March 18th, 2013
The colon in Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor is significant. The purpose of a colon is to separate “two clauses of which the second expands or illustrates the first”*. In this case, “Spider” is the gameplay, being a spider catching insects in your web and “The Secret of Bryce Manor” is the narrative, the spider’s exploration of the manor, which occurs through the gameplay. The colon then can be considered as a representation of the harmony between the two elements.
As said, you play the role of a spider who creates webs to catch insects. This is done by touching the spider to plant silk onto a surface and swiping to send the spider leaping to another surface, where the thread connects, making a line. When several lines make an enclosed space, a cobweb is formed. Cobwebs catch any insects that pass by. By touching the screen, the spider will walk to the touched location, either along the cobweb or along the edge of the environment. The spider eats any of the insects caught in its web when it touches them. The player progresses to the next part of the manor after they’ve cleared all the insects in a level.
The core game loop involves:
1 – Exploring the area and identifying the movement patterns of the insects (observation, knowledge).
2 – Determining where the paths of the insects intersect (deductive reasoning, knowledge) so that the player can catch as many insects as possible in the one web.
3 – Determining how to make the web (spatial reasoning, knowledge). Doing it well requires the player consider how they can cover the most area with as few strands as possible.
4 – Making the web (finger sensitivity and direction, dexterity).
- Catching several insects in the one web increases the score multiplier. Hidden areas contain caches of insects and nuggets of narrative insight. The player gets a higher score by using less silk. These three aspects give the player the opportunity to scale the difficulty in a variety of ways.
- The insect counter shown after completing a level informs the player of whether or not they accessed the secret area(s). This acts as a sly prompt for the player to scale the difficulty.
- Each level has a silk limit which encourages considered play.
- The wasps, dragonflies, and butterflies really mixup the standard gameplay loop by forcing the player to line up jumps and consider light sources.
- Variation is achieved by: adding new insects and mixing up the combinations (some of which make for highly engaging spatial reasoning), adding and combining different types of surfaces, decreasing the number of available surfaces, mixing up the arrangement of surfaces (modifying the available space), and spreading the surfaces further apart so that the player has to consider the length of the silk (nuance). If the silk is too long, the spider can’t form a strand.
- The flicking motion that makes the spider jump feels fantastic. The faster the flick, the faster the jump.
- If the player knocks a bee hive and fails to catch one of the bees that fly out, they’ll have to reset the level if they want to get a 100% completion rate. The hard punishment of the player losing progress adds a tension to the game.
I don’t have many complaints for this game, it’s a pretty smooth experience, but one thing that really bugs me is the positioning of wasps in some of the levels with no ceiling. In one of the levels set on a clothes line, the spider must jump up to attack a wasp which is off-screen. This, however, is tremendously tricky as the only available surfaces are to the sides of the level and they aren’t very high. Furthermore, when the spider jumps up underneath a wasp, it will float upwards. This can all amount to frustration as you slowly drive the wasp out of your reach and must restart the level.
*According to the New Oxford American Dictionary.