Along Came the Amazing Spider Can!

Review of Along Came A Spider on XBLIG: Buy
A simple puzzle platformer, Along Came a Spider spins silk, climbs webs, and scares a few humans.  Simple game play combined with well designed, challenging levels makes for a fun time.

I starting up the game and immediately noticed the soundtrack.  An industrial techno with classic 1940’s Dizzy Gillespie style vocals mix – any fan of Verve Remix feels instantly at home.  I am such a fan, and found the simple hand drawn line style graphics fit well with the music choice.

Checking out menu options, I was impressed with one more feature: support for French and Spanish.  Releasing a game with multiple languages as an Xbox Indie developer can add significant time to the review process.  It’s good to see some developers mind the extra time in review.

On level one I was greeted with an in-game style tutorial, letting me learn the controls as I needed them.  My little spider could jump and crawl along a wall or even a ceiling.  I’m using “wall” and “ceiling” in the abstract sense; everything was really just a line.  Jumping and crawling, my spider reminded me of a wacky wall walker, with added creepy eyes.

As the game went on I encountered different wall types.  There were slick walls I couldn’t crawl on, and red hot electric walls I couldn’t touch.  Some walls moved back and forth, some up and down, and other were shaped like stars that hypnotically spun to the beat.  My goal was to work along these walls hunting for flies.

In each level there were three flies to catch.  Some flies stayed in one spot while other flies would run from my spider and require more thought in the capture.  The flies weren’t always on the main path and required my spider to explore a bit on each level.  Levels can be replayed, and the completionist in me demanded no fly get left behind.

Every five levels was a boss fight.  I found these to be much easier than the regular levels, but this was not a bad thing.  The boss levels were a welcome break from the sometimes frustrating challenges on normal levels.  The fights all had the same design – a human hand or foot was out to squish my spider and I had to scare off the pesky human by crawling to a bite point.  After getting to the bite point, marked by a bold line, the human would scream and shake my spider off.  Once this was done three times in a row without getting squished, the boss was defeated and my spider learned a new ability.

All of the new abilities were useful and fit well into the follow set of levels.  At first I could create a single thread of silk to swing from and later I was able to anchor it to another wall.  As my spider became more advanced he could bounce from his silk thread and even to catch flies in his own web (they grow up so fast!).

I didn’t find any of the 20 levels amazingly frustrating, though a few were tests in patience.   Puzzle platformers can sometimes trigger a rage quit, but Along Came a Spider doesn’t punish the player for trying things out.  There were multiple checkpoints in each level, and at each check point I was given 8 lives (each life is represented by a leg on the spider – when he dies he looses a leg).  Playing though the game for review took me 5 hours, though I confess I had sore thumb from button mashing at the end.

Controlling the spider feels right.  The game has a loose physics systems, so a few times I missed a jump I had made before from the same spot, but this never happened enough it detracted from the game.  I did feel the game cheated me by killing my spider if he got to close to the bottom of the screen – didn’t the game know I was attached to my silk thread?

I found Along Came a Spider to be a charming little game, and give it a Buy rating.  The few quirks are minor and in total this is a very well polished experience.  The levels are creative and each one unique.  I found myself thinking like a spider to solve a few.  This is the only game released by developer Foley, and hopefully won’t be the last!

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