I try to pick titles that I only play to enjoy in my free time, as I believe it is important to make sure that gaming does not become just another form of work, even if I love making articles about them. However, I do still come across those that I suddenly desire to talk about for different reasons and then I am right back to writing again. Webbed is one such game that captivated me from its first minute and as I continued to play through it, I started taking notes and pictures. This excitement I had for sharing my thoughts on this project should especially speak volumes when I am a bit scared of spiders.
Within a lush forest, you play as a girl spider who is on a quest to save her boyfriend from a ginormous bird. This is certainly a difficult task for any tiny creature like her to take on, but a moth has a brilliant plan on how to help out, which will require assistance from the ants, the dung beetles, and the bees in order to make it work. While this plot is a familiar cliche, Webbed surprisingly has a solid world-building to it! Ants are referring to each other as comrades and have construction sites within their caves, while the bees are nourishing their upcoming royal highness. All of these are incredibly cute inhabitants and have strong personalities that make them easy to admire.
I will clarify that this is not a huge world with tons of lore, but this title does not try to have anything such either. It simply has charming characters within a small place that builds upon its creative ideas. Despite not containing unique personalities to become memorable, all of the NPCs are helpful and have nice setups to them, such as a dung beetle who does not want to come out of a roll of poop because of how cosy and warm it is inside of it. This nature is nothing spectacular, but delightfully sweet nonetheless.
Story Score: 8/10
From your starting hub by a giant tree, you are free to visit three other areas in any order you want to, giving this project a metroid structure with only the final area being locked out. Each location provides you with neat level designs that focus on puzzles, exploration, and platforming, offering a lot of variety to this adventure. What is then incredible, is how not a single one of the ideas introduced in this game strays away from its core mechanic; you as a small spider.
As the tiny critter, you can shoot web on solid surfaces to drag you or objects around, make lines of web from one location to another, and shoot lasers to destroy webs or hit objects with. There are no enemies in this title except for the giant bird at the very end, which is a neat setup and gives more focus to the platforming itself. You can also jump and climb on vines and webs for swinging of or climbing on them, but not necessarily cling onto surfaces, making all of your abilities severely important for traversing.
I love this, as Webbed takes one concept and strengthens it to its full potentials. The hub is fantastic for learning the controls in, due to its environmental structure and that it is simply fun to swing around and see what you can do with the abilities you have. Meanwhile, the area to the east will have more focus on obstacle courses and navigation, with the underground making you solve puzzles by putting things in their right places, and the world to the west is mainly about physic platforming. These are wonderfully implemented, and while you will have to shoot a lot of strings in order to grab an item and make them fit into specific spots, your cursor will always show you where your shots will land, which is definitely helpful.
Every single area contains amazing layouts that will challenge you, but in a varied manner to make each part exciting and unique. All the set pieces felt made with your capabilities in mind, making the entire journey a blast. In fact, only the ability to dance was just a cute way to do so with the NPCs, until the very end where you have to escort your loved one. Luckily, the AI is solid enough to never become a problem and creating solid cobwebs always helped out.
None of the objectives became tedious and with how quickly you can move your little spider around, this playthrough was always a progressive one. In case you needed it as well, there is a handy map that showcases where you have been and what missions are left. Although, I found it unnecessary as Webbed is a pretty small game. It can be beaten within four hours, but with how every single part of the stages’ designs serve a purpose, like using logs to make a bridge or shooting webs to make you crawl through dangerous hazards, I was always captivated. Seeing as you instantly respawn after a failed attempt by the level’s entrance as well, dying is nothing more than a minor setback.
After finishing this platformer, I was impressed. It is certainly not a long title and the aiming can be finicky, especially when an item needs multiple strings in order to be lifted up into the air. Luckily, these are the only issues I can think of in what is a brilliant adventure. With how every area is accessible from the start and you have all the abilities you need from the beginning, I could not put this metroid game down. It truly grabbed me.
Gameplay Score: 9/10
Gamemaker surprises me constantly with what capabilities it holds, and Webbed is no exception to this. Its world is gorgeous with wonderful use of pixel art in the foreground, while the backgrounds contain a less detailed style to mimic a form of watercolour painting through the same technical limitations. It is truly beautiful, and despite that there are a lot of green plants to see, this project still consists of diverse locations. The barren land with mud everywhere, the lush trees to the east containing flowers and a huge hive, the underground having tons of machines and working ants, and the finale being inside a ginormous bird’s nest, add to give this forest intriguing variety.
All of the small creatures fit the areas they are in and got quite cute designs despite featuring realistic details. The dung beetles are huge with shiny scales, the ants are crawling all over their civilization with multiple legs, and the flies are buzzing quickly around. All are genuinely sweet, with the little protagonist being the highlight as she swings or walks around. Should you be arachnophobic, there is even the possibility to turn every spider into blobs! I do wish it could be also done for the general insects just in case, but this is a lovely touch regardless that deserves praise. Actually, there are a lot of graphical options, such as giving outlines to the foreground, the field of vision, and removing backgrounds entirely!
Personally, I want to see everything this game has to offer and there are even more commendable parts to witness, like how the small critters you collect will be crawling around your body or how your web is constantly attached until something is forced to break it. I would not be shocked if someone used this title to create their own artwork, as the web’s physics are truly something to behold. Even your objectives and maps are all presented through a book with drawings, stickers, and writing that are all filled out as you progress, which is adorable.
Furthermore, the audio is fantastic. While I admire how the insects have endearing gibberish voices depending on what type they are, my favourite part must be how walking or jumping between webs provides the sound of a guitar string that goes higher and lower in pitch depending on your movement. Even your spider’s crawling is quite hypnotic alone as she taps as fast as she can, with the ambient sounds of the wind or other critters around adding to the atmosphere.
Although, the music is just as effective with each piece fitting their respective places! The underground has metallic tools used as instruments with a violin or a piano being added in specific sections, subtle flutes chiming lightly while you are swinging in the trees, and the deserted landscape goes for a western tune with banjos and trumpets. These tracks are marvellous with wonderful buildups, clever use of instrumentations, and diverse notes. In fact, Webbed overall shows how brilliantly a presentation can age and still be impressed by, as long as you focus on such smart details.
Presentation Score: 9/10
Helping out the little ones
Throughout this journey, there are collectables to find and even some cute achievements that are worthwhile to go for! The aspects of gathering stuff range between larvae and mini spiders to save, with small flies being there for your own gluttony. All add to the exploration in interesting ways, such as finding secret areas or trapping critters in your web, with your handy map showcasing where there are creatures left to find and audio cues notifying you whenever one is nearby! By doing anything significant, you get stickers that are used to summon accessories to wear, like a poop hat! These adorable items make it even more exciting to take on these objectives and if that was not enough; there is a fun skate park to jump around in where Skatebird is there to guide you on how to do some neat tricks!
Extra Score: 10/10
Webbed is a fantastic title that works within its minimal concept and provides an outstanding experience with lovely details, magnificent focus on its main mechanics, and charming inhabitants. Games like this one are what still keep me invested in this media, and I praise the developers for making something this incredible! An entertaining platformer that truly shines in its simplicity, this has given me a new appreciation for spiders.