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Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor Review: A Little Masterpiece

You’re a hungry spider. There’s a big, empty house nearby swarming with good eats. Where did the big, dangerous things go, the ones that would normally stomp on you or spray you with poison? You don’t know, but in Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor, you just might find out.

Tiger Style’s Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor is, at its heart, an immensely fun adventure game.  It’s the little touches, however, that raise it up into one of the best games available for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

The concept is simple. In the role of the spider, your goal is to eat enough insects on each level to open a portal to the next room.  The controls are elegant—touch to move, tap to set a web, and swipe to jump are about all you need to know to begin playing—and they respond well.  Using those controls, you navigate your spider through the rooms (and sometimes through the walls) of Bryce Manor, spinning webs and eating various insects and occasionally stumbling across a piece of the eponymous “secret.”

Like any good game, the core mechanic of Spider is elegantly simple but leads to a variety of challenges.  Even though game play remains consistent throughout—traverse the area, spin webs, eat insects, move on–I hardly ever felt like the game was getting repetitive.  As the boards progress, your little spider has to get craftier. Simply spinning webs will get you sufficiently fed early on, but soon you begin encountering non-stick surfaces, mosquitoes that flee from you, wasps that ignore your webs, and even the occasional switch that needs to be activated.  Precision and planning become a necessity in later boards; there’s almost always a little thinking required to complete an area, and a little more to complete the one after that.

All told there are 28 areas to hunt in, plus three additional game modes: Feeding Frenzy (timed play), Hunger Mode (“Feed your hunger … or perish!” ), and Precision (less silk, shorter threads).  Each adds a nice element to the Spider experience. Overall, that’s a lot of game play value for Spider’s modest price.

Besides its excellent game play, Spider is a showcase of good production values. The graphics are hand-drawn and perfectly flavored, animated without being cartoony and boasting a color palette worthy of a stately old mansion.  Movement is smooth and realistic; the spider moves like a spider should move, even when he’s leaping from surface to surface.  The background music is a creepy piano-and-violin suite that sets the mood well. Sound effects are minimalist and suitable.  It’s a treat for the eyes and ears.

What don’t I like about Spider? Not much. The game really is that good on every measurable level.  If I had to point to something, it would probably be that the “secret” of the subtitle is too obscure. While 12 of the game’s 28 boards feature hidden areas that offer some visual clue as to the “secret,” that’s all it ever offers. Attentive players may be able to piece together threads of a possible plot from what the spider stumbles upon, but there’s never a point in the game where it all becomes clear. It’s completely a background element, just a bit of flavor, and one can enjoy and complete the game without it ever being a going concern.

But I won’t begrudge Tiger Style for that, because on every other level, Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor delivers. It is a real testament to both basic game design and the unique possibilities of touch screen gaming.  In short, this is a game that you should play.

Our Rating: 5 out of 5.

Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor is available for $2.99 in the App Store.  (App Store Link)

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