Perhaps it shouldn't feel weird to see an arachnid web-slinging in the manner of Spider-Man, but then again I'm more used to them lurking on the ceiling, struggling to climb out of a bath, or skittering around in an upturned pint glass. Enigma Software's infuriatingly titled Alien Spidy - I keep wanting to insert an 'e' - aims to change our perspective of the eight-legged menace, from terrifying household invader to cutesy platform hero. I was recently given the chance to play a preview build of the game, so I could see how successful they've been.
First impressions aren't great. In recent years, platformers have moved away from ubiquitous shiny things, high-scores and power-ups, culminating in the purely skill-based approach of games like Super Meat Boy. One whiff of collectibles and I'm reminded of a hundred terrible 16-bit platform games that equate challenge with 'picking up all the floating stuff.' The floaty controls don't help matters either, particularly after the precision of Team Meat's iconic lump of beef.
Over the course of a few levels, and once the awkward tutorial stages had been done away with, however, I began to appreciate what Spidy had to offer. The web-slinging mechanic is implemented brilliantly, thanks to the fluid animation and physics engine, and a generous number of webbable background objects. Successful swinging is a matter of some skill, and even though I found it hard to care about how many blue things I'd grabbed along the way, reaching the end of each stage remained a satisfying prospect.
Whether it will reach the heights and sweary lows of VVVVVV or Super Meat Boy remains to be seen - my gut says no - but there's certainly room for an old-fashioned, only moderately devious platformer in the current landscape. Of course, whether people want one is another matter entirely. The genre seems to have diverged into 'whimsically charming' and 'so hard it makes grown men cry' camps of late, and Alien Spidy is caught somewhere in the middle. At least we don't have long to wait to find out - the game's expected to scuttle onto online stores, including Steam, this autumn. In the meantime, point your eyes at the latest trailer.