The story sees you as the titular spider, traversing through countless levels to find your girlfriend whose rocket has crash landed on another planet. I hope she’s worth it mate because this is going to be one heck of a long journey fraught with danger at absolutely every turn.
A few tutorial levels will introduce the basic mechanics. You move left and right and can jump. Collect the coins to rack up points and get to the end of the level. You’re awarded stars based on your score, and you’ll need to amass these to unlock later levels. Being a spider, you can also shoot a line of web that you use to attach to walls and this allows you to swing, build up some momentum and propel yourself forward through the level. Such a grappling mechanic is nothing new, whether you’ve been Link or Ratchet or my beloved Bionic Commando. However, it will take some practice to actually hit your target meaning you invariably fall to you death. No problem, you’ll respawn immediately at the most recent, frequent checkpoint, and try again.
And as the old saying goes, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. And again AND again. Scream obscenities at the TV and try again. Throw your controller against the wall and try again. Turn it off and come back to it another day, and try again. Alien Spidy is probably the most infuriating platformer I have ever played. This is a real shame as there is much to like and there is a good game in here somewhere. It’s just that the sheer volume of obstacles coupled with an overly precise control mechanism that doesn’t seem well implemented on a control pad makes the game far more frustrating that it should be.
There are almost two different gaming outlooks in one here. One is just having the necessary skills and patience required to get through the level. The sheer number of obstacles and steep difficulty spike will necessitate respawning countless times. Coupled with an awkward control scheme (for example, hit ‘A’ to jump, then whilst in the air flick the right analog stick at precisely the right time and angle to hit the wall or flower you’re targeting, whilst at the same trying to manoeuvre Spidy at the target with the left stick. The floaty jumping is a bit reminiscent of Sackboy in LBP. Too often however, progress comes from fluke rather than skill.
The other is for the OCD gamers amongst us, as you try to get through the level, whilst collecting all the blue orbs. These will often be arranged in an arc shape, and their points value increases as you swing through the arc on your web. Miss one and the point values reset. It’s not long before they introduce different coloured orbs that deduct large chunks of your score, and these are often arranged very close to the point giving spheres you are supposed to be collecting. So even if you do manage to latch your web onto the right surface, you’ll likely end up swinging through a bunch of stars that will deduct hundreds of points from your score.
The insane difficulty spike comes when you have to combine both speed and accuracy together in order to obtain another star for the level. Every second you stutter, stumble or stop to take a breath your score rolls back slightly, taunting you as it ticks down whilst you try and build it up towards your overall goal of another star. Speed up and you may die or have to restart which takes a major chunk out of your score. You may get to the end of the level and punch the air as you have wildly surpassed your previous best only not to come anywhere near close as your score dwindles down due to the previously mentioned penalties.
The non-completionists may think nothing of getting a one or two star score on your first run through but once you realise that in order to unlock the next world you have to obtain a set number of level stars on your current world it will force them back into replaying and dying on the same stage over and over again. The push for a four or five star level completion is often an exercise in futility as you soon discover that your best is simply not good enough the majority of the time. That being said, the satisfaction received when you manage to achieve an additional star on a stage it immense. However the victory is short lived as you then have to start the whole process again with an even tougher set of stages in a bright new world.
Overall, the levels are challenging and every now and then fun to play as long as you are not obsessive about the “perfect” run but the almost masochistic stage goals and harsh scoring system that you are forced into to progress from world to world kills the experience. However if you like to be severely punished in your gaming time then you could do far worse than trying this.
MLG Rating: 6/10 Platform: Xbox 360 / PC / Mac / PlayStation 3 / PlayStation Vita Release Date: 20/03/2013
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Alien Spidy for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of 7 days on a Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.