Alien Spidy (Xbox 360) Review
- Great look and wonderful art style
- Great level design at times
Not so much?
- Poor controls that at times feel utterly broken
- poorly managed and cruel difficulty curve
- Score based progression is a massive throwback and sucks the fun out of the game
Alien Spidy had the potential to be a great indie arcade title – a title destined for HUGE things on a mobile platform if only they could get the niggles ironed out. As it stands I’d recommend people to download the demo and see if you can put up with the creaky controls and other issues before putting down your money.
Alien Spidy represents something of a quandary for me. Coming from a small team and published out through a small publisher this title has something of an indie nature about it. It’s everything I would normally lap up about a small title – platformer, small puzzles, cutesy art style and bouncing music.
Yet Alien Spidy lures you in with these things, then punches you square in the face with a spikey gauntlet of unfair deaths and missed opportunity.
The brief premise of the game is that you play as the titular Alien Spidy – a spider on a mission to track a female alien spider who, during his pursuit of her, gets stuck on a strange planet. You traverse the 150 levels jumping and swinging your way from the start to the finish line in each of the three worlds.
As Spidy you have the ability to jump and throw some pretty substantial web-lines. These spider webs allow you to latch on to certain parts of the background scenery (flowers, cave walls etc) and swing from place to place – you can even latch on to bugs and things too. Each level is self contained and, provided you make it through unscather, lasts only a few minutes.
Moving Spidy is simple enough. The left analogue stick moves your Alien Spidy around the environment, a button for jumping and the directional action of the right analogue stick will throw out web lines in the corresponding directions. Utilising the tools at your disposal and picking your way through the enemies and natural obstacles is the name of the game in Alien Spidy. Traversal allows you to collect the orbs that litter each level. These orbs offer up points to add to your running score. Collecting several in a row gives you a bonus boost to your score. Each time you hit an obstacle you lose score. Each time you stay still you lose score… basically if you’re not getting more points then your total will be ticking down. As well as the orbs that give you score there are also those that take it away too. To progress in the game you have to reach certain performance milestones in levels that then translate into a star rating at the end.
Graphically Alien Spidy looks great. A really strong art style shines through. The lavish animated intro sets an impossible standard for the rest of the game to stand up to. That said the character art and bright clearly defined environments do a really good job at trying to capture the quality of the intro movie. Sound design too has had more than a reasonable amount of love lavished on it. Sure it’s minimal in places and a little generic but it suits the overall tone and look that the game has and fits the genre it’s fitting in to.
Alien Spidy has elements that could make it a truly great pick up and play title – and an essential mobile application. What drags it down kicking and screaming is a lack of polish in two key areas; controls and difficulty.
In my Bit.Trip Runner 2 review I talked about platformers needing to nail their controls spot-on. Alien Spidy fails on this front in varying degrees. General control is adequate but more often than not simple things like jumping are awkward. For instance if Spidy is walking off a “lumpy” part of the scenery then he won’t be able to jump until he’s traversed it. The controls are also way too loose. You feel like you have some control, then a few frames of animation take precedence to Spidy performing an onscreen action – normally rendering you dead. The latch on mechanic, using the right stick, is great fun when it works. More often than not though you’ll find yourself frantically pressing the stick in the direction to only see the web shoot wildly off course.
Other issues with control come in the form the power-ups in the game. For instance a Super Jump power-up will allow Spidy to do several large jumps to reach hard to get to places. I found that swinging and landing on the power-up would render it’s effects void. Meaning that the Super Jump just disappeared and you couldn’t jump. All you could do was kill yourself (or use the reset to checkpoint button on the controller) and try the event again making sure to land next to the power-up and then walk into it.
Wonky controls, strange power-ups and a score based achievement system that hampers progression all sounds like a bad mixture to deal with. Luckily Alien Spidy has moments of brilliance. This encourages you to keep plugging away to see if the game comes good. What you get instead is some ludicrous difficulty spikes that can leave you frustrated and feeling cheated. Games like Runner 2 and Super Meat Boy are difficult at times and I love that about them. They have pinpoint accuracy and you know every time you dies the fault lays at your door. With Alien Spidy the fault is more often than not the controls themselves.
Alien Spidy had the potential to be a great indie arcade title – a title destined for HUGE things on a mobile platform if only they could get the niggles ironed out.
Lovely graphics and neat momentum-puzzle based platformer that entertained almost as much as it frustrated. Poorly implemented controls, hit and miss power-ups and a wild difficulty curve all add up to a game that teeters on the edge of broken at times.
With luck Alien Spidy will be patched to address these control issues and this will at least tip the score and game back in to the positive.
As it stands I’d recommend people to download the demo and see if you can put up with the creaky controls and other issues before putting down your money.