You might just lose yourself in the caverns of Spoing [99¢ / HD] Chillingo's newest platformer is a moody affair that sees you playing the titular Spoing, a spiky ball with a lot on his mind. Someone's stolen all the rainbow diamonds on his watch, and he needs to gather them up and find the thief.
To solve this mystery, Spoing travels through long, dark caverns and seeks out friends to guide him. He travels by bouncing from one elastic platform to the next, with your help to aim him (similar to the mechanic in Parachute Ninja [99¢], among others). You can also collect green gems that let you create your own platforms. Sometimes the path will be laid out for you, other times you'll be forging your own way through the caverns. Occasionally you'll need to choose the best path from a few different options.
You'll need to choose wisely, because your performance is rated by how long it takes you to reach the rainbow diamond at the end of each level. You earn Level Points based on your speed. Getting one or two is pretty simple, but the third is often a serious challenge. To master a level you'll need to earn three Level Points and make it through the level without hitting a wall or a monster. You'll be well-rewarded for your success - each level has its own Crystal/Game Center leaderboard and an achievement for mastery.
If gameplay alone isn't enough to keep you going, the lonely environments and minimalistic music might draw you in. While the game offers four built-in music tracks and the option to play your own tunes, you'll be missing out if you don't plug in your headphones and play with the ambient track. There's no rhythm integration, but the music blends beautifully with the sparse piano-note sound effects. It's the perfect soundtrack to accompany your journey through the deep, dark caves of Spoing.
Despite all that, I can't help but feel that games2be, Spoing's developers, spent a too much time on building levels, giving us 50 to explore, while spending too little time differentiating them. The difficulty goes up and down by the level so there's no feel of steady progression. And the environments hardly change at all. This wouldn't be too bad, but you may find yourself grinding to hit experience and Level Point milestones to progress at times. Replaying levels only to unlock the next group of near-identical levels is disheartening
Spoing also suffers from a bit of a clumsy story. The dialog is clunky, so it's probably for the best that there's very little of it. Mysteriously, I also couldn't find the ending. Despite the long set up for a climactic showdown with the rainbow diamond thief, I finished all 50 levels and found nothing. No ending scene, no indication of what to do next, just an open invitation to keep playing. I played a bit longer, hoping to reach whatever milestone the game expected me to have hit, but I never found it. I don't know if this is a bug or if I just needed to keep replaying levels, but it was pretty disappointing.
When it comes down to it though, it's not story that will keep you progressing through Spoing's 50 levels, but solid gameplay and enticing (if repetitive) atmosphere. While I'd love to see more variety in the level dressing, I can't really complain. Spoing gave me hours of fun that always stayed challenging, and that's the core of a great gaming experience. Hopefully games2be will have the chance to improve the game around that core in future updates.