Release Date: July 13, 2022
Genres: Platform game, Shooter game
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and MORE
"Review Copy Provided By WayForward Technologies"
What happens when you mix Contra with Dinosaurs? You get Cadilaccs and Dinosaurs……no wait….. that’s another game (that should be brought back by the way). You get Spidersaurs! So, Wayforward is an expert when it comes to making some of the most fun and creative games out there and they saw that there was a lack of Contra style games outside of Cuphead and Blazing Chrome and they decided to bring their expertise and previous experience working on the Contra franchise to the table in what is one of the most original and zany titles I’ve played in some time. Is Spidersaurs the second coming of Contra or is it more Parodius than Gradius? Lets find out!
The story of Spidersaurs doesn’t take itself seriously and is very self-aware of the ridiculous nature of events that are going on. It does touch on a few real-life situations such as global warming and world hunger and utilizes it in a very well thought out way. INGEST Corp is an organization that is a food manufacturer that decided to solve the world hunger issue by creating beings known as Spidersaurs which is a hybrid being of dinosaurs and spiders while being high in nutritional (so they say) value. The Spidersaurs end up escaping and so its up to our protagonists Victoria and Adrian to stop them (and chow down on them along the way).
When it comes to games following the Contra formula, many don’t stray far from what was accomplished in Contra III: The Alien Wars or Contra: Hardcorps as many will just throw an endless wave of enemies at you and give you the standard power ups of a spread shot, machine gun, and flamethrower and send you on your way. You’ll typically need to avoid getting hit as you normally only have one time to get hit before you die and have very few lives let alone continues. The formula for Contra and the run-n-gun genre hasn’t really changed or evolved since the release of Contra 4 where it gave the traditional options along with a new mechanic that allowed you to fire a zipline upwards to catch on ledges and give you new methods of traversal. Because Wayforward along with Tomm Hulett created Contra 4, it only makes sense that a lot of what we experience in Spidersaurs is carried over from that game some 15 years later.
In Spidersaurs, you not only have your standard run-n-gun gameplay ala Contra, but you also get access to new abilities after you beat each stage boss as you’ll gain the ability to scale walls, double jump, fire a spider-web like zipline (a call back to Contra 4), and more. The game also stands apart from the genre and its main inspiration in that it gives you a 3 stock health bar (a feature originally seen in Contra: The Hardcorps) alongside lives which makes getting through levels a little easier but not by much as the game still provides plenty of challenge.
When it comes to weapons, you have variety to choose from along with getting a super shield to protect you as you progress through levels. Victoria and Adrian get access to different weapons such as lasers and the like while Adrian gains access to a flamethrower and more. You’ll still have your standard shot, spread shot, machine gun, grenade gun, and more.
Where Spidersaurs differs is in how it incorporates a power up system similar to many shmups or shoot em ups in that if you collect more of the same power up then your weapon becomes stronger and takes on additional properties like range and width of the attack with the trade off being that every time you get hit your weapon powers down until it gets to its base form when you’re at one bar of health left. At the start of every mission, you get to select what type of screen nuke/super bomb that you want that range from Fireworks, Rain, and Flash. Each has different properties of how they activate and the range of which they attack enemies and fill the screen. Outside of weapon powerups, you also can gain health restoratives in the form of roasted meat that will appear at times when you defeat certain enemies that will fully restore your health.
Levels aren’t particularly long and are usually over within 4-9 minutes give or take with a mid-boss and end level boss to take on. Levels vary from your standard run-n-gun side scrolling levels to auto scrollers with you on a vehicle. Enemies that you run into vary from the standard rush and attack type that die in one hit all the way to the annoying swooping style enemies and more that will take several shots to take down. Mid-bosses don’t take much to take down but will require you to watch their patterns to see from what direction they will attack and maneuver from. These encounters usually consist of room wide areas allowing you to utilize your various moves and techniques to topple them. End level bosses are often bullet sponges that have anywhere from 4-5 phases and variations on those phases for you to deal with. Many of the bosses will remind you of bosses that you’ve encountered in Contra or even Gunstar Heroes with a lot of the same attack patterns albeit with some unique twists thrown in.
The game allows for single player or 2-player local co-op which allows for a lot of fun craziness to occur. There isn’t any online modes or online co-op, so you’ll be relegated to a local couch experience.
Graphically, the game is a mixture of Shantae and various other Wayforward properties as the characters along with their vocal performances is all very Wayforward-esque and that’s a good thing. The two main characters are Victoria and Adrian; Victoria is a punk rocker with a devil may care attitude while Adrian is a cop in training along with being a pizza delivery man (he’s got bills to pay) and is a paragon of justice. If you’ve played Contra 4, then you’ll recognize the movements of the characters as Adrian and Victoria move the exact same way as in, they animate the same as Bill and Lance do in Contra 4 which again makes sense considering they made that game. The cast at Ingest along with the Spidersaurs and villains are all wonderfully animated in that iconic style Wayforward is known for. The audio is really good as the voice acting is really good and witty with that classic Wayforward style humor that’s just spot on with the delivery. The OST is absolutely incredible and is done by the iconic Harumi Fujita who composed the OST’s for timeless games including Bionic Commando and Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers.
Performance wise, on the PlayStation and Xbox the game runs at a smooth 60fps at 1080p while on the Nintendo Switch it runs at 1080p 30fps docked and 720p 30fps. On PC you can run the game at 1080p all the way up to 4K at 60fps and higher and on the Steam deck the game runs at 720p up to 800p at a silky smooth 60fps. Of all the platforms the game runs on, I do find the Nintendo Switch version to be the most disappointing as the game isn’t supremely taxing and happens to be another situation of where a game runs it’s worse on the Switch.
Normally, this would be the section where I would talk about the downsides of the game, but honestly, I can’t really think of any that hamper the experience. Sure, the game would’ve been cool to have an online co-op mode but it isn’t a necessarily a make or break for this game. Aside from the performance on the Nintendo Switch, the other issue I have with the game is the face that it has some input lag on the Nintendo Switch which along with the 30fps makes the game feel a bit sluggish.
Spidersaurs has a lot going for it from an incredibly fun and lighthearted story which has Wayforward’s touches all over it to easy to pick up and play controls and a brilliantly vibrant art style that just pops. If you’ve got that itch for some run-n-gun Contra style action that has a ton of replay value and limitless charm, then Spidersaurs is the game that you need to be playing and is a modern-day gem of a game.