Author: Andrew Plotkin
Development System: Inform
Cruelty Rating: Cruel, but necessarily so (and short anyway)
Length Of Play: 2-4 hours
My Rating: 9
Awards: 1998 XYZZY Awards — Best Game, Best Puzzles, Best Individual Puzzle, Best Individual NPC, Best Use of Medium
Synopsis: You are breaking into a top-secret facility to foil enemy plans. However, you are playing in the past as every time you take an action that didn’t actually happen, the interrogator admonishes you (as you’re tied to a chair) and makes you start over.
Review: In high school I was in an abusive relationship; the song “Push” by Matchbox20 resonated with me so much that it became and still remains one of my favorite songs. Is it a great song? I don’t know. I only know that it stirs within me something raw and profound.
I feel the same way with Spider and Web when it comes to “The Puzzle.” I’ve been playing adventure games and puzzle games non-stop since I first played King’s Quest in 1985 and there is no other puzzle that makes me feel this way. In my first playthrough twenty years ago, it gave me chills. I played it again this week, knowing the answer, and that familiar wave came over me again. I am in love with this puzzle. I want to marry it and have brilliant puzzle babies.
I could try to break down why it gives me all the feels. Perhaps it’s the gradual buildup that is extremely well-clued but never obviously so. Perhaps it’s the oneupmanship over the interrogator. Perhaps it’s the extraordinary gift of getting to play back the entire game in your mind up to that point with the knowledge bestowed upon realizing the answer. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter. No logical argument will sway my adoration nor my reverence.
For those who are fortunate enough to read this review and have the opportunity to play Spider and Web for the first time, for all that is good and holy do not resort to a walkthrough. If you must, use the Invisiclues linked to on the IFDb. And be patient with yourself. Let the game play you.
Please don’t mistake my adulation for belief in perfection. There are parts I’m not a huge fan of. The gadgets could come with more of a tutorial, especially since our spy is an expert with them. And the end puzzle itself doesn’t really fit in with the theme of the rest, leading to a whimper of a conclusion. But our loves don’t need aspire to perfection. They just have to sing to us in a way that will touch our hearts and stay there forever.