Fun fact: absinthe doesn't actually cause hallucinations.
Spate is, despite it's erroneous science, immensely beautiful. The surrealistic backdrops and bright colors are truly wonderful. The constant storms, the overlay of winds that manipulate the lighting does add to the chaos of our assigned absinthe addicts mind. It adds to the madness. It's a 2D game in a 3D plane, which gives way to a plethora of amazing art-decisions. There are houses, cliffs, rubble, just floating around, sometimes in front of our screen - this can be incredibly annoying while doing some of the more precise platforming since it obfuscates our path, but it could be intentional to make an otherwise easy game a bit harder(bad way of doing that though). But the 3D and the more modern graphics - if you compare it to other indiegames - is a nice change in the way of storyfocused 2D platformers. Spate always give you something to look at, you will never be bored, visually.
The gameplay is bog standard, but for the most part it's well done, relatively fun and doesn't bring too much frustration to the overall beauteous atmosphere. Parts of the gameplay are not really enjoyable, and doesn't really partake in the physics that the game otherwise upholds. It didn't make sense and it felt contrived. I am mostly referring to the parts where you used a cannon. Especially when you use a cannon to shoot balls into a basket that at the same time moves up and down, it felt out of place and I also fps-dropped in these parts of the game, which made it even worse.These were however short enough to not ruin the experience, but annoying nonetheless. These stops in movement made the game stagnate a bit, it ruined the flow and atmosphere in a way, for me. It felt really gamey, it snapped you out of the game and into a world where you are playing a game, trying to time a frustrating, fps-dropping ball into a bowl which seemingly made nothing happen. It didn't really give you the feedback you needed either to understand that you progressed. Or maybe I was just not paying attention in my boredom. Otherwise the gameplay is okay, but perhaps not the main draw of the game.
The story was interesting. But in a way that reminded me of Contrast, it didn't get it across in the best way possible. The end seemed rushed, lackluster in a way, the death of his daughter didn't really seem to have been absolved. That could just be the ending I chose, the mindless optimist that I am. Which some people may enjoy being there, but it seemed out of character and trivialized the daughters death.
There was also some weird writing, where the robot calls attention to the protagonists alcohol problem and he answer in anger, just after he himself have admitted to it being a problem. It felt like it was forced to give way for a dialogue later on. A dialogue infected by cliché.
The narrator is this deep voiced guy: Jack Bair, sort of sounds like Morgan Freeman and he really makes the narration a joy to listen to. It's a third person telling of what you're doing in the way of Bastion, only it's the protagonist talking from his point of view. And apart from some trite observations, or "ruining" - perhaps confirming - the symbolism you yourself get from the background, the narrator does really add to the game. It's simply great.
So Spate has its moments. It can be hilarious at times, it can be depressing at others. It does illustrate the delirium of an absinthe drinker. It's worthwhile for everything that it is. And for everything that it tries to be. It's intelligent, quirky, surreal, humorous, pretty, colorful. It has spirit.Hehe