Spiders have a bad rap in video games. The likes of Armogohma from Zelda, and the creepy, nameless spider from Limbo have irreversibly tarnished the reputation that innocent, hardworking spiders are trying to maintain. But Enigma Software’s Alien Spidy aims to change that. However, the result is a shallow platformer with a frustrating progression system.
If nothing else, Enigma deserves praise for managing to make a spider adorable. Alien Spidy is a charming game, thanks to excellent artwork and animations. The cutscenes, sparse as they may be, look like something out of Looney Tunes, and each level ends with Spidy doing a celebratory dance.
There’s practically no diversity between levels within a given world, but each of the three are incredibly distinct. I was almost overwhelmed by the amount of new gameplay elements introduced in each world. For example, in the Forest world, water might as well be molten lava, but in the Pond world that follows, you’ll find momentary power-ups that allow you to swim, which adds new dynamics of avoiding fish, and reaching the next power-up before your swimming ability runs out.
Alien Spidy’s biggest problem lies in its scoring system. You’re rewarded with up to five stars in each level, depending on your score. This wouldn’t be a problem if not for the fact that progressing to the next world requires a threshold number of stars. So even after having completed the first world, I had to repeat most of its levels out of necessity, rather than my own desire to improve my score. It felt like a cheap way to make the game longer.
To make matters worse, you’re deducted points for dying or reloading checkpoints, or for being too slow. This forced me to attempt levels over and over again from the beginning, not because they were challenging, but because of the arbitrary score requirements needed to gain more stars and progress. Slow load times made these multiple attempts even more frustrating. Alien Spidy’s challenge doesn’t come from its level design, as it would in most platformers; it comes from score barriers, and that simply isn’t as satisfying to overcome. Scoring systems and leaderboards are great as optional features, but Alien Spidy makes them a requirement.
Although Alien Spidy is relatively polished, it suffers from occasional technical problems. The controls aren’t quite as responsive as they could be, the framerate will occasionally take a dip, and in one instance Spidy got stuck inside a wall. These issues show up rarely, but they’re annoying nonetheless.
Considering Alien Spidy’s personality and excellent animations, I would almost prefer if Enigma got to work on a Saturday morning cartoon. Alien Spidy is a pleasure to look at, but a chore to play, thanks to its walled-off progression system, which feels like a cheap and arbitrary way to extend its length. Fans of platformers should look elsewhere.
Tested on Xbox 360
Review copy supplied