Overview – developed and published by WayForward, Spidersaurs is a run and gun action title, with 2 player co-op and a menagerie of mutated beasts to battle. This release features two distinct characters to play as, abilities to unlock and an arsenal of weaponry to use against enemies. This title is available on all major console platforms and PC, with a link to each version of this release available at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank WayForward for providing the software used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own. Please be aware, at the time of writing, there is currently a bug within the Nintendo Switch version of Spidersaurs that can prevent the final stage from loading correctly (but it can accessed by clearing the previous stage), with WayForward working to patch it as soon as possible.
UPDATE: Since publishing this review, a patch for the Nintendo Switch version has been released to address the above issue, this makes the final stage load correctly when selecting the stage from the main menu in Story Mode. This update is now available for all Nintendo Switch users.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review, starting with the story.
Story – after catastrophic events destroy global food supplies, InGest Corp have genetically engineered dinosaur-hybrids that can provide enough food to end world hunger. However, there has been a containment breach and the Spidersaurs are now on the loose, leaving the clean up to two taste testing interns. Calling upon punk rocker Victoria and officer in training Adrian, InGest send them on a mission to save the day, fighting the Spidersaurs and gaining new powers along the way.
Gameplay – Spidersaurs is a fast paced run and gun action title, taking place over several stages that scroll horizontally and vertically, with a lot of hazards and enemies to contend with. The core focus of this title is to reach the end of each stage and beat the boss. To accomplish this task, the player must battle through wave after wave of mutant monstrosities, collecting power-ups to enhance their weapons and avoiding hazards that can kill them.
When starting the story mode for the first time, players can select their character, choosing between Victoria and Adrian to play as in this adventure. The two characters share the same move set when it comes to character abilities, including the basic run, jump and shoot in 8 directions, with additional skills like double jumping and climbing unlocked later. What separates the two characters in terms of gameplay is their weaponry, which is themed after them and featuring unique effects.
During the course of the game, the most basic weapon that both players have is an auto shot, but during play, different weapons can be collected from support drones which drop an item when destroyed. These weapons function differently depending on the character that is being used, as the projectiles fired are based around their own themes. Two of these weapons can be carried and switched at any time, with the newest pick up replacing the active weapon.
The weapons for Victoria are all based around performing music, with fireworks as rockets and sound wave lasers, whereas Adrian has weapons based on sports, like a football canon and pool ball shooter. Each of the weapons can be upgraded by collecting duplicate power-up drops, increasing their overall power and efficacy in combat. However, a weapon can be reverted to its pre power-up state if damage is taken and lost entirely if a life is lost, replacing it with the base shooter.
The variety of weapons can keep the gameplay exciting, but learning which weapons work best for a play style and against the bosses is important. This is due to the fact that the mid and end bosses of stages can be quite challenging, with their own unique patterns and gimmicks that will prove challenging to players. For example, there is a mid-boss that can only be damaged when flipped over by a getting hit with a lava geyser, as well as bosses that have weak points that will only be exposed for a short time.
The stage layouts for each of the missions in this release can be complex, with both horizontal and vertical movement, as well as some auto scrolling sections that will keep players on their toes. This will be challenging as there are many hazards that can hinder progress, including webs that players can be stuck on and environmental dangers that will hurt players. If players are careless, lives will be lost fairly quickly with a game over soon following.
The overall challenge of this title is high, with limited lives and a maximum 3 hit-points per life with the only way to regain health being to collect food dropped by enemies or placed in the stage. This system can increase the difficulty of the experience, as well as pressure enemies that can attack the player to prevent point farming. These pressure enemies will attack at times where there is the potential for point farming, since every 20,000 points provides an extra life to the player.
If the player loses all their lives, they will get a game over and can retry that stage or select a different mission that has already been cleared. If the player chooses to retry, they will continue from the start of the stage, unless the mid- boss has been defeated which will allow them to continue from there. If the player does choose to go to the mission select screen, they will be able to switch characters and retry the uncompleted stage from the mid-point if it has been reached.
The mutant variety is quite diverse, ranging from the general one hit enemies to foes that will attack from cover and toxic enemies that will leave poison clouds behind. These enemies heighten the tension of the action and increase the difficulty of platforming, as the player is able to drop through platforms and off rails while trying to avoid attacks. There is also character knock back when taking damage, with the possibility to be knocked off platforms, rails and conveyor belts while fighting enemies.
The overall gameplay experience is challenging, with tough boss battles, tricky platforming and sometimes unfair enemy placements. However, there are some difficulty options available to tailor the challenge to the taste of the player. There is also the multiplayer component, with the 2 player co-op gameplay, which is local only but let’s two people work together. But do be careful as the second player won’t be able to rejoin if all their lives are lost, unless a game over happens.
The last thing to talk about for gameplay is the unlockable modes. Upon completion of the story mode, two additional gameplay modes will be unlocked for players to enjoy in single and co-op play. The first is Arcade, where the player can run through the game like in story, but without the cutscenes between stages. The second is Speed Run mode, a mode where players try to reach the end of the game as fast as possible, with one credit and all abilities unlocked.
Now with the gameplay covered, it is time to move onto the other aspects of this title, starting with the controls.
Controls – the control method for Spidersaurs is very similar to other titles in the run and gun genre, allowing fast fluid movement, snappy inputs and 8 way directional shooting. The inputs are laid out well with the jump and fire mapped to the face, movement tied to the left stick/D-pad and other skills set up in a comfortable way. Having played the game with a variety of controllers, this is a solid experience that is comfortable no matter how players choose to play.
Difficulty – this release has three difficulty options to choose from, with an easy, medium and hard option using steak temperature terms to fit the game theme. The differences between the difficulty options include changing the number of foes on screen, removing some obstacles and increasing the number of lives (when playing easy). There are some other differences with modes, the biggest one being that the final stage is locked off in easy, just like action games of the past.
Presentation – Spidersaurs has a Saturday morning cartoon style to it, with distinctive sprite work for characters and enemies. The cutscenes work well, with character portraits that are expressive and pleasing to the eye. The environments are detailed and varied, with bold stage elements and backgrounds that are distinct from each other. There is little if any lag when it comes to the flow of action, with no slowdown during the busy sequences or when there are big sprites on screen.
The soundtrack for Spidersaurs is an excellent accompaniment to the visual style and action that appears on screen. Featuring a mix of styles with heavy rock guitar, techno beats and electro keyboards from composer Harumi Fujita, who has created music for Strider, Pulstar and more. The opening theme features Cristina Vee (Miraculous) and Jason C. Miller (Shenmue III). This title also features excellent voice acting that adds an additional layer to the charm of the experience.
Final Thoughts – I was excited when I saw the announcement that Spidersaurs was coming to consoles, since I had seen the title on apple arcade a few years ago and I can safely say that I’m not disappointed. The action is smooth, the game is well paced and there is a lot of variety to the overall experience as a run and gun. The difficulty does spike towards the later part of the game, but if the player uses some caution, takes their time and learns enemy patterns then the difficulty is eased.
There is a lot of charm to this release, with the entertaining character dialogue, fantastic soundtrack and vibrant character designs. There is a lot of depth and enjoyment to the overall product, I can happily recommend this game to fans of run and guns titles, like Contra, Metal Slug and Gunstar Heroes. The game does have some minor flaws, but the overall experience is worth playing and can be great fun either alone or with a friend.
In the end, I give Spidersaurs a final score of 4.5/5. This stylish and charming run-‘n’-gun action title is a real challenge, with some tough stages and difficult bosses, but the overall experience is fun and rewarding when played alone or with a friend in 2 player co-op. If you want to check this title out for yourself, links to all versions will be below. Please note: a patch for the Nintendo Switch to fix a bug is being worked on to be made available as soon as possible.
Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)
Link to PlayStation version (HERE)
Link to Xbox version (HERE)
Link to Steam version (HERE)
Link to Apple version (HERE)