Spate is a 2.5D steampunk platformer. The protagonist Timothy Bluth is a private eye tasked to track down Scott Denton, a wealthy businessman who disappeared in a region called the Xzone. Once a beautiful environment known as The Pearl Islands, mysterious spates of rain and fogs have gradually turned it into a dangerous environment where many people disappear.
Timothy can be moved around, jump, and hang from ledges. Two additional actions are available: an action button to interact with the environment and another one to take a swig of his bottle of absinthe. He has his own demons during the journey, as he has developed a drinking problem after losing his daughter and estranging from his wife. The game is entirely linear and combines platforming section with parts that just focus on passing the often surreal scenery. In the puzzle sections he has to navigate platforms, air stream and jump pads, and avoid hazards such as saws and pits. Drinking absinthe has a distinct effect, mostly distorting the environment visually. It also allows him to jump higher and farther and in some regions it will introduce new visual elements or stop moving objects. He meets a number of NPCs along the way and by progressing through the game the initial task also largely becomes a metaphorical journey.
The game is split up in different levels, usually divided in sections after Timothy blacks out from the drinking. Each level has a number of checkpoints. Other game elements include a steampunk helicopter to navigate certain sections and a cannon used to shoot parts of the environments to move them and to create a path to progress.