Spidersaurs, they scuttle and roar

WayForward's run n' gunner escapes Apple Arcade

Love me spiders, love me saurs. Simple as. Look, I've been meaning to write about this one for a while. And I haven't, and I'm sorry. You didn't know and weren't asking, but I'm sorry anyway. As long as I've got something to be sorry for, I can continue to pitch myself as low-status and therefore avoid many of the slings and arrows that I frankly deserve. So I played Spidersaurs, which is a game that came out on Apple Arcade in 2019, which I saw was on Apple Arcade, went "oh", and didn't play. I have nothing against mobile games, Nauties, not really. There's just a certain type of game I'd like to play on my phone, or tablet, or whatever, and it isn't a run n' gun. I figured it would be a pretty heavily compromised experience given the host platform. Knowing that you can synchronise a gamepad and play with that didn't give me much pause. I said to myself that it was a shame Spidersaurs isn't on Switch, and moved on.

And now it is on Switch, and it's clear that this is essentially Contra 4 in all but name, setting and characters. For the love of Contra, everything oozes with... erm... love of Contra. The way you move, the way you aim and fire, the weapon pods that fly past, the fact you can lock into place, level up weapons, et cetera, et cetera. It's... it's just a Contra game, okay? You can even climb walls, and utilise a grappling hook that's pretty much exactly like the one in Contra 4 but without the gap between DS screens to throw you off. It's a very solid, very enjoyable game that avoids compromise in all the places I expected it to - the boss battles, for example, are as much a spectacle as Contra's.

The story is about a corporation attempting to solve world hunger with a synthetic food source which naturally goes horribly wrong and creates the titular Spidersaurs. You've got a choice of two former taste-testers for InGest, the corporation in question; trainee officer Adrian and - because this is a WayForward original - the cleavage-tastic Victoria. The characters both have unique weapons, with rocker Victoria using her guitar to fire projectiles. After beating each boss, you'll be able to chow down on a special meal (it's a little gross) in order to unlock a new skill such a a double-jump and the aforementioned grappling hook.

The difficulty is very well balanced, with the game adopting Contra Hard Corps' three-hit energy bar (the Japanese Contra Hard Corps, anyway) along with a traditional lives system. You can collect more health as you play, too, which feels a little like a concession to touch controls that perhaps wasn't entirely necessary but definitely reduces the frustration factor. The inclusion of mid-stage checkpoints is very welcome, too, given that the stages themselves are fairly lengthy without outstaying their welcome.

I'd say the only place where the game falls down at all is in its presentation, but that's actually another source of genuinely impressive work given that a few lesser animations are about the only thing I can fault visually - the puppety movement of the characters is occasionally a little jarring, but it's, you know, fine. It's not overly florid, it doesn't stop you playing the game exactly how you want to play it, so it's really nothing to worry about.

A sequel with perhaps a higher budget would be very welcome as this is a fine inaugural outing for these two taste-testing tub-thumpers. It belongs to the upper tier of WayForward's work, which has been tremendously consistent in its quality for quite some time now. Always worth supporting.