If you’ve been reading my reviews for a while, you know that I’m a student and might have even heard that I’m working on a PhD in entomology. Yes, I like the bugs. Not every bug, mind you– I have a handful that I specialize in. Namely centipedes, millipedes, roaches, and spiders. You could safely say that spiders are my favorite critters on the planet. Sadly, when it comes to gaming, they’re rarely the hero of any games. The only one of recent memory was Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor, which came out a year or two ago (amazing game, by the way!). When I learned that the publishers of Angry Birds were releasing what initially appeared to be a knock off of the wildly successful game Cut the Rope, and that the main character was a spider, I was more than a little excited.
For those that haven’t played Cut the Rope, do it (a free version is available). It deserves the wonderful reputation it has. Spider Jack isn’t that different. In Cut the Rope, you have to cut ropes to get a little piece of candy to an adorable monster (and collect three stars along the way if you’re good). In Spider Jack, you have to get the spider to a fly caught in his web (collecting three stars on the way if you’re good). How could this go wrong? Well, I’ll give you a few examples.
The first thing I noticed were the bugs. The game locked up on me twice before I got to play it (requiring me to exit, close the multitasking icon, then completely restart the app). Having been burned by bugs like this in the past, I would personally recommend holding off buying it until you see an update released, that’s for sure. That said, in this case, there appears to be an easy work around to the problem.
The thing that made Cut the Rope as popular as it is, is the fact that anyone can play it. The controls and puzzles are very well thought out and intuitive. Spider Jack is lacking in this aspect. Some of the puzzles are just so strange, that it’s very difficult to know where to start. The game never explained one of the more basic controls (I lucked on to it more than ten levels in): cutting the web line from the starting location. There also seems to be an awful design flaw where if you swing too far to the left or right and off the screen, you lose – even when still attached to something and in no danger of falling. I tried to make it to the second room before writing the review, but got so frustrated that I never made it out of the first.
Despite this frustration, I can’t poo on the whole game, to be honest it’s still pretty fun. First, the spider is adorable (especially the many sounds he makes). The puzzles are pretty well thought out (other than swinging off the sides), and are really challenging.
As for the gameplay, I only saw a few things that could be done. You can cut the web of your spider, making him drop and you’ll have to use the inertia of swinging to aim your falls on some levels. There are circular knobs that you can tap to attach a web to from wherever you are, but it will drop your current web (ie: you can’t attach to two to steady yourself). In the later levels there are fans that blow Jack in different directions and a portal-like system that transports him between two endpoints.
While the controls are simple, they can be very frustrating at times. When you need to swing through the air before grabbing a new web line, the screen will scroll, moving the attachment point, often causing you to miss your tap. I found this the most frustrating on the final level I attempted (but never finished), as you need to swing around some electrical fields at high speed, then swing yourself vertically to get the fly. Between the cutting and the tapping to make new lines, I missed my taps over 50 times before I finally gave up out of frustration.
The game currently contains three rooms: The Barn, The Bathroom, and The Laboratory. That said, the level select area has room for more to be added with future updates. Until an update arrives there is currently a total of 75 levels, the balancing of which felt off as I quickly breezed through the initial 16 levels in about 10 minutes, when abruptly the difficulty was really ratcheted up. I would have preferred to see a more gradual increase in complexity.
Overall, I found Spider Jack to be a bit more frustrating than it really should have been. Even with its awesome spidery exterior, I’d have to recommend sticking with Cut the Rope for this genre of puzzle titles. That being said, if you’ve finished Om Nom’s adventure and are looking for more, Spider Jack isn’t a horrible choice.