Spider: The Mystery of Bryce Manor (iPod)

Spider: The Mystery of Bryce Manor was really my introduction to an iPod Touch game that had substantial production values and a price tag where the decimal point was somewhere besides the far left. It’s fantastic, really.

The concept can be summed up as “You play a spider and you climb around an old manor spinning webs and catching bugs.” Sounds simple –and it is– but the appeal of the game is twofold. First, the controls feel really great and to me play to the iPhone’s strengths in a magnificent way. Just hold down on the screen and the spider will crawl towards your finger. If you want him to jump, just swipe your finger across the screen. Want to spin a web? Tap on Mr. Spider to make him pinch out a bit of silk, then jump. He’ll leap across the screen, leaving a line of silk behind him that sticks to whatever surface he lands upon. Repeat to make a simple geometric shape and you’ve got a web that you can crawl around on and use to capture bugs. As you progress through the game these critters get more cagey and luring them into your web or otherwise capturing them gets trickier, but you have to catch a minimum number of bugs before moving on to the next room in the manor.

The second thing I really liked about Spider is the overall presentation. The backgrounds of Bryce Manor have a very hand painted look about them, almost like watercolors or ink wash. It’s nice to look at and very well done. The Spider’s movements and bug animations also look great despite their simplicity. Perhaps most interestingly, while the game is presented mostly with a spider’s sensibilities (i.e., everything is big and the backgrounds are slightly out of focus with a narrow depth of field), the attentive human player will begin to notice details present in each level that suggest a story about the family who used to live in this run down mansion and what their fates were. It’s not essential to find all the secret areas and piece together the clues, but it’s a cool, low key narrative that’s a nice added bonus.

So, great game and perfect for the iPhone/iPod Touch.

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