Spiders are generally associated with horror, with creepy crawlies, and things that go bump in the night. Tiger Style Studio has not been constrained by the reputation of the spider, and has used the silk-slinging arachnid to craft a beautiful, addictive game in Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon. Spider puts you in the role of an eight legged explorer on the Blackbird Estate, where you crawl and jump across the expansive manor grounds, chow down on a host of different insects, and uncover the secrets of the estate.
Spider is a beautiful game which is intuitive, easy to play, and hard to put down. While simple on the surface, Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon has a great deal of depth which creates a gorgeous, atmospheric game with great replay value. The mechanics are simple: press X to jump and O to use spider silk; connecting three or more pieces of spider silk creates a web which can capture insects for your dining delight. Your silk supply acts rather like Mario’s lives: Run out and you have only a few seconds to replenish your energy by eating an insect, or else it’s game over, so critical thinking and strategic use of your silk is absolutely necessary.
Spinning webs is not the only way to run out of silk. Falling into water or scorching yourself on a candle flame will also diminish your silk supply. While you may be at the top of the food chain in this game, there are some insects which will fight back. Fire ants bite and wasps divebomb with a painful stinger, both of these attacks cause you to lose silk. Some insects cannot be captured in your webs, and they will damage your web each time the fly across it, eventually destroying it, causing you to use more of your valuable silk if you need to feed on other insects. Uncovering the method successfully devour each type of insect is one of the many challenges of the game, and each level rewards you with a high score for the most delicious insect eaten. It turns out, spiders deal with insects much the same way we do: waiting for house flies to land before swatting or jumping on them and swatting beetles out-of-the-way.
The graphics are beautiful, a combination of architectural drawings, a pin board display of the insects you have collected (read: eaten), and gorgeous, hand drawn graphics for each insect and level. It’s easy to get distracted by the colorful patterns on butterfly wings, and in backgrounds of some levels; I know my time scores suffered more than once because I simply wanted to look around and drink in the artwork. The Blackbird Estate was created by a secret society for reasons long forgotten by all, and these gorgeous grounds hold sinister and fascinating secrets, if you can locate enough clues to uncover them. Numerous mysteries lurk within the various parts of the manor, and fortunately, the game does a good job of informing you that you’ve located a clue. I say this is fortunate because clues could be anything, some are as simple as a child’s drawing or a scrap of music, and they could be very easy to miss if the game did not prominently highlight your discoveries.
The game has a unique feature which uses your IP address to reference your local weather and recreate it in the game, resulting in the game itself changing and adapting to match the world around you. While this feature is not especially exciting for those living in places with consistent weather patterns, like sunny Los Angeles, having accurate moon cycles, or even having a rainstorm roll in between levels, does just that much more to draw you into the world of the Blackbird Estate. The idea that you are wandering the former playground of a secret society, and are likely being watched, is further enforced by the loading screen message of “Looking out your window…” This message is haunting in more ways that one, because while gameplay within levels is smooth and seamless, levels do take a noticeable amount of time to load.
Weather and the time of day has an impact on which insects you will encounter in levels, with moths and fireflies coming out at night while brightly colored butterflies flutter about during the day. Once you have completed a level, you have the option to adjust the weather conditions for future playthroughs, allowing you to complete your bug collection as you hunt for hidden areas and missed clues.
Spider is easy to pick up and easy to keep playing, as it does not require you to achieve terribly difficult goals in order to advance. If you dislike a particular level, simply navigate your way through it and move on to one you enjoy more. While I can’t say I found myself obsessing about getting home to play, once the game was in my hands, I never wanted to put it down. Levels are challenging enough to keep you playing, but not so difficult as to result in nerd rage. I was able to figure out the trick to navigating a particular level or puzzle within a try or three, and was pleased by the variety of levels within the game. While most levels play from a side or platformer view, some levels are top-down, where the X button transforms from jump into dash, allowing you to sprint after fleeing ants. Slick surfaces, which your spider cannot crawl up, oily footprints which slow you down, puddles of water, gaps which must be jumped, gears which threaten to bodily crush you, and hidden passages keep each level unique, fresh, and challenging.
Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon has skillfully woven an enchanting web of beautiful graphics, intuitive controls, and addictive gameplay. While arachnophobes need not apply, those who are comfortable with taking on the form of an eight legged web-slinger are sure to be delighted with the depth, secrets and variety this physics puzzle game provides. An enjoyable play for the casual gamer, and a real treat for the high score hunter, Spider is slightly held back by load times, but is nothing short of an excellent addition to the Vita gaming library.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation Vita code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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