A short time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a lone astronaut set off on a voyage of discovery. Unfortunately, as is often the case when lone astronauts decide to leave their loved ones behind and explore the universe, she’s crashed her ship on a strange alien planet called Earth. Luckily for her, her husband quickly launches a rescue mission to bring her home. Sadly, he crash lands as well and now must collect enough resources to fix his ship, find his beloved and return home. Oh, and did I mention they were spiders.
Sounds like a fun set up for a game doesn’t it? And it is, on paper at least. That’s the problem with Alien Spidy, the new 2d platformer from Enigma Software. It should be a great game. Most of the ingredients are there for a bloody good adventure. Which is why it’s such a crying shame that it isn’t.
Spidy himself is incredibly endearing, very well designed and animated, even if he does only have six legs. Watching his little victory dances at the end of the level is a real treat and the opening cinematic is tons of fun and incredibly funny. Watching the little guy hold on for dear life while his tiny spaceship falls to pieces and burns up entering the atmosphere had me in stitches and was a great way to set up the rest of the game as well as empathise with the character.
The games levels themselves are also very well designed and varied, taking Spidy through moody forests, dank caves and even underwater. The art style really pops as the silhouetted foreground contrasts with colourful backgrounds as Spidy jumps and swings, avoiding obstacles and the local wildlife while attempting to collect everything in sight.
Meanwhile the games jazzy soundtrack frames the action on screen really well, keeping a fun, upbeat and slightly off the wall tone throughout.
At the end of each level you’re graded from one – five stars depending on how fast you were, how many orbs you collected and how many times you died. If you’re feeling particularly competitive there is also an online leaderboard to try and top.
To the casual observer, Alien Spidy has all the makings of a classic physics based platformer, however once you actually get the controller in your hands you’ll quickly realise that it’s an absolute chore to play thanks to imprecise controls and a physics engine that simply doesn’t work the way it should.
Spidys main means of conveyance, as you’d expect, is by swinging on webs attached to various parts of the environment and using the momentum from each swing to propel himself forward. Which direction you fire a web is controlled with the right analogue stick, problem is that it only ever works half the time sending poor Spidy plummeting to the ground and, more often than not, his death through no fault of your own.
The physics engine also seems to be erratic at the best of times and almost broken at the worst. When Spidy’s not swinging from a web it feels like trying to steer a boat through custard as he floats to the ground. Things aren’t any better when you are attached to a web either as all of your momentum just vanishes for absolutely no reason, screwing up whatever kind of run you may have been attempting.
This would be annoying but not exactly the end of the world if the game didn’t bar your progress if you haven’t earned enough stars in order to unlock each of the three areas boss battles and with it the next set of stages. If you’re unlucky enough to not scrape through, tough luck, you just have to replay the game until you do. This unnecessary punishment made an already tiresome game all the more so. Considering I spent half my time fighting the controls making the grade was the last thing on my mind. Going back and replaying levels in order to progress just felt like a chore. And to be honest, if I wasn’t reviewing the game I don’t think I would have bothered.
It’s a crying shame because the games assets are top notch; the world and its characters are charming and the stages are well designed. If, and its a big if, the problems with the games back end could be fixed via a patch then Alien Spidy could be an incredibly fun and charming game, but in its present state I wouldn’t recommend buying it. For the sake of the great intro at least check out the demo. You never know I might just suck at it.