At PAX East 2022, it was hard to miss the giant inflatable spider at tinyBuild’s booth, and even harder to miss the massive line of people nearby all eagerly waiting to get their hands on Spiderheck.
As I stood near the booth and watched other people play, it was easy to see why the game was such a hit among PAX East attendees. A fast-paced, frenzied multiplayer where four people get to fight each other as tiny, but mighty spiders wielding chaotic weapons like laser swords? I mean, what’s not to love?
Having seen quite a bit of the game before my demo appointment for Spiderheck, I felt like I was ready to swing in and start slashing away. That said, things were a little awkward at first as I found out I’d be playing the demo with three strangers (to me) who all clearly knew each other. That’s the kind of situation where alliances can form, and I was worried the three of them would form their own little spider gang with me as the odd spider out.
Fortunately, once we started playing I was relieved to see that the spiders all look relatively similar (despite being different colors), and when the game really gets going, it becomes increasingly difficult to find and target your least favorite spider friend. Especially in comparison to other “wreck your friends” multiplayer games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
This is to the game’s credit, as it’s harder to get mad at your friends for wrecking you in the game when you can’t immediately tell which friend is responsible. It’s also hard to take the game super seriously given the wacky physics-based combat of it.
With the demo underway, the first thing I had to learn to master (for the sake of basic survival) wasn’t combat, but movement. The A button is your friend in Spiderheck, and is used to shoot webs to help pull yourself over to a platform, or away from an enemy.
While getting a hang of this concept, I learned I had to be careful with the mechanic because, as fluid as it feels, and as fun as it is to swing all over the place, there are hazards at every turn.
For example, I swung directly into an enemy’s laser sword a number of times like a big dumb dumb, and there were moments where I pressed the A button too many times in a panic without any real direction in mind, resulting in my spider falling into the boiling hot lava below and me eliminating myself Terminator 2 style.
Holding on to a desperate sense of self-preservation, I got better and better at avoiding those situations as the rounds went on and I soon began planning out battle strategies for each round. Primarily, the strategy was to grab my weapon, swing away from the action, and do my best to defend my position and survive.
It worked about half the time… maybe. The other times I tried this strategy, my foes would see my half-baked attempt at outsmarting them by waiting the round out while they fought each other and would chase me down. All the while, I’d be swinging wildly around the map thinking to myself, “Not me, not me, come on guys, just fight each other, I’m bad at this, cut me some slaaaaaaaaack.”
In terms of weaponry, several rounds saw all four of us spider friends by proxy given laser swords. You can swing these around with the thumbstick and, when you win, you can spin your laser sword in a circle and have yourself a one-spider rave if you want. Other weapons on offer include guns, which is somehow an even funnier sight than a spider with a laser sword.
On Steam, the Spiderheck page notes there’s a wide range of weapons on offer in the game, and I’m looking forward to trying all of these out once the game is released. Something else I’m looking forward to checking out is the single-player mode where you can take on waves of AI foes. I feel like that sort of mode would be perfect for someone like me who likes to practice on my own before sinking my teeth into battles with other people.
In the days following PAX, I’ve found myself thinking about my time with Spiderheck and the three people I got to play the game with a lot. I didn’t say a single word to any of them because I’m painfully shy, but I nevertheless had an amazing time with Spiderheck and that was due, in large part, to the three of them and how they didn’t baby me in the game, but also weren’t unfairly aggressive with me either.
So to whoever I played the demo with, thank you for making Spiderheck a fantastic experience for me at PAX, all three of you were awesome. And in terms of Spiderheck itself, if you aren’t too overwhelmed by the sight of animated spiders, this game is a must-play, especially with friends and family.
In closing, I can’t wait to see more from the game in the time leading up to its release, and I certainly can’t wait for another opportunity to go toe-to-toe with people as a chaotic little murder spider again. For more on Spiderheck, be sure to add the game to your wishlist on Steam!
These impressions are based on an in-person demo played at PAX East 2022. Spiderheck is set to release sometime later this year for Xbox One, Series X|S, PS4, PS5, Switch, and PC.