A solid platformer that is anything but itsy-bitsy.

Spiders get a pretty bad rap when it comes to gaming. It often seems that every other sci-fi or fantasy game seems to unleash armies of spider (or spider-like) enemies in every shape, size, and palette swap. In many cases, the spiders are usually depicted as very low level obstacles or worse, as merely fodder for a high combo counter. I can tell you from experience, however, that not every game follows this pattern.  As a matter of fact, thanks to the developers at Tiger Style, I have been able to take part in an eye-opening journey starring the first spider that doesn’t make me reach for a battle axe or magic staff.

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This game is the sequel to Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor. Just like the first game, you are put into the role of a spider that accidentally (?) stumbles across an abandoned mansion. What starts as a minor curiosity amidst an otherwise ordinary spider day of stalking and eating gradually turns into a much larger set of mysteries. During the game, an opening map screen lists multiple locations around the Bryce estate to explore. Some rooms on the family grounds are in good repair, while other rooms are in shambles and give the appearance of a room that was recently deserted in a desperate rush to escape some awful fate. After I played a few levels, I can tell you that the drive to discover the clues scattered throughout the map becomes a bit addicting. My hard work was rewarded with the unlocking of several secret compartments and hints about the overall mystery of the manor.

During the exploration into the many rooms of the Manor and properties beyond, the spider is tasked with spinning webs, capturing prey, and landing some precision jumps in order to proceed across dangerous obstacles. Controlling the action is deceptively simple: press and hold a finger toward a direction or surface, and the spider will scurry to your fingertip as quickly as the layout allows. At any time, swiping the same finger in a direction will cause the spider to jump to a new surface such as the back of an armchair or kitchen counter. The spider has a powerful jump and scurries at a pretty fair rate of speed, both of which give the player a great level of control as the game progresses and the player gets used to merely tapping and swiping and not pressing some virtual directional pad for movement. To prepare a web, just tap on your spider and the little guy will crouch down unless he is tapped a second time which acts as a cancel to conserve silk.

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Proper use of silk plays a key role in mastering control of your arachnid avatar. With each crouched jump, the spider spins a strand of webbing that connects one surface to another, and with careful direction, groups of three or more strands can combine into a usable web. New players will likely rely on small, triangular webs that are set in the most confined places. This is effective at catching prey early on, but after exploring the manor a bit more, the player will quickly be faced with very wide open areas that defeat the use of a single triangle web and will instead need well-planned amounts of webbing positioned at various “anchor points” in order to build a stronger five- or six-sided web. Some of the larger insects in the game can only be caught with a strong web. The spider’s webbing is not unlimited and can usually only be replenished by chowing down on a recent catch. Be careful, though. If the spider runs out of web, it will have about ten second either find some food or meet its maker.

This game does a great job at gradually introducing new levels of difficulty. The first few levels of the game do have some tutorial popups, but this is usually the only hand-holding that will be seen. Just as soon as the player begins to feel confident with jumping and crawling, the available levels introduce insects that avoid webs and need precise timing to capture. Once this lesson is learned, the next few levels will introduce a top down perspective for the level, or perhaps will release aggressive silk-draining wasps. With this gentle curve toward new lessons, most of the mistakes made during the game feel like they are fault of the player’s inexperience and not any type of broken or cheap aspect of the game itself. Dying feels fair when it happens in the game, and that is an example of good design at work.

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Tiger Style has also delivered a game that is loaded with eye candy. This game has a graphic design resembling that of an oil painting. Deep, vibrant colors are intersected by thick outlines and prodigious use of parallax scrolling. The multiple two-dimensional layers are used to great effect as insects can sneak behind some objects and will bump into others. All of the spiders and insects in the game are animated smoothly and move with a manner like that of a paper doll as multiple “paper pieces” are rotated to give the illusion of a stepping leg or quivering fangs. Watching the spider’s strands fill in with strong webbing after creating an elaborate enough web is also an immensely satisfying visual effect.

The developers have taken steps to ensure there is plenty of replayability, too. With the player’s permission, Spider “looks out your window” using your phone or tablets location services and checks for rain or clear weather and also checks whether it is day or night. This gives most levels four types of varied insect types and placement patterns and also some neat accompanying visual effects. For the more competitive players, the game also supports a nice selection of leaderboards across iOS Game Center and popular social networks.

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This game is $4.99 at the time of this writing and I believe that it is easily worth double that amount. The game is great fun and I enjoyed finding a new surprise with each play session. The care and polish put forth by the developers are evident in every aspect of this game. Whether you are burned out on the Crossy Roads and Candy Crushes in the free-to-play market, or if you are interested in an entirely new take on puzzle platforming, get this game.

For more information, http://www.shroudedmoon.com.

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