Catching my eye during last year’s Steam Games Festival, Webbed‘s demo blew me away. I called it “incredibly special” at the time, and I’m so delighted to report the full game more than lives up to that. This is something remarkable, and even the biggest arachnophobes should somehow cast aside their fears to embrace its brilliance.
Webbed is, on some level, an open world game. That world just happens to be the 2D sprawl of a small area of woodland. Being a weeny spider, this small patch of land is actually an enormous playground, stretching literally metres. (I love that the game’s signposts measure their distances in centimetres.) You move around it by scuttling along branches, then either creating deliberate, careful webbed walkways, or leaping into the breeze and firing off grappling-hook-like threads that let you swing and swoosh. And along the way, you’re helping out your fellow bugs, collecting pollen for bees, or helping out lost ants, all while gobbling up little beasties that might fly into your webs.
The whole thing is so extraordinarily chilled. There’s stuff to do, but there’s no pressure to get it done now Now NOW! Instead, if you fancy stopping in an area to see how complicated a web you can weave, then go for it! The game remembers the entire world state at all times, so returning to previous vast areas will see all the webs and threads you left behind. That’s especially helpful when you’ve previously set up intricate walkways to avoid thorny branches, or laid down trampolines to stop you falling down holes to… I guess some evil hidden forest floor.
Death, however, isn’t death at all. Should you slam into some spikes, or fall to the Below Places, the game instantly pops you back in place at the last checkpoint, of which their are squillions. There’s never a sense of lost progress, just an instant reset, and back to having a lovely, fun time.
As you explore, you discover there’s far more to the game than you might first think. Right from the start it surprises as it introduces your abilities in the opening moments. You can tether a web between two spots, fire a web at a location and pull yourself toward it, and of course fire lasers. It’s just so absolutely incongruous, but no, actual pew-pew lasers. Perhaps it’s the species of spider. (Actually, I suspect it’s a hangover from a previous experimental game by the developer, Laser Spider Playground.)
Then, depending on in which direction you head, you can find completely different environments, from the breezy, leafy world of the bees, to the completely daft underground mechanics of the ants (those industrious beasts have got machinery, levers, and all sorts, allowing some excellent puzzling with your webs). It’s all so much bigger and more involved than I was expecting.
My only tiny niggle with this otherwise adorable game is that it can be a bit too imprecise when aiming webs to particular spots. Oddly, it’s no better with the mouse cursor than a gamepad’s analogue sticks, and while it has a “precise aim” mode, it’s still a little flaky. I’m not entirely sure how deliberate this is, but I’d love it if it were a little slower to jump from spot to spot, and a bit more ‘sticky’ as you sweep it about when trying to hit a particular branch the other side of the screen.
I’m tempted to say that where Webbed really shines is in its movement, because damn, it’s as good as the recent Insomniac Spider-Man games when it comes to web-slinging and feeling that sense of fluid freedom. But it equally matches this with its gentle air of warmth and loveliness. That’s what makes this game so incredibly special: that it’s both a supremely well-executed 2D ‘platform’ game, and a relaxing, smile-inducing bucolic time. It delivers it all with utterly gorgeous pixel graphics, and meticulous animations (and rather significantly, achieves every part of this with GameMaker, the far-too-often derided engine).
My goodness, this is so splendid. A proper joy to play, both mechanically and thematically, with controls that once mastered let you feel like a superheroic little arachnid. Grab this with all eight hands.
- Sbug Games