by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
I hate spiders, but I have to be honest, the little creatures in Alien Spidy are super cute. It could be something to do with them only having six legs, in which case, I guess they are not actually spiders, but maybe alien arachnids have a reason for lacking two appendages. Sadly, their charm does not make up for what is a very average side scrolling platform game developed by Enigma SP and published by Kalypso Media. Our hero chases his missing girlfriend through the stars from their home planet Aracnia, but soon crash lands on Earth, a dangerous environment for the little guy.
The problems start early. I get annoyed when any game does not automatically set itself to my native desktop resolution, but Alien Spidy features just three resolutions to choose from, none of which were of any use to me. The start screen asks you to press start, or the space bar, depending on which control scheme you will be using. Even with mouse and keyboard control though, the main menu is only navigated using the arrow keys, rather than the mouse. From this, I concluded that this was a game designed to be controlled using a gamepad. This was fine with me, as 2D platformers like this are always easier with a controller, right?
Short answer: no. In order to guide your alien spider friend through the levels, you must run, collect scoring items, jump and swing on your web. Water must be avoided at all costs, as well as certain types of plant. Your web can only attach to specific surfaces, and often you are faced with a large body of water which you must swing across using small floating platforms above you. With a gamepad, you shoot a web with a flick of the right stick. However, there is no aiming reticule, so until you get a real feel for how the game controls, surviving these jumps is often a combination of guesswork and sheer luck. I switched to keyboard and mouse control, and when I moved the mouse around, there was indeed an aiming reticule for the web, which made the lack of one for gamepad all the more baffling.
Frustrating for the Wrong Reasons
A great platform game is always going to be frustrating at some point, but for the right reasons. Super Meat Boy can make even the most genteel player become a snarling, swearing psychopath, but that is only because they know that it is their own fault that they cannot progress. Alien Spidy is equally frustrating, but for the wrong reasons. Lack of aiming reticule aside, even when you are swinging from a web, you lack any sort of precision. Air control is floaty and unresponsive, which caused countless deaths which I felt I did not deserve.
This lack of control certainly does not help when you consider that to get the best scores for each level, you must create combo chains by collecting lots of blue orbs in a row. Red orbs are not good however, and will decrease your overall score. There are also bonus multipliers and power-ups in the level. These do things like double your score, or grant you the ability to jump higher than normal. It is not that hard to collect all of the blue orbs in a level, but when you have to pause and go back to get some you missed, the levels do not feel as fluid. Your score ticks down over time, so speed is also key. This is something which becomes problematic when you get stuck at a particular point. Thankfully the respawn system is good, and will instantly take you back to the previous checkpoint with a single button press. When you do actually manage to chain swings together, it is pretty good fun, which makes it all the more disappointing that most of the time it is not.
Cute, but Unpolished
There are dozens of levels spanning three separate worlds, but herein lies yet another problem. Upon reaching the end of the first world, I was not allowed to continue on to the next one because I had not met the scoring requirements. Finishing every level in the first section, yet not being permitted to carry on did not encourage replayability, in fact quite the opposite. The game features a cute art style, which reminded me of Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, an indie game from last year. There is also a decent soundtrack, but nothing remarkable.
Alien Spidy is a platformer that features challenging level design and nice visuals, but the gameplay is not there to back it up. The scoring targets are often too hard, and are made worse by the poor movement controls. There is potential for a good game here, it just lacks the overall quality needed, which is a shame.
Cute art design. Challenging and creative levels.
Poor gameplay thanks to awful control. The scoring system often makes it difficult to progress.