Hands-On Preview: Alien Spidy

Alien Spidy’s shaping up to be an ace in the hole for XBLA, PSN and even PC gamers. It stars the titular spider-looking thing as he swings with his webs from point to point, or jumps around to avoid enemies and obstacles, or combines all of those things while also throwing in some minor puzzle solving. Our PC demo provided us with three sets of stages to play through, with two dozen total stages being playable. They gave us a great idea of what to expect from the full game, and if you like challenging platformers that require precision to make any real progress, you’ll love this game. The tutorial stages do a wonderful job of teaching you the ropes (using a 360 pad) — A jumps, X quickly throws a web line out, while Y respawns from a checkpoint and the right stick is used for more precise web-throwing. The left stick and not the D-pad are used to move around, which I was initially surprised by, but won over with quickly when I saw how precise you needed to be with your overall movements and not just jumps. Mid-air positioning is a huge part of correctly using the web lines to latch onto things, and I can easily see the D-Pad making that harder than it needs to be.

After playing through those stages a few times to fully understand each mechanic, you can go through the main game and really appreciate all that they taught you because this is a genuinely challenging game that requires you to pay attention to get anywhere. You’ve got to make sure to not only jump at the right time, but make sure it’s from the right place or else the web shot won’t reach its intended target and you’ll go plummeting into water – something that will kill you until later when you earn power-ups to help you navigate through it. Then, you have to be sure to dismount from the web before an enemy gets you.  There are also times when you’ll have to quickly bounce around from point to point, or have to use precise swinging from one thing to another to progress. Even with only three sets of stages to play, it’s clear that this is a challenging game – one that makes merely getting to a checkpoint seem like an accomplishment at times. Anyone who loves trial and error-based platformers will be at home here.

Alien Spidy is a gorgeous game to play. If you’ve got a fairly decent laptop with an HDMI output, you’ll be amazed at the bright colors and really sharp graphic design as a whole. The black on bright color motif reminds me a bit of Outland and Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, while the character designs remind me of Patapon. They’re simple in a way, but still have some complexity to them. The backgrounds have a lot of character to them because of their design. There’s a slight haze to them that looks nice, and some of the color choices are bizarre, but strangely fit the game well. Things like purple fences in the forest stage seem crazy on paper, but when you see them in execution, it works, and makes as much sense as the more normally-colored pond levels. The cheery soundtrack adds to the enjoyment as well.

Even in an unfinished form, Alien Spidy is impressive. It’s got complex gameplay that offers up a challenge, but does ease you into things and has enough checkpoints throughout stages that frustration never becomes an issue. The graphics are outstanding for its genre, and the emphasis on bright or otherwise extreme color combinations works in the game’s favor since they’re so striking. There’s a high level of polish on the game already, and the full game should be a must for anyone who loves a good platformer when it launches in October.