Alien Spidy review (XBLA)
Alien Spidy was developed by Enigma Software Productions and published by Kalypso Media. It was released March 20, 2013 for 800 MSP. A copy was provided for review purposes.
In the interest of full disclosure, we were unable to complete Alien Spidy for this review. Finishing a game before it’s reviewed is the ideal, but as you read you’ll understand the issues encountered that led to these circumstances.
Enigma Software Productions may not be a familiar name to most gamers, especially on the Xbox Marketplace. Their previous titles include History Channel: Legends of War – Patton, War Leaders: Clash of Nations and several other RTS and action games. Coming from a lineage of titles like that, it’s surprising to see a game like Alien Spidy come from the same studio. With its cute animation style and what looks to be fun, laid-back platformer gameplay, the game is a real step into uncertain territory — which is something we’d normally encourage. However, looks can be deceiving, and even though it’s nice to see a developer step out of their comfort zone, there’s something to be said for sticking to your strengths. In this case, Alien Spidy is a game that would have been better left unspun.
Alien Spidy puts players in the role of an alien spider named, you guessed it, Spidy. As the game opens, Spidy’s friend Virgi sets out on an exploratory mission to the planet Earth; however, Spidy quickly becomes concerned when he loses contact with her. Being the adventurous sort, Spidy decides to set out for Earth to save his friend. As he approaches the planet, his ship runs in to some technical difficulties. Crash landing on Earth, pieces of the ship are scattered across 70 levels in three unique areas. It is here players set out to find the missing parts of Spidy’s ship and save Virigi.
Here’s what we liked:
Easy on the eyes – The art style of a game goes a long way when attracting players, and Alien Spidy has plenty of it. Reminiscent of Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, the art and animation in this game manages to create a threatening but visually engaging world for players to navigate while avoiding toxic mushrooms, thorns and insects that often seem more alien than our little alien hero. Speaking of Spidy, it can be challenging to make players feel invested in a spider—seeing as most people do all they can to keep them away—, but he is brought to life through fluid running, jumping, and swinging animations. Mix that with his easy-to-read facial expressions that relate his joy over getting a high score or his sadness over failing to improve, (which, if you have an experience similar to mine, will often be the case) and you have one lovable spider.
Here’s what we didn’t like:
Tough controls – This game that requires split-second maneuvering to achieve the highest score possible, so it’s a shame that Alien Spidy offers such floaty, unresponsive controls mixed with strange character physics and a web-shooting mechanic that’s hard to direct. Don’t be surprised to find yourself repeating sections of a level multiple times because you died while attempting to simply jump. Often times, jumps are cancelled out because Spidy hits an odd bump in the terrain, almost always sending him to his death. Other times, jumping or one of the varied super abilities collected inside a level seem to be delayed or simply don’t trigger. The almost weightless nature of Spidy makes it exceedingly difficult to direct him on a course to collect points orbs or avoid certain doom. Even after you play through the same level for the thirtieth time (a modest amount for this game), you’ll likely still be battling the controls and suffering because of it.
Web slingin’- A defining characteristic of a spider is its web; Spidy is no different. At any point, players can use the right stick to direct a line of webbing that will attach to certain surfaces and let him swing back and forth. Unfortunately, there is no indication on screen showing the estimated trajectory of your webbing, so more often than not, you’ll find yourself missing the intended target, which naturally hurts your final score.
Punishing – The game is actively antagonistic towards players with its punitive scoring system. For every second that ticks by while playing a level, 100 points are subtracted from the score. This means you’re losing from the moment you start playing. To build a high score players can chain together five or ten points orbs while avoiding other orbs that deduct points. But this must be done with quickly. If you can’t, you might as well start over because time deduction alone is enough to negate progress. To make matters worse you loose 2,500 points every time you die, which is often.
Difficult to advance – The best part of a really difficult game is the feeling of accomplishment when overcoming a challenge. This feeling drives players into facing the next challenge head on, except in the case of Alien Spidy. Usually upon passing a stage frustration trumps any sense of accomplishment. Unfortunately you’ll have to keep replaying the same levels if you hope to progress. Each of the 70 levels has five stars to offer with a default challenge of reaching a two star rank, and the three areas require a minimum number of stars to proceed to the boss fight. This is where the game becomes more work than fun. For example, the first area’s boss requires 40 stars from the 16 levels. However, even if you get two stars in each level, you’ll be eight stars short of facing the boss and moving on. Unfortunately, the unforgiving scoring and reliance on exceeding a level’s default challenge means most players will never see all of the game.
While Alien Spidy has all the visual trappings of a cute, accessible platformer, it’s anything but. The inaccurate—occasionally unresponsive—controls do a great disservice to the game, especially because these types of platformers live and die by their responsiveness. Add a scoring system that seems to actively want the player to fail, and the game quickly becomes ‘how fast can you turn off the Xbox’ rather than ‘how much can you improve this playthrough.’ Alien Spidy seems to strive towards being equals with great XBLA titles like Super Meat Boy and BIT.TRIP RUNNER 2, but manages to fail at eight-legged every step.
Score: Skip It