There are a good amount of twitch platformers out on the market today. The feeling of perfecting a level is very satisfying to me, even if it means replaying it over and over to get it just right. The genre rides that fine line between challenge and frustration. Enigma Software brings their new platformer, Alien Spidy into the mix with fast action, web swings and special power-ups. Unfortunately, the game tumbles into FrustrationLand rather quickly.
Crash landing on Earth, a small alien spider must recover the parts of his spaceship while trying not to die from the harsh creatures and environments our planet has to offer. Using his agile movements and web strings, Spidy hopes to repair his ship and return to his love on his home planet.
Alien Spidy tasks players with multiple levels in three different locations. The goal is to reach the end of the stage while collecting point orbs, while dodging enemies and hazards. Spidy can jump and shoot a web that serves as rope swing. Almost everything can kill Spidy. Bugs, water, briars, and other creatures will take out the little guy in one hit, sending him back to the nearest checkpoint.
Spidy also uses special power-ups that consume energy, which is collected while traversing the levels and reflected by a bar at the top of the screen. The power-ups can give Spidy special abilities like super jumps, fast speed and low gravity. Once one is picked up, the energy gauge begins to deplete until the bar is empty and the effect wears off.
The point system is very important. When running into orbs in quick succession, the points obtained go up in value. The faster they are collected, the higher the final score. Up to five stars are awarded for completing the level in a quick time, gathering points and with as few restarts as is possible. These stars are required to move on the next area, so repetition is likely to be a necessity for some players.
That is one problem that really brought down the Alien Spidy experience for me. It wouldn’t be such a problem if obtaining stars weren’t as hard as pulling out one of your own teeth. There is a specific way for a level to be completed, and finding the right one took me numerous attempts. The power-ups feel more like a part of the level rather than aids. They must be collected in order to finish the stage. Even nabbing all the point orbs occasionally wasn’t enough, because I didn’t pick them up fast enough or accidentally ran into the ones that subtract from the score. Yes, that’s right. There are orbs to dodge during this frantic mess.
Restarting a level wouldn’t be such a big deal if the loading screens didn’t pop up on every single restart. Super Meat Boy, which has the same trial-and-error approach that Alien Spidy is going for, seems to have no problem restarting the player almost instantaneously. After waiting for the game to load five times, I was done trying that level and moved on to the next. It became a chore. One good thing is that the score needed to earn the next star is displayed before starting the stage. This gave me a target before to shoot for before starting.
The jumping is fine, but the web (shot with the right analog stick), is very inaccurate. While on the string, Spidy can swing back and forth as well as climb up or down the rope. It seems like the length is random, and when trying to pinpoint a jump at a certain velocity, the length of the rope is very important. More times than not, I ended up having too long or too short a string, which hindered my jump. For a game in which time is of the essence, a lot of mechanics just get in the way. There is a quick web string button that can be used in desperate situations that works better than the analog stick, but not by much.
The look of the game is a nice highlight. I really like the cartoony look of the characters, and the color scheme fits nicely. The music is quirky, and the overall presentation is well done. I only wish the game play held up as well as the looks.
There are online leader boards that show how players stack up against one another. These can be filtered for both global rankings and rankings among friends. If it wasn’t so difficult to get high scores in levels, Alien Spidy would be a fun and challenging game, but the combination of a difficult point system, inaccurate controls and constant loading screens between restarts bring this game down to a frustrating chore.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.