Saturday, December 13, 2008


Sproing is a game from the older days of Kongregate. It's got a cute little concept, but it's not very well polished, and probably today it wouldn't even get a badge. Actually, I'm going to take a minute to talk about this. When I first started playing on Kongregate, it seemed like it was in the middle of a transition. Games still got badges whenever the Kongregate staff got around to adding them, so while there were still the weekly challenges, badges could be added at any time, and the weekly challenges would as often go to a game that already had badges as one that was just getting badges. Furthermore, pretty much any game which was decent and had a functioning API would get badges eventually. Now, however, it seems like new badges are almost always awarded in conjunction with a challenge. So even though the challenges are biweekly now, a game has to be more than just decent to get badges -- there are plenty of good, interesting games which just don't quite manage to beat out the games selected for challenges and never get badges or have to wait a very long time for badges. I'm not sure I like this new system -- obviously, I'm glad for Kongregate's generally higher quality, but it also seems like a lot of interesting but not so well-crafted ideas can get lost in the shuffle, efforts like Buried Treasure Week notwithstanding.

(Of course, in the time between when I started this post and when I finished, Kongregate added badges not associated with a challenge to three more games. They'd done this once since the beginning of November, with Meat Boy, and all of a sudden they do this at precisely the wrong time for my rant. Bah.)

Anyway, so, Sproing. In Sproing, you control a small ball with a larger ball attached to it by a spring, which you can swing around, much like Elastic (review here). The playfield contains green balls, which you are trying to destroy, and non-green balls, which will hurt you on contact. To destroy the green balls, swing your ball into them. It has to be at a relatively high velocity; otherwise, the green ball will bounce off in a different direction. The game contains 30 levels; most of the levels just contain different formations of green balls and enemy balls, but every sixth level is a boss. The bosses shoot at you, and you have to hit them multiple times to destroy them; because you still have to whack them, it's extremely difficult to defeat the bosses without taking some damage in the process. Various helpful items also occasionally drift onto the playfield. You only have one life, but you do get health-replenishment items from time to time.

The graphics are very simple -- just colored circles, basically. The sound effects are OK; the music is, not to put too fine a point on it, awful -- it's terrible and repetitive. The level design is pretty solid; each level has its own little quirks. One peculiar thing is that in order to get the hard badge, you don't have to actually beat the game, just reach level 30. I thought this was a bug when I first got the badge, and so I went ahead and beat the game (which was actually much harder than just reaching level 30, since it's quite difficult), and then I read the badge text more carefully and discovered that, in fact, it was not a bug. Still, I was kind of glad to have beaten the game.

Anyway, Sproing is the kind of game that probably wouldn't get recognized by Kongregate today. It is very simple in its presentation, and it's not a particularly complicated or sophisticated game. Still, it isn't a bad way to spend a few minutes; while I wouldn't call it a great game, it's a solid gameplay idea. While I wouldn't say that everyone should be forced to play the game, it would be nice if there were a way to give games like this a little bit more attention.

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