Version Reviewed: 1.0
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Spider: the Secret of Bryce Manor marks the first time in my reviewing career I have been completely shocked by an app's brilliance. Spider had zero hype, and yet choosing to review it off of a small hunch paid off in the biggest way possible - I have had the chance to experience one of the most beautiful, elegant, and original iPhone games to date.
In Spider, you play as, well, a spider. Your goal is to eat bugs, which keeps you alive. The main way to do this is to spin webs to ensnare unsuspecting bugs so that you can devour them. In order to spin a web, you must use individual lines of silk. You are given a set amount of silk at the beginning of each level, which can be replenished by eating insects. If you run out of silk without being able to find a bug to eat, you lose. To create a line of silk, you must anchor from one point and jump to a solid point for the finishing anchor. When a geometric shape is created from silk, a web will be generated. This is simple idea that is much more difficult in practice due to several things. First, finding anchor points can be difficult. Being a spider, you can naturally stick to any solid object, but the level design is brilliant, and since your silk only stretches so far, you'll have to creatively find anchor-points. To make things more difficult, some objects are shiny and cannot be used as anchor-points. The most basic of insects fly around in predictable patterns, but there are also hornets you have to tackle out of the air (they're too big to be caught in your webs), insects that will run away from you and your webs, and dragon flies you'll have to wound before trapping in your web. Spider brings a wholly unique gameplay to the iPhone that is equal parts strategy and action.
Spider contains four game modes- adventure mode, which is the main draw, feeding frenzy, hunger mode, and precision mode. The latter three are more like mini-games, as they only last for quick sessions. Feeding frenzy is a high score, eat as much as you can affair, while hunger forces you to eat continuously or else die, and precision limits your silk and reach, so you have to plan your webs carefully. These modes offer nice pick-up-and-play appeal, but where the game really earns its money is in adventure mode. In the adventure, you move through 28 different rooms (levels) of the Bryce Manor. The primary goal is the same: eat enough bugs to open the portal to the next room, but the whole package is a deep, multi-layered affair with a great mystery that is presented subtly. While you crawl through the house, you'll notice very subtle, but never impossible clues as to what went on at Bryce Manor. The clues can be as simple as a picture or a locket - this game definitely doesn't beat you over the head. Adding to the layers of the game are secret areas of rooms, and then, of course, the grand prize of them all: the secret room. Achieving access to the secret room is very difficult, and, like me, you'll likely have to play through multiple times to do so. On some levels, there are clever interactive components that if triggered correctly, can give you access to the secret room after the last level. The secret room is a brilliant puzzle on a huge scale. If I had one complaint about Spider, it would be the slight brevity of the game - 28 levels does not seem like a lot when you're whizzing through them. There is replay value in addition to the secret room, though: there are 24 achievements, online scoreboards, Facebook connectivity, and after each level, you are given an overview of your performance. In regards to this though, I wish you could go back and play a specific level of your choosing without having to play through the game again in case you want to beat a particular high score.
The controls for Spider are extremely well implemented and perfectly responsive - Tiger Style takes good advantage of the iPhone's touch screen. Holding an area of the screen causes the spider to walk in that direction, swiping the spider causes it to jump in that direction, and tapping the spider activates its silk. All inputs are very responsive, quick, and fluid - absolutely no complaints here.
The same painstaking effort that went into the broad game design clearly made it into the graphics as well. The levels, while not overly sophisticated graphically, are beautifully hand-drawn, and there is not a frame-rate drop in sight. The poignant music is equally impressive, and it is a great complement to the wonderfully mysterious story.
For only $2.99, you can get one of the most original and fun iPhone games to date. With a gameplay and story as intricate as a spider's web, Spider: the Secret of Bryce Manor is one game you likely won't forget.