Game: Alien Spidy
Developer: Enigma Software
Platform: Xbox 360
Achievements: 5/25, 25/400 points
I can only imagine that there is a pile of dead alien spider bodies the size of Mt. Everest hiding offscreen in Alien Spidy, developed by Enigma Software. Let’s not sugarcoat it. There is lots and lots of death in Alien Spidy.
Alien Spidy is a 2D side-scrolling platformer that has refined and distilled the coin collecting essence of the Super Mario Bros and Sonic games into a fine, potent liquor. In Alien Spidy, you are a lovelorn alien that shockingly resembles an Earth spider (convergent evolution, anyone?). Your minuscule spaceship has crash landed on Earth and to be reunited with your alien spider love, you must collect energy orbs to repair and refuel your ship.
Your spider can crawl, jump, and shoot silky alien thread from its rear. The left stick is used to control the spider while the right stick is used to aim and shoot your sticky web. It took me a few minutes to get used to moving the spider and flick thread in the right direction, both because the spider moves with a nimbleness that makes avoiding the one touch death traps a challenge and because I lack coordination. Once you’ve gotten the general feel of moving this arachnid Romeo, you’ll start tackling the real levels.
The levels in Alien Spidy are short and if getting from the beginning to the end was the only goal, you could potentially finish each level within a minute or less. To put it simply though, each level is filled with death and widgets. You will encounter both with a high level of frequency. You are set with a challenge of collecting X widgets in a level. As you move across the level, you’ll gain bonuses for grabbing chains of widgets and you will lose points the longer you take to complete the level, for touching red point subtracters, and for dying. Complete a level quickly, without dying, and by grabbing all the widgets in a row and you’ll score massive points in order to score massive points with your alien lover! Sound easy?
Alien Spidy is unforgiving to the player in terms of precision. Death awaits at every single misstep. Did your spider slightly move left and touch a thorny patch? DEATH. Did your spider get grazed by a rolling ball of pins? DEATH. Did your spider walk underneath a bat and get eaten? Well, DEATH, obviously. The developers though, understand that they’re making you commit grisly spider murder over and over again. In fact, while the levels are unforgiving, the developers have included a “Respawn” button for the player. That’s right. Are you stuck? Just commit seppuku and restart at one of the many respawn points littered throughout the short levels. Because while the levels are short, you will be repeating sections multiple times because you’re a Hannibal Lecter to spiders or because you weren’t able to collect enough widgets to complete your challenge. It’s equally frustrating and rewarding.
To play this game well is to learn the unique rhythm of each level. Fans of bullet hell shmups will understand this immediately. As you play and die, each death teaches you a little more about the timing needed to survive and collect those widgets. Each spider corpse is a testament to the tiny piece of knowledge that you’ve gained and each small step you’ve taken to reunite with your spider love. Once you’ve played (and died) through a level enough you will be able to swing and fly through easily.
If you’re looking for an old school platformer that will reward you for your skill and patience, I would highly recommend Alien Spidy.
(Note: I’ve gone back and forth trying to figure out if it should be Spidy or Spidey. I will admit that I was tempted to knock the developers for misspelling the word, but I can’t find enough evidence either way. Enigma Software – you get a pass!)