Recently, when I wanted to play a game, I grabbed my phone – especially games in Apple Arcade. At the moment I only travel with a laptop and while I am can play a few games on it, the laptop chugs, his fans breathe heavily from work. I had stalled my Apple Arcade subscription for a while, dutifully paying a few dollars a month for something I rarely used.
That’s not because Apple Arcade doesn’t have a huge selection of games: a lot of my favorites, such as: Grindstone and Cozy groveare available in the Apple service. But there was always a better option – my gaming PC, a current generation console, or the Nintendo Switch. This week I opened Apple Arcade with no other options and was looking for something new to play.
I found Sp! Ng, described by developer SMG Studio – creator of abstract – as a “stress ball for your brain”. Sp! Ng is a one-button puzzle game in which I have to navigate a small star through a level, swing it from branch to branch and avoid obstacles. I would compare it to a mix of precision platform (and threshing or trapping) à la super meat boy and the swinging monkey level from Super Nintendo The Lion King. It’s kind of both nerve-wr acking and cold, with the force of a fearful palm squeezing a stress ball into a packed shape, plus the release necessary to let it go – the ball breathes back to life in your hand.
Sp! Ng starts out easy and slowly introduces me to harder levels and more advanced mechanics. But it still never goes beyond the core loop: swing this star to catch coins and eventually escape into an exit portal. About every 10 levels the game expands and becomes more difficult, but it didn’t feel unfair yet. Each new concept is simply introduced and there is no penalty for trying out strategies. If you encounter obstacles like spikes, the game will restart from the beginning of the short level.
It’s not the kind of game that I have to play for hours on, completely immersed. Instead, I’ve picked it up here or there, in moments when I might otherwise update Twitter or scroll Instagram. Even so, those brief bursts were enough to fuel me with a sense of skillful play. Even if I haven’t hit a devastatingly tough level yet Sp! NgI am still very satisfied when I have completed a level perfectly. There’s just something about the fast-paced, fluid gameplay that connects to my brain. It’s the same feeling I get when I perfect my weapon switch in a game like this Eternal fate – Just a lot less blood.