Here, you can browse some settings and a light tutorial, enjoy the display of some of the very few collectibles that you’ll pick up along the way, and interact with the level select station. Spencer offers up a total of five worlds, each encompassing sixteen levels a piece. The worlds and their sixteen levels within all lean on distinct themes, more specifically, themes that you’ll likely find in your own home; a children’s toy room, a kitchen, a living room, a bathroom and finally, a garage.
It’s a relatively simple, play-it-safe concept that admittedly sits well with the mood of the game. Though, that said, Spencer has its fair share of issues. You see, despite what world or what level you’re on, the core loop remains exactly the same. You’ll begin at one point in the level to which you’ll then be tasked with collecting a set number of coins, and once you’ve done that, you’ll head off to the exit portal to move onto the next. That, ladies and gentlemen, is pretty much going to be the sum of most of your time spent with Spencer.
There’s some additional tasks thrown in for the completionists out there, but they’re entirely optional and don’t offer anything in regards to a reward outside of knowing that you maxed the game out. These arrive in the form of a chart that’s jotted up at the end of each level, rating your for completing the level with at least three hearts in tact, killing all enemies, and collecting all of the game’s two gem variations. The first gem variants are all over each level, whereas the second gem variants will appear once all coins are collected.
The kicker here is that once you collect all of your coins and the second lot of gems drop onto the level, a ghost will also appear and chase you throughout. If you allow the ghost to touch you, you’ll lose the ability to collect any more of these gems. The best way to achieve an easier completion is clearly to kill all of the enemies and nab all of the first wave gems before collecting all of your coins and triggering the ghost – just to give you a clear path when collecting the altering gems and avoiding the spook. In honesty, the game is too easy.
That’s my first major complaint. I was able to run through the game in little over two hours and cant at all say that I suffered from any real difficulty as a result. In fact, the only difficulty within comes from some of the game’s questionable design choices and technical issues. Take the game’s enemies, for example. There’s no shortage of enemies to tackle within, however, all of them need to be dealt with in the same way; bounce on their heads or power-punch them to remove their armor before, you guessed it, bouncing on them.
It makes the game feel very repetitive before long. That, of course, goes on top of the monotonous gameplay loop. There’s a few levels in which Spencer will need to collect a battery or a fish instead of the aforementioned coins, but even then, you’re still collecting something to activate the exit portal. The game does attempt to throw in the odd mechanic or two, via the dash and smash ability and the double jump, but even so, there’s no shaking the feeling that your following the exact same concept from the beginning to the end.
Moving onto the game’s technical issues, there’s a very unforgivable hit detection in Spencer. Several times did I bite the proverbial bullet for simply grazing the side of an enemy, oftentimes wondering whether there was actually any connection during the hit. On top of that there’s some framerate issues (albeit, only occasionally) upon respawn, and when that doesn’t happen, Spencer spawns in momentarily body-less. Sure, that latter issue is hardly game breaking, but it does emphasize the game’s underdeveloped aspects.
I will credit the game for its visuals and its level design. I rather enjoyed the look of each bite-sized level, as well as how later in the game, each level becomes more complex and somewhat interconnected. I’ll extend the same appreciation to the audio design, with cues and a soundtrack that collectively sits nicely inline with the game’s theme. Had Spencer have had more depth, more gameplay variety, less issues and a better structure, it could have been a lot more than what it is. Though, as it stands, it’s a mediocre adventure, at best.
I’ll commend the game for its level detail and variation, but Spencer could have been a lot more than what it is had the developer spent more time refining the game’s mechanics. The game’s repetitive enemies, its rinse and repeat functionality, its disregard as to what makes the jump ‘n run concept fun, together with its technical issues, makes for an adventure that’s more often frustrating than it is exciting.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.