Review: Along Came A Spider

At first glance, 2D puzzle platformer Along Came A Spider might look a little bland as all of its 20 levels are made up of simple, mostly white lines representing spider's silk. The main character consists of a black circle with white eyes surrounded by dangling, fuzzy legs, only remotely resembling a real spider. But as soon as you start playing, this rather basic presentation will draw you in nevertheless. Complemented by a superb, electronic ambient soundtrack, the constantly swaying gameworld is almost hypnotizing, focusing the player on the obstacles ahead while he is figuring out how to overcome them.

You will start your adventure with basic abilities like jumping and wallclimbing, encountering standard platformer elements such as moving and rotating platforms, death traps in the form of red lines which kill your spider when touched, and black lines that can't be climbed. Your goal is to reach a small cobweb at the end of the levels and to catch three flies in each of them. Most flies are easy to catch, but in later levels they are sometimes placed seemingly just out of reach or will try to avoid you at any cost, so that you will have to make use of all your skills to hunt them down.

In the course of the adventure, the spider will learn new abilities by beating bosses. Who would be better suited as a spider's greatest foe than arachnophobic humans trying to capture the eight-legged fellow with a glass or trying to brutally burn him with a magnifying lense? A boss will for example consist of a huge hand made up of white, climbable lines, trying to hit you with an object made up of red, deadly lines. Figuring out how to reach a bosses weak spot and then hitting it three times is the key to beat a boss and earn a new ability.

A skill earned early on enables you to attach silk threads to ledges or spots that are marked by a small, glowing light. Jumping from ledges with a thread attached makes it possible to use the momentum to fling your spider back up into the air to reach higher places. You can also start swinging back and forth when hanging from a thread, release it at the right moment and stick it to another spot nearby to cross larger gaps. Later levels require lots of swinging between platforms, which is great fun. This gameplay mechanic is what sets this game apart from other platformers. Certainly, there are games with similar features such as grappling hooks and the like, but the controls in Along Came A Spider have a very unique feel to them and make traversing the wobbly gameworld a joy in itself. Unfortunately, some levels are not so well-thought-out, having platforms close to the bottom of the screen, resulting in cheap deaths should your spider hang from a thread and get off-screen at the bottom, although it should die only if it actually falls out of the screen. But this occasional, faulty level design is just a minor annoyance and won't keep you from enjoying the game.

Except for a few, more demanding levels at the end, the game isn't too hard and really shouldn't cause any frustration if you've played some platformers before. There are many checkpoints in the levels and upon reaching one, your life count (represented by your spider's legs) is restored to the initial eight lives. There's a nice sense of progression as beating bosses every five levels will give you new abilities, adding new mechanics and keeping the gameplay interesting throughout the game. Figuring out new skills is fun in itself, and once you're able to attach a silk thread between two spots, you even have the tools to become creative yourself. You can use your silk to construct trampolines or to build a trap for all too evasive flies, that will stick to your thread should you manage to shoo them into your web.

Along Came A Spider is a perfect example of what indie games should be about, offering a very unique experience in an otherwise familiar genre. Outstanding gameplay mechanics, simple yet impressive visuals and great music make this title essential for your collection if you have any love for indie games or platformers in particular. The asking price of 80 MSP is smaller than the insects you're catching in this game, and hunting all of them down will probably occupy you longer than a mayfly may live.

Overcome your arachnophobia and get the game here!

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