A sticky situation…
Platform games used to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. There was a time a few years back when all of the best games were platform oriented, from the legendary Super Mario Bros. to the less linear yet more complex Metroid. However, recently we have seen fewer and fewer games of this genre, due in part to a lack of gamer receptivity. In a 3D driven market, who has time for “side-scrollin’ excitement?”
A few games have recently risen above the confines of the genre and have done
well, for example Cold Shadow and
the popular Earthworm Jim series. And aside
from a few platform-esque titles (see Crash Bandicoot),
the Playstation has offered relatively few side scrollers.
With Spider, one would hope to see some exciting new elements to the most played out gaming style imaginable. While Spider indeed offers some interesting twists, this game ends up becoming just another platformer.
Here’s the scoop: You are Dr. Michael Kelly, a scientist who has discovered the means to cybernetically enhance insects. You work for “Nanotechnology,” a research facility specializing in (you guessed it) cybernetics. A competing firm called “MicroTech” is especially curious about your research, and indeed will go to any length to learn your secrets. This includes bashing down your front door, spraying your office with a few rounds, and then hoisting your dead body and secret plans away for further study. Little did they realize, however, that something had gone terribly wrong. Your consciousness was somehow implanted into the body of a cybernetically enhanced spider. That’s right – You’re an arachnid with a mission!!
The game is pretty basic. You must jump, blast, crawl, and swing your spider-self through about 30 bizarre levels, ranging from the Lab Floor to the Food Carton. As an insect, you are quite small, perhaps no larger than even an insect (or a spider for that matter). This makes for some interesting backgrounds, such as a computer keyboard, a drainage tube, and even (I swear) the kitchen sink.
The graphics are good, though nothing spectacular. There are some nice FMV sequences spread throughout the game to flesh out the storyline, as well as a good looking intro sequence. While the game claims to have “3D levels,” I found this to be a bit false. The backgrounds produce a 3D effect, particularly when you turn corners. However, the action is purely two dimensional. You can move left, right, up, and down, but you can’t actually interact with the backgrounds or move along the z-axis as in Bug Too. This is purely a side scroller, folks.
Like most side scrollers, you have an energy meter which diminishes when you get hit. Unfortunately, you only get two health points, and there is no way in the game to get more than two. Additional lives, however, are abundant. Levels replenish their goodie supply when you exit or die. You can move freely between all the levels replaying them to your heart’s content, meaning you can continually scour the same level over and over again for goodies. When you die, you lose all weapons, which can be a huge pain in the thorax.
That’s not to say that Spider offers nothing new. In fact, there are some cool things going on in this game. For one, the standard “power-up” weapons are different cybernetic limb attachments. As a spider, you have several limbs, four of which can be modified. This includes two front legs and two rear legs, giving you the potential for one deadly little beast. Some of the weapons include a flame thrower, mines, and a boomerang.
Another nifty addition is the ability to climb walls. You’re a spider – you should be able to climb all over sheer surfaces, and indeed you can. Often power-ups are located underneath platforms, only to be found by the gravity defying arachnid. You can also descend on a strand of web and swing about a bit to get into those hard-to-reach corners.
The enemies look good. Most of them are other nasties; slugs, wasps, other spiders, etc. The bosses in particular look really cool. I implore anyone renting or buying this game to play until you reach the ‘Museum’ boss (looks like something out of Beetlejuice). The music and sound are good as well, creating a spooky, surreal universe.
At it’s core, however, Spider is a simple platform game, and one that should have been released about two or three years ago. There is just not much interest in these games anymore, with a few notable exceptions. I would love to see this genre make a comeback, but that would require some really strong and innovative game design. While Spider offers solid gameplay and a neat idea, it just doesn’t break through the mire of a dead genre.