arach7Connect2Media recently sent us an early copy of their latest offering, an excellent game called Arachnadoodle which feels very much like a mix of Peggle and Spider : The Secret of Brice Manor, but with much cuter graphics. Each of the game’s 32 levels takes place in a different room of a house. Touch the spider (named Boris) and drag an arrow outward n the direction you want him to jump, let go and he will launch himself in that direction. The longer the arrow, the more power that Boris will use, resulting in a longer jump.

The goal is to hit each and every one of the pins on the wall of the room within the provided number of jumps. As Boris hits a pin, he’ll leave a strand of silk that will connect to the next pin that he hits, building a web as he goes along. The more interconnections between pins that you are able to make, the stronger the resulting web will be. To successfully complete a level, you much touch each pin at least once in the limited number of jumps allotted (which ranges between 5 and 8, but bonus jumps can be picked up along the way). In order to unlock the next level, players must complete the current level, but once a level has been unlocked, it can be played again at any time.

arach3At the end of each level you are presented with the strength of the web you built (a percentage out of 100) and then it’s “Here Come The Flies” time! Wagner’s “Ride Of The Valkyries” starts playing and a bunch of really cute flies start heading right for Boris’ web. Some of the flies will stick, others will struggle and escape. You are are awarded bonus points for those flies that Boris was able to catch with his handiwork.

As you progress through the levels, the difficulty will build as new gameplay elements are introduced. Connect2Media does a fantastic job of introducing players to the new types of pins and obstacles and the pace at which they are introduced into the game is nearly perfect. These items include

  • Score Flies – Some of which will give bonus points and others additional jumps
  • Deaths Head Bug – Explode on contact, ending the current jump and resetting some/all of the already touched pins
  • Elastic Pins – Swing and alter Boris’ direction. Although, these only seemed to reverse upward motion, we would have like to see these also reverse downward motion to help created longer chains.
  • Spark Flies – These will shock, Boris, immediately ending the current jump, but may cause Boris to land in a new location for the next jump.
  • Bumpers – Like a bumper on a pinball machine, these will send Boris flying around in all directions. These can be helpful to get combos for long chains of pins.
  • Furniture – Boris will stick to furniture when he hits it, so you’ll need to take this into consideration when jumping.
  • Lights – Similar to the Spark Flies, Boris and Lights don’t make a good combination.

These game elements along with the myriad of ways to earn additional bonus points, really help to add some nice strategical elements to the game, so its not always a just a back and forth just try and hit all the pins. It took a couple play throughs for us to realize that if we wanted to move up in the leaderboard, there is a definite strategy you will need to follow. Our plan of attack is to try to hit all (but one) of the pins in as few jumps as possible and then try to fill in the mesh to get a really strong web (and more pin hitting bonus points), then hit the last pin with your final jump. Collecting bonus points for unused jumps doesn’t seem to get nearly as many points as you can get by using them to get additional pin hits and more collected flies at the end (due to the stronger web).

arach8It took us somewhere between three and four hours to complete all 32 levels of the game (this does not include time spent going back to replay levels to improve our scores). Arachnadoodle has OpenFeint support, allowing for per-level global leaderboards and achievements. Unfortunately, the game currently only has 4 achievements, which weren’t terribly difficult to earn. Were’ hoping that Connect2Media will be adding more achievements in a future update, but until then, here is our “pro tip” on which level(s) to use to earn the existing ones.

  • Level 1 can easily be used to get the “I Spyder Extravaganza!” and “The Artful Walldodger!”
  • Level 22 is a great place to earn “Kingpin!”
  • Level 6 is probably a safe bet for earning “Accuracy!”

The graphics and sound effects for the Arachnadoodle are great. Boris and the snacks…err…flies, are extremely cute, cartoony graphics, that look hand drawn with hard thick edges. It’s the type of artwork that will appeal to a broad audience and especially kids (keep an eye on the attic for some humorous illustrations). From the jumping, to the electrocuting, to the explosions, all of the game’s animations are very well done and some are quite funny. We especially love Boris’ constantly moving eyes and the Fly Time at the end of each level. arach4We mentioned the obvious similarities to Peggle earlier, and we are happy to report that the beloved slow motion close-up effect on the last pin is here in Arachnadoodle as well! We should note that on our iPod Touch 2G, we did occasionally see (we assume unplanned) instances of slow down on the screen when there was a lot going on, like multiple bonus point messages and sparks, etc.. The in-game music is rather limited and nothing to get too excited about, but you do have the option to play songs from your own music library right from within the app, so it’s all good.

It’s not all unicorns and rainbows, there were a few issues (mostly minor) that we had with the game. First, sometimes the game is a little too forgiving, counting the pin as hit, when Boris didn’t actually hit it, he just came very close to it. Granted we were particularly thankful for this in some of the game’s harder levels. There were also occasional instances where the physics didn’t behave exactly as we would have expected. For example, there were times when Boris flew out of the screen and his re-entry wasn’t quite where we would have expected given his speed/angle of departure. As we mentioned earlier, we’d love to see the elastic pins react when they are hit in any direction, not just when Boris is traveling upward. Finally, our biggest complaint with Arachnadoodle is that it’s menus are difficult to read and navigate. We found the text on all the menus rather difficult to read (especially the smaller text), due to the white on the bottom of the text against the light background, and the icons were not immediatelty self explanitory. We’ve already reported these issues to Connect2Media and we believe that these concerns will be addressed in a future update.

Arachnadoodle is probably one the best games that Connect2Media’s has come up with so far. We can easily see this having broad appeal to casual gamers, especially fans of Peggle (of which there are quite a few). The game is both fun and addicting and the controls work quite well and offer a good deal of accuracy (though we do wonder how it would feel to play with more of a “Bryce Manor”-like flicking-style control scheme). With it’s per-level OpenFient global leaderboards, Arachnadoodle has big replay value, well past the initial level unlocking. The game should hopefully be making an appearance on the the App Store soon with an introductory price of just $0.99. We recommend that you jump on this one immediately, you won’t regret it.