A cute puzzle game with a cleverly used mechanic, Spacelings is an object lesson in how to make a decent game rather than a great one. Each level begins with a number of Spacelings, usually surrounded by nasty bombs, mines and obtrusive walls, while somewhere else on-screen a spaceship sits with a tractor beam extended. The player controls the direction of the beam, and must suck in the Spacelings while avoiding bombs and mines – simple.
The amount of times you can change the beam's direction is limited, but changes can also be undone and added back to the pile – and later levels depend heavily on the trick of setting something in motion, then releasing it from the beam only to be picked up later. There's invention and a quirky sense of humour in its levels and their titles, and most take less than 30 seconds to complete, ideal for mobile play.
So why decent rather than great? It all comes down to a split second. The main thing the player has to master in Spacelings is quick changes of the beam – pulling stuff in, releasing it, catching it again at the right moment at a different point. The flicks to change the beam's direction work fine under sedate circumstances, but they don't work instantly, and in more hectic situations sometimes aren't picked up at all.
Spacelings isn't ruined by this: it's a subtle stickiness rather than a complete failure to work, and the game wrings a huge amount from the tractor beam idea – if you're an aficionado of the 2D puzzler, then it’s worth playing for that alone. But the lack of crispness in the controls undermines everything else here, and too often does the same to the player.