I hate spiders, and I hate it when games collect my real-world information. Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon should be my nightmare, but it somehow made me enjoy both those things.
Spiders are icky. They have too many legs and weird eyes and they don’t meow or bleet or moo or anything to make up for it. There are some cute spiders, but you can look at literally all of them on Google. Fact: you don’t actually need to interact with a spider ever in your whole life, and you will be probably be worse off if you do. Also if you have a lot of hair, you have already accepted that hell will be several million spiderwebs just outside your line of sight. Oh, and spiders are everywhere in video games, and fighting them is the absolute worst.
All that said, Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon makes being a spider seem damn appealing. You are the lion of the insect jungle—top of the food chain—except you can climb on walls and leap across rooms in a single bound. You are a lion mixed with Superman. Also Spider-Man, but that’s the comparative equivalent of a snake eating its own tail. Or maybe a lion. Where were we?
Right. Being a spider rocks. Your goal is to eat every insect in each level, and you do this either by spinning diabolical webs and strategically frightening your prey into them, or (in some cases) tackling them out of the damn sky at a hundred miles per hour. Spider hits a wonderful sweet spot between relaxing/contemplative and exhilarating.
When I was playing earlier today, I realized that I’m even starting to feel for the spider, normally my most hated of insectoid foes. After a valiant struggle in which a hornet swatted me out of the sky like a poorly served tennis ball, I watched my spider crumple up and die. It broke my heart a little. I wasn’t expecting to be so affected by the death of my eight-legged monsterling, but for some reason the moment struck a chord. Maybe it was the feeling of helplessness, or maybe it was the subtle way my spider curled and twitched before giving up his tiny spider ghost. Or perhaps (and I’m probably reading too far into this) some part of me realized that it’s one of the few video game deaths I’ve witnessed—caused, even, on multiple occasions—in real life. Or it could be that I hate hornets even more than I hate spiders, because fuck hornets. Whatever the case, that moment definitely made me realize that the game has its hooks in me.
Now, up to this point I’ve been discussing the goals of Spider’s, you know, spider. SPIDER HUNGRY. SPIDER EAT. SPIDER NOT BATTLE HOBBITS OR TEACH PIG INSPIRING LESSONS BUT SPIDER LIVE FULFILLING LIFE DESPITE THAT. Your goal as a curious human piloting a spider is to pick apart a massive, secrets-ridden environment. As with the original Spider (a mobile game with significantly narrower scope), there’s more to this abandoned, insect-overrun mansion than meets the eye.
That’s where Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon’s real-world twist comes into play. The game wants to know where you are. Right off the bat, it asks if it can track your location. Now, I’m the sort of person who won’t even enable iPhone location services (fuck you, Apple; if you’re gonna hunt me down when you decide to usher in your new world order, I’ll at least make you work for it), and I generally find this stuff irritatingly invasive. No, I don’t want you to collect information about my life. Stop pestering me.
And yet, I dig Spider’s approach. The game is gently invasive. If you give it permission, it will figure out your location and use it to decide the in-game time of day, weather, and moon phase. That might not sound like much, but it has an itsy-bitsy-spider-water-spout trickle down effect on multiple aspects of the game. Locations change subtly depending on the time of day and weather, both visually and in terms of which insects you might come across. If you’re looking to collect (read: eat) ‘em all, that incentivizes exploration and replays.
Spider’s secrets are surprising. You might stumble into one—for instance, a trinket (and more importantly, insect) filled chest beneath a floorboard—while charging blindly forward. Or you might find that you can’t climb up a storm drain while it’s raining, but you’ll have an exciting surprise waiting for you on a clear day.
There are also certain secrets that only truly make themselves known during particular moon phases, and they’re intriguingly obtuse. The mansion’s walls are pregnant with mystery. Clues range from random scraps of paper to childhood scribbles, the detritus of someplace that was once somebody’s home. It’s up to you to piece them together, build a lose understanding of what it all means for the people who used to live in this place. Or not. That element of the story is optional. After all, you’re a spider. Why should you care what some secret society did in some musty-ass mansion?
If you’re the sort who can’t leave a single stone unturned, though, Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon has a lot to offer—even if you hate spiders and games that collect your information, like me (wanna start a club?). It is, admittedly, somewhat similar to its predecessor in broad strokes, but that game was massively underplayed—an indie pioneer that’s been unfairly passed over in recent times. If you missed out on the original, this one’s a no-brainer. Even if you played the original, Rite of the Shrouded Moon is that game dialed up to 11—or nine, in spider numbers. You just might get bored a little quicker, is all. Regardless, check it out. It’s the best game ever in the world where you play as a spider (probably).
You’re reading Steamed, Kotaku’s page dedicated to all things in and around Valve’s stupidly popular PC gaming service. Games, culture, community creations, criticism, guides, videos—everything. If you’ve found anything cool/awful on Steam, send us an email to let us know.