The Xbox LIVE Arcade has evolved as a platform in the seven years since its launch. Where once we were offered high-definition ports of 80s and 90s classics we are now presented with production values far in excess of even the Xbox 360’s retail launch line-up. It’s an eye-opening state if affairs, and one which makes it difficult for unique experiences to get noticed in the same way as they might at retail stores.
Kalypso Media recently made waves in this space with the charmingly retro-inspired Dollar Dash; an enjoyable multiplayer affair that will sadly struggle to remain ate the forefront of gamers’ minds after just a few weeks of being buried in the alphabetical arrangement of the digital store front. Following that release is the publisher’s other great digital hope, Alien Spidy¸ which once again finds its closest peers in the annals of 90s gaming but makes a much greater effort to innovate within that template. Hopefully this will be enough to earn Kalypso Media’s latest the respect it so clearly deserves.
A platform videogame that thrives on momentum and confidence in your judgement, Alien Spidy tasks the player with travelling from the start of a level to the end whilst overcoming environmental hazards and avoiding enemies. On paper this sounds like a very traditional platform videogame experience, but in reality the design is one which truly uses modern hardware to create a silky smooth experience. Playing as an alien known as Spidy (who is, in fact, not a spider) the player has the ability to throw shirt bursts of web with a flick of the right analogue stick, attaching to supporting objects and creatures and allowing the player to swing and build momentum. But this is only one of the many mechanics Alien Spidy uses to keep the player moving at speed.
Enemies are rarely one of the most taxing challenges players will face, calling upon a jump or avoidance technique and little else, other than those which chase you and thus apply pressure on your acrobatics. The greater opponent is the ticking clock, reducing your score with every passing second. Every level features a number of score items to collect (as well as the occasional multiplier and big bonus) and players mist ensure that they gather as many of these as possible to pass certain target numbers, rewarding them with a higher end of level score. Each run will be graded out of five, and in order to get all of those Xbox LIVE Achievements you will need to max out the score on each level. Completing Alien Spidy once is enough of a challenge, reaching a top score on each level is thumb-numbingly difficult.
There are many videogame experiences similar to Alien Spidy on the market, with many available for a much lower price on smartphones and tablet platforms. However, very few promote the same high calibre design and engrossing variety that comes as standard in Alien Spidy. This is a videogame that wears it’s inspiration on it’s sleeve, plays with simple rules and evolves way beyond the sum of it’s parts. Alien Spidy doesn’t rewrite the rulebook, but it lovingly rearranges it into something fresh and exciting.