I’m not a big fan of spiders, I know it’s an irrational dislike and in the grand scheme of things they’re very useful critters. They keep your home and garden pest free by eating flies, mosquitos and other insects. They are also considered good luck in lots of cultures. So there’s at least a couple of good reasons why I should like them and not really many rational ones for why I don’t. Even though most spiders aren’t harmful I still don’t want one anywhere near me. There’s something about them that just creeps me out, they have too many legs and too many eyes and I just don’t like them, It’s irrational I know but I just can’t help it. So although we have now established that I don’t like spiders, I do really like puzzle games which thankfully is what Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon is.

Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon is actually a really interesting idea, at its core it’s a simple puzzle game where you play as a spider and try to get as high a score as possible by spinning webs and eating insects but in the background there’s an interesting mystery to discover. The game takes place in Blackbird Estate, an old country estate which appears to be abandoned. The more you explore the old house and the surrounding grounds the more you begin to realise that something has happened here. There’s broken windows, messy rooms and muddy foot prints. While you could initially assume that maybe there’s maybe just been a break in, after seeing a knocked over bottle of chloroform, rooms with two way glass in and strange symbols on the wall you start to realise that this house holds many secrets.  

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But before we go into that let’s take a look at the core gameplay. You’re a spider and so get to do lots of cool things like jump really far and spin webs. You have a limited amount of silk at your disposal so need to keep eating bugs to gain more, if you run out of silk then you’ll soon starve to death. You can create webs easily by creating an outline of a geometric shape with your silk, it’ll then be automatically filled in to create a web. Eating the trapped insects will reward you with points and you’ll gain a score multiplier if you eat multiple bugs without touching any other surface. There’s some strategy involved in this as different types of insects have different scores so by eating common bugs first to build up your multiplier before eating the rarer bugs you’ll be able to build up an impressive score.

Some insects will have special requirements that you’ll need to fulfil to catch them, some can only be caught in big strong webs and will be able to break any weak ones they get caught in, some insects need to be chased into the webs and others need to be baited to land in your web. There are also insects like ants and houseflies that can’t be caught in webs but instead need to be pounced on. So there’s quite a diverse number of ways for you to catch insects and maximise your score.

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There’s also a really interesting time and weather mechanic. The game can use your IP address to work out what time it is and what the weather is like in real life and then mimics that in the game. There are four different scenarios that levels can be played in clear day, rainy day, clear night and rainy night. I did find it pretty cool the first time it started raining in the game and I looked out the window to see that it was raining in real life as well!

This is not just a cool gimmick as levels are actually affected by the weather and time of day. It can change what insects are around and also enable you to access different parts of the level that you couldn’t previously. It’s a pity that some of the levels don’t really have many obvious visual changes as that would encourage you to play through them again in all four states, instead it can sometimes feel that you’re just playing through the exact same level. 

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As mentioned previously this estate has many mysteries but there are clues dotted around different levels which will help you solve them. It’ll require a bit of brain power and sometimes also the right time, weather and moon phase to solve some of the mysteries but when you do finally work one out you’ll feel pretty damn pleased with yourself. Solving mysteries was my favourite part of the game, the normal bug-catching gameplay does at times feel quite repetitive so the mysteries were a very welcome distraction.

One feature that I found really amusing is that you can swap the ‘character’ you play as, initially these are just different types of spiders but you can also  play as an Odobenus Rosarus also known as the common walrus. This is just a cosmetic change and doesn’t impact the gameplay but it did make me smile to spin webs and catch bugs while playing as a walrus. This is also really handy if your like me and a bit of an arachnophobe! You can unlock this naturally by solving plenty of mysteries or by entering the code “ROSMARUS” in the settings ‘Save Session’ part of the menu.

While playing I did experience a little bit of slow down on some levels and the game did crash a couple of times. It didn’t happen very often and the slow down didn’t impact the game very much but it is quite noticeable in some levels.

Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon has many interesting ideas, it takes a fairly simple puzzle concept of eating bugs and getting the highest score possible but then adds an intriguing background mystery to it. The weather and time system will have you returning to the game at different times, in different weather conditions and at different phases of the moon to try to uncover all the mysteries and complete the game. If I’m honest I did find the act of repeating the same levels at times a bit dull but I was interested enough in trying to uncover more of Blackbird Estate’s dark secrets that I couldn’t help but keep returning. If you like puzzle games then this is an easy one to recommend to you.

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Jenny is a long-term gamer and a fan of PlayStation since the first console. RPGs, platformers and action adventure titles are her favourite genres, and she loves trying out new games on the Vita.