Spud’s Quest: What We Think
Spud’s Quest plays like a labor of love for retro adventure games and it also tunes into nostalgia for the Dizzy games, which played a noteworthy role in my early gaming years. Developed by Chris Davis alone – and successfully funded on Kickstarter in November 2012 thanks to its 475 backers – the game not only emulates the gameplay of such titles but it also strives to capture the feel of this charming era in gaming.
Just A Po’ Tater
The story revolves around Spud, a potato-themed hero plunged into an adventure when the prince (in frog form) arrives at his house and asks for his help in alleviating the curse that has trapped him in the shape of a frog. It soon becomes apparent that the spell affects more than just the prince, and Spud must unravel the mystery of the curse while also solving countless other problems across the land.
The gameplay of Spud’s Quest involves exploration and puzzle-solving, eschewing side-scrolling worlds for areas made up of individual screens (each with a name). Practical puzzles must be dealt with in this world, ranging from simple issues like a postman who has lost his parcels, to more fiddly brain teasers that will have you wondering which item to apply to resolve a situation.
Chip On His Shoulder
As I stated before, Spud’s Quest will be familiar ground for anyone who played a Dizzy game back in the early 90’s; those who haven’t, however, may find the gameplay a little slow. Thankfully this has been dealt with through the addition of some light combat; Spud can throw apples at a variety of enemies that mostly appear in the dungeon-style temples that you must clear to progress through the game.
This makes for a refreshing change of pace from methodical puzzle solving but it can become a little grating now and then as monsters respawn when you leave their room.
If a puzzle has you backtracking through the same area multiple times, it can become irritating when you have to deal with the same pair of bats over and over again. That said, it’s often useful to farm monsters for coins that can be spent on healing. The combat itself is typical of classic adventure games with a well thought through variety of enemies that each move in unique ways. It’s just enough to keep you on your toes as you explore the world.
The Artist Formerly Known As Prince Charming
The developer has also provided an interesting gameplay mechanic in the form of the frog: Prince Charming. At any point you can switch between Spud and Charming; the frog can fit through small gaps and jump higher but he can’t carry anything or perform more complicated tasks. Puzzles revolving around this ability make for some enjoyable challenges.
Inventory management may be an issue for some players. You can only carry four items at a time and you’ll need to drop an item if you go over the limit. Items can be left anywhere in the world and this can result in key quest items getting lost if you don’t remember where you left them. Some may find this to be unnecessarily tedious while others will enjoy the limitation and the need to be well-organised.
Which Came First: The Frog or the Tadpole?
The puzzles are generally well thought through, and the sense of satisfaction from overcoming them is as enjoyable as ever. It’s the exploration that really shines in Spud’s Quest though; the world slowly unfolds as you solve more puzzles and the desire to see what’s in the next area becomes a strong motivator as you progress.
The graphics and music of Spud’s Quest are both accurate revisitations of the titles that inspired the game – Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Dizzy, etc. The world of Spud’s Quest is attractively designed with a good mix of environments. A day/night cycle provides some visual variety in the overworld that also feeds into the gameplay as characters move depending on the time of day. Musically, Spud’s Quest is full of charm with gentle tracks used to introduce the early areas and more tense themes showing up in the dungeons.
Spud’s Quest is a love letter to classic adventure games but it manages to shake things up a little by mixing puzzle solving adventure conventions with jumping challenges and combat. A lot of care has gone into the design, gameplay and world of Spud’s Quest and it’s easy to recommend it to fans of adventure games, puzzles or some of the classics in the genre.