Version Reviewed: 0.3.5
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Sometimes you stumble across a game that simply gets it. Perfectly balanced gameplay, a fun theme, no performance issues, and immense addictiveness...these are what we look for in an iPhone game. Happily, I've found another gem that meets that description. Arachnadoodle is a relatively unknown title that combines fly-catching with Peggle-like gameplay, and adds just enough creative tweaks to keep the game interesting. I don't know how this one has flown under the radar for so long, but it joins the list of "undiscovered" games that will have a permanent place on my iPod.
You play as Boris the spider, who needs your help to spin webs and catch flies. Pegs are scattered around the screen. Each time Boris leaps into the air, he leaves a strand of web attached to each peg he touches, stringing them together as he goes. You have to connect every peg to the web before unlocking the next level. Once you're out of jumps (or all pegs have been covered), a swarm of flies flies past. How many you catch is based on the strength of your web.
It takes a lot of strategy to pass a level, and even more to do so with a lot of points. Because you have a limited number of throws, each one counts, and you have to balance netting the maximum number of pins with landing in a strategically desirable spot—snagging ten new pins in a single bound is nice, but not if you end up in an impossible-to-escape corner. You also have to try and create the maximum amount of webbing before finishing the level, as more complex webs net you more points. High scores are tracked through OpenFeint, though local high scores are stored as well.
Some levels include other features that will alter your strategy, too. Bugs placed in the level can give you bonus points and throws, or they may explode when touched, depending on their type. Furniture is "sticky", like the floor, so you can cling to refrigerators and armchairs in your quest for flies. Golden pins will alter your trajectory, and "bumpers" will send Boris bouncing. On one particularly vexing level, I intentionally detonated the explosive bugs early on—otherwise, they tended to ruin my web on the last possible throw. You also earn bonuses for a variety of stunts.
Arachnadoodle's 32 levels don't actually take that long to complete, but the replay value doesn't lie in unlocking more rooms in which to spin your web. Instead, I found that I could replay almost any level and still have a good time. Beating your score is a difficult task indeed, and the gameplay is just so fun that it doesn't matter if you've played a particular level before. Plus, OpenFeint integration means that you can compete with the community as a whole.
As for Arachnadoodle's personality...well, it certainly has that in spades. Boris has adorably googly eyes, the art is bright and sparkly, and everything wobbles and looks like it was drawn in crayon. Even the audio is going for the "cute" vibe: Boris squeals "Yay!" when you do well, for example. Thankfully, the cuteness comes in just shy of nauseating and manages to be, well, cute instead.
I have to admit that Arachnadoodle surprised me with its addictiveness. Here we have a game that can be played over and over again, without generating a speck of boredom. It's fun and easy to pick up and play, and the total lack of a time limit combined with the gameplay in general make it the perfect time-waster. The only things I would ask for would be a "restart level" option in the menu and an update with new levels, as the current 32 aren't terribly long-lasting.
My final verdict? This is an awesome game, and anyone looking for a casual title should love it. Arachnadoodle is one of the App Store's lesser-known treasures.