Digital download services are the perfect avenue for genres that don't perform well on retail store shelves. Point-and-click adventure titles, side-scrolling shooters and tower defense titles have been quite successful on PSN, XBLA and Steam. Classic side-scrolling platformers have also called this space home, and a majority focus on more reflex-oriented or cerebral experiences. Alien Spidy, a new game from Kalypso Games and Enigma Software, will join the digital space this fall, offering an experience that hearkens back to 16-bit-era platformers.
Alien Spidy follows some traditional platforming conventions but also ditches a few of them. On one hand, the game follows the typical left-to-right pattern, and your main goal is to reach the end of the level in one piece. You have a range of collectables to pick up, and you must avoid enemies and spiked traps. On the other hand, you have no means of attacking enemies. One touch is all it takes to kill you, and while you have infinite lives, your best tactic is to avoid contact as much as possible. In a way, it works similarly to Super Meat Boy with its base mechanics minus the high level of frustration associated with the title. That reduction in frustration can be attributed to the checkpoint system being very generous and the levels not requiring perfect platforming.
With combat out of the way, the focus turns to item collection and speed runs through the level, both of which are essential to getting score-based stars. With the stars, you unlock new environments for a total of 70 stages in three environments. Aside from the running and jumping elements, you can fire off webs to help you swing across surfaces. There is also a bunch of power-ups on the field, ranging from shields to speed boosts to protection from water. Interestingly, the amount of time afforded to an ability is tied to the number of power bubbles picked up, so missing any of these severely affects the duration of your power-up. Another interesting element are red bubbles, which remove points from your score; this makes some jumps even trickier because they require precision if you want to get through unharmed.
Graphically, Alien Spidy has a style that's similar to Patapon. The three environments feature lots of dark colors that are contrasted with the brighter colors that are used for power-ups, webs and your character's eyes. The style looks picturesque, especially with the abundant use of colorful particle effects.
Alien Spidy feels like a comfortable platformer. The focus on speed and points over combat is certainly a throwback to classic platforming sensibilities, and while the game looks like it'll be easy enough for anyone to get through, it features enough secrets to entice veteran platforming fans. Keep your eye on this title as it approaches its September 2012 release date.
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