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Mini-Review: SPRay

SPRayThis article was originally published at Kombo.com on December 22, 2008. It is repubished here as part of Review A Bad Game Day.

When an evil queen invades the land and smashes the sunshine away, it's up to Spirited Prince Ray (giving us the title SPRay for all of the acronym lovers out there) to don the magic crown that summons little spirits that spit and spray various fluids such as water and vomit in order to recover the crystals that make up the sun and defeat the queen. Players guide Ray and his spewing companions across several worlds within the kingdom to solve puzzles, rescue citizens, gather new abilities, and collect items.

Ray's companions begin the game with the ability to spray water and vomit. Water washes away enemy goo and nourishes flowers that are planted almost everywhere (make a flower bloom and it'll erupt with what appears to be snot for some reason), while vomit sticks to floors and makes things such as invisible bridges visible when fully coated. Fluids are also used to trigger switches, bathe enemies, and draw symbols with the Wii remote among other things. Swing the Wii remote to whack nearby objects and enemies with Ray's staff. New tricks are added to Ray's arsenal as the game progresses.

Considering that environments tend to look alike in SPRay, the developers have included a compass at the top of the screen that points in the general direction of the next object of interest or goal along with the estimated distance needed to travel there. However, this distance and direction are a direct Point A to Point B path, meaning that sometimes the game reports that the shortest distance is through a solid wall or other impassable barrier.

SPRaySPRay features no worthwhile redeeming values or major elements worth praise. Character models seem to have been developed in a studio where the art designers are paid by the polygon, and I haven't seen so many drab blurry low-resolution textures since the original Nintendo 64 days. Some puzzles lack the necessary clues or visual cues that give hints on how to trigger certain events. It was not uncommon to find poor Ray and I wandering around aimlessly spraying everything in search of the next goal. There is little attention to environmental detail which gives the game a unfinished feel that is extremely rough around the edges. Peer down over the edge of a platform, for instance, and it's possible to see the underside of the gameworld set against a generic black or bright blue emptiness.

While the lack of polish certainly isn't helping, ultimately it's the broken and tedious gameplay that sinks SPRay. The game wants to match The Legend of Zelda's trademark dungeons with Super Mario Sunshine's FLUDD water pack gimmick, but in trying to ape these elements the developers missed the entire point. The dungeons sport lackluster puzzles that often need to be repeated in different locations. Some puzzles seem to guard nothing in particular. Other challenges are just hopelessly baffling and fail to provide that little inkling of what needs to be done to move on or why the task even needs to be completed.

SPRaySPRay is an uninspired game that fails to meet its potential from a publisher that should know better than this. It manages to disappoint in every possible way. There's an interesting idea at the heart of the game, but it's a shame that we never get to see it. The puzzles are tedious, the world is unpolished, the visuals are unacceptable for a modern console game, the characters lack personality, and the fluid gimmick is not efficiently utilized. SPRay has no positive memorable elements and was difficult for me to tolerate, let alone recommend. Avoid, avoid, avoid.