Whether you love arachnids or not, there's something completely entrancing about watching the little buggers scamper their way across a silky, delicately-constructed web and await their unsuspecting prey. As fascinating as it is to jump directly into the meaty carapace of one of these eight-legged fellows, Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor is as much about the mysteries hidden in the world around you as it is about the life of the lone spider you'll play. Therein resides its beauty.
There are two stories being told here, and they're both unexpectedly deep and enthralling. On the surface, the game is rooted heavily in the seemingly mundane day-to-day activities of a spider. You'll focus on weaving complex webs to ensnare meandering bugs to snack on, while you explore an old mansion. But as you venture deeper into the antiquated abode and search its many rooms, a very different tale begins to unfold – one that offers an ominous glance into the lives of its former inhabitants. Channeling your inner spider may have you keeping your eyes on the prize, but your human brain can't help but notice something is amiss with your surroundings. One curiosity will keep you amused; the other will keep you playing through to the end.
Though a little grisly for those with arachnophobic tendencies, being a spider is absurdly fun. Smartly implemented control mechanics let you pull off some wild and realistic moves with ease. You can scale most walls, objects, and surfaces by merely putting one of your eight legs in front of another. Flicking in any direction makes you leap through the air, and tapping your spider frame before doing so makes you trail a strand of sticky web from your posterior. Forming triangles and other geometric shapes turns creates webs for trapping the roving bug snacks in each level. However, you have a finite amount of webbing to work with, and you can only replenish your supply by eating more bugs. It's a clever double edged sword that requires you to be strategic in your hunting endeavors.
Other challenges crop-up at regular intervals to keep you on your toes, well, if you had them. Some bugs, like pesky mosquitoes, shy away from your presence, while larger insects, like bees and dragonflies, have to be tackled into submission before they'll yield to your hungry pincers. There are also certain objects that you cannot stick to, which makes navigating and forming webs more of a challenge in later levels. You must consume a set quota of bugs to open a portal to the next level, but you're given some leeway. The main focus is on the hunting and exploration, but there are slightly tougher challenge modes to dabble in when the tale has run its course – like the time-sensitive Feeding Frenzy mode and Precision mode, which gives you very limited web resources to work with.
Atmosphere plays a huge role in Spider, and the beautifully hand drawn artwork pairs nicely with the hip soundtrack to evoke and intensify the sense of mystery that's so crucial to the game. Tiger Style's innovative iPhone debut is easily worth putting at the top your must-have game app list, and at $2.99, you simply can't go wrong.