For some reason, a spider that can only move in four directions – up, down, left and right – is more unsettling. Trying to stick a cup over it, only for it to scuttle away like a rook in Chess gives us the shivers.
In Webgeon Speedrun Edition, it’s less scary than limiting. You are a spider, stuck in a dungeon – sorry, webgeon – and you can’t just amble over to the exit. You have to move in the cardinal directions, web-shooting across the level until you hit a surface. There you will stop, until you fire your web in another direction and lasso yourself to yet another surface. It’s through this technique that you reach an exit and complete level after level.
It’s a fancy reskin of the traditional ice-sliding puzzle. We’ve only just reviewed another of these, in the form of sCATch: The Painter Cat, which should give you an idea of how often these games surface, particularly among the indie games on the Xbox Store. They’re not particularly rare, and we’ve gained a critical eye for what makes one stand out. There needs to be a certain x-factor that makes one stand out.
Webgeon Speedrun Edition aims to be distinctive first by casting you as a spider (arachnophobes beware!), and second by introducing some platformer elements to the ice-sliding mechanics. Enemies, wall-sliding and precise timing are all extra threads in Webgeon’s web, and it starts to move away from being a pure puzzle game.
Pretty quickly in Webgeon Speedrun Edition, you gain the ability to slide down walls. Web-shoot a wall and then stick around, and your spider starts to lazily drift down the wall. This is clearly a benefit in this kind of puzzle, as you can reach areas that you wouldn’t have been able to web towards. It adds an extra dimension to the puzzle, as you suddenly have a tool that you wouldn’t normally have in this kind of game.
It also adds some precision-timing to Webgeon Speedrun Edition. If you’re surrounded by spikes or aiming for the tiniest of corridors to web down, then you have to time your slide-and-shoot right. Suddenly, Webgeon is straying into precision-platformer territory, and this will be a real divider. Anyone who comes to Webgeon Speedrun Edition might be drawn in by the puzzling, but be put off by the demand to not only use their brain but their speedy fingertips. The addition of enemies on patrol routes only exacerbates this feeling: you need to be nimble as well as clever if you want to solve all twenty-five levels.
We’re on the fence. It largely depends if Webgeon Speedrun Edition uses it as a force for good. In some levels, we found a solution to the puzzle that felt like we were cheating. We weren’t being clever necessarily – at least, not in the way we thought Webgeon wanted us to be. We had found a wall-overhang that we could slide onto and web across to a platform that should probably have been unreachable. Timing our slides and firing at the last minute often allowed us to skip chunks of the puzzle. But in situations where we followed the rules, the mix of puzzle and twitchy gameplay was a strong blend. We could see what 909games had been aiming for.
Every few levels or so, something new gets added in, topping up the puzzling or the action-oriented side. Chandeliers dangle down (honestly, a complete fire-hazard, as they have candles rather than electrics in them), and you can scoot through their ropes to send them crashing down. We now want to play a chandelier-smashing simulator, as it’s incredibly satisfying (PowerWash Simulator-makers, take note!). Blocks can be nudged with a touch; keys can be collected; switches can be pushed. It’s your usual puzzling toolbox (aside from the amazing chandeliers).
On the last few levels, Webgeon Speedrun Edition finds its killer app. Two-coloured blocks appear on the screen, and one of those colours is visible, blocking your path, while the other is shadowy and intangible. Shoot a web, though, and the two colours switch. Suddenly the other colour is blocking your way. Voila, you now have a fiendish puzzle, and Webgeon Speedrun Edition suddenly had us making notes, coming up with theories with disheveled hair and wide eyes. It’s in the last few levels that Webgeon Speedrun Edition becomes an utter bastard.
Generally, the degree of challenge is up to you in Webgeon Speedrun Edition. There is a reason that ‘Speedrun Edition’ is in the title, as you can, optionally, play through the game with a ticking clock. While there are no global highscore tables that we could find (a real shame, considering the speedrun overtures), there’s a certain satisfaction in trying to beat levels – and the game – against the clock. Levels, too, aren’t hugely simple. At the halfway point, we found ourselves dying and trapping ourselves on more than one occasion per level, and it’s pretty challenging. Add in the divisive precision web-shooting, and you have a reasonably fiendish game.
Which it needs to be, as there are only twenty-five levels here. That number is on the low side, even for the price of £4.19: you can swing through them all in under an hour, and we found ourselves eager for a few more levels. We weren’t done. Our fingers were eagerly tapping the controller like spider legs. But that’s an indication that what was here was enjoyable; we would have happily put down another £4.19 for a DLC drop of more levels.
And 1000 Gamerscore? You betcha: Webgeon Speedrun Edition gives it up over roughly fifteen minutes, perhaps less if you’re a dab hand at these kinds of games. You only need to complete the first ten levels and they’re yours.
Webgeon Speedrun Edition isn’t going to set the puzzle-platforming world alight. It is an ice-sliding puzzle in spider’s clothing, and the additions it offers – including some fantastic chandelier vandalism – are minor, gentle additions to the formula. But together with the intricate, well-crafted levels, they’re just enough to nudge Webgeon Speedrun Edition into the realm of a recommendation. If you can stomach spending time with a spider, and have a taste for puzzling, then sink your fangs in.
You can buy Webgeon Speedrun Edition from the Xbox Store