E3 2012: Alien Spidy (Hands-on)

by: Travis -
Platformers have seen a recent resurgence with titles that continually dare to challenge gamers with new and fascinating gameplay concepts from assuming a character made of meat with Super Meat Boy to completely black and white visuals with Limbo. One of those platformers in particular that caught me by surprise at E3 was the charming Alien Spidy from developer Enigma Software Productions and Kalypso Media. Described as a physics-based platformer, Alien Spidy has gamers controlling the alien hero Spidy in his adventures after crash landing on Earth.

Spidy will embark on a quest over the span of 69 levels that take place in three environments of caves, forests, and ponds. His primary method of movement involves launching a string of web that can be either shortened or extended depending on the situation. The web can be used to swing Spidy from different spots within levels. As Spidy doesn't contain any sort of attack abilities, the primary method of progression in the game depends on the use of web and eight power-ups that range from jet packs to an underwater shield. One of Spidy's side effects as an alien on Earth is his deadly relationship with water; spans of water and even droplets will instantly kill him upon contact.

During my playthrough, I experienced a well-polished movement system with the web ability and added assistance with checkpoints within the game's levels. Scores acquired on levels will determine a set number of stars that function as unlocking additional levels, such as special areas and the end boss battles for each section. The number of points and stars acquired will factor with the number of respawns, level completion time, and the overall movement pace for online leaderboard scores. Thought not nearly as difficult as Super Meat Boy, Alien Spidy increases in difficulty as gamers progress through the three sections. The gameplay is easy to pick-up-and-play, but takes time and patience to truly master.

Much of my initial interest in Alien Spidy occurred after seeing the game's unique visuals that incorporate both 2D and 3D elements. Since Spidy is the size of an actual spider in the environments, objects in the level backgrounds appear gigantic compared to the small hero. An aspect I found most surprising was the will to continually retry areas even after repeat deaths. Movement through levels relied heavily on the precision of swings and timing through obstacles of water droplets or hovering mosquitos. Differing methods of traversal through levels were also showcased from swinging between plant stems to hanging vines over water. I constantly had to adapt to the situation to ensure that Spidy reached the next checkpoint. In addition, I caught a quick glimpse of a boss level that had Spidy utilizing a power-up ability in which a shield was placed around him for water protection. A balance between avoiding an ever-approaching fish and requirement to collect power-up replenishes provided a unique challenge.

Some aspects associated with the web's uncertainty of what it can attach on and hit detection still need minor tweaking before the game launches. Another aspect that was not clear with the E3 demo was the inclusion of only three environments within the game's levels, which might become repeitive if the gameplay doesn't continually evolve throughout the experience. Other than those few issues, the game was addicting to play through and a delight to take in its sights and sounds. Alien Spidy is scheduled to be released this summer for Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, Windows PC, and Mac.

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