When I usually think of spiders the first thing that comes to mind is a small, creepy, hairy, multi-eyed creature that spins webs. But those terms don’t adequately describe “Alien Spidy” so well. Sure he’s small, but more of a spider-like alien creature on a quest to find his friend who crashed on Earth. So he sets out in his spacecraft, but soon finds himself crashing onto the planet too. Now he must travel dangerous terrain in search for his friend, and pieces of his crashed ship to get home safely.
Alien Spidy’s gameplay is best described as a “runner” style platformer where your goal is to achieve the highest score possible by gathering orbs in the level. The higher chain of orbs you collect in the least amount of time, the bigger the bonuses. There are even orbs that will drop your score so you need to avoid them at all costs. To add even more pressure, you need to complete the levels as quickly possible because instead of a timer, your score drops steadily as you play. There are other power-up orbs to help you too which grant you powers such as super jump, super speed, and a shield against water to name a few. These powers are not permanent and will only last as long as you have energy in your power bar at the top on the screen. You fill this bar with certain colored orbs normally found close to the power-up orbs.
In each area you will be jumping, sliding and shooting webs to get yourself around hazards and other creatures that get in your way. Shooting webs is done with the right analogue stick, by pressing in the direction you want. This can be a little tricky at times, as he doesn’t always seem to shoot in just the way you want. Plus the web you shoot only reaches a certain distance, so you need to time your jumps correctly for it to connect with what you want.
The rest of the controls are best described as floaty at best, and is kind of sketchy at times. I had issues with my character not jumping when I wanted. At first I thought it was my gamepad, but after switching to another I was met with the same result. It almost seemed like I was experiencing lag within the game from time to time. Slight bumps in the terrain seem to cause Spidy to lose touch with the ground briefly, so the jump never happened. Fighting with controls did not help with just how tough this game is. It is ‘scream-at-the-TV’ levels of tough, to the point of almost wanting to throw the controller. Even with the frustration I kept playing, as the game has an addictive quality and you will want to complete your adventure, striving to avoid everything in the game that might kill you.
Death will come swiftly and often. Everything seems to be deadly to our poor spider hero. There are plenty of checkpoints, so there are no worries about being sent back to far when you die. You even have a respawn button that will send you back to your last checkpoint if you know you’re not going to make a jump in mid-air to save some time. However, each death subtracts points from your final score, so to get higher scores you need to nail every jump and swing.
At the end of the level when your score is finally tallied up you will receive stars based on your score. You need to collect a certain number of stars in each area to progress to the end boss and the next area of levels. You can earn a maximum of five stars per level, but the scores needed to achieve that almost seem impossible. However, three stars is a reasonable challenge. Another small gripe I have is that the load times between each level (or even restarting the same level) seems to be longer than need-be, and happens a lot.
During your journey you will be greeted with lush and well animated levels with something always going on in the background. I did find at times when I was not sure exactly where to go, I ended up dying because of the background and the foreground blending into each other, and some objects that you can attach a web to are not always too apparent. The darker levels have this problem in particular. The actual Alien Spidy character is very cute and well animated. He has a lot of emotions and displays them well. I just wish that his end-of-level animations were a bit shorter and/or skippable, so I could continue on and not break the flow of gameplay.
As you adventure through the game you’re greeted with bouncy tunes and cute sound effects that go along nicely with the gameplay but they didn’t really stand out to me. At least it’s not annoying, because you will be hearing it a lot as you die over and over again from routes that seem almost impossible.
In a game such as Alien Spidy for the Xbox Live Arcade the way the game controls is critical and unfortunately the game fails to deliver in this department. Tight controls are a must for such a platformer and from my perspective the controls in Alien Spidy are not as tight as they should be. Sure there are some addictive elements and I did enjoy the games vibrant visuals; however, I just expected a much more refined experience. Sadly this Spidy had a few too many frustrating elements for my liking.