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The RPS Advent Calendar, December 9th

Venomy of the people

Arachnophobes may be hesitant to open this door on the Advent Calendar, but we promise it'll be safe, and there's even an arachnophobe mode. You know who could do whatever a spider could better than Spider-Man? An actual spider, that's who.

Get ready to save a small world in Webbed!

Sin Vega: Webbed makes me happy. I've played a jillion games that were fun or engaging, but almost nothing that delivers so much sheer joy as this little tale of a helpful jumping spider uniting the local bugs to rescue her boyfriend.

I don't mean anything daft like Webbed changed my life or cured my depression. I mean it simply radiates joy, in a way that I can't imagine ever becoming immune to. Plenty of games are cute, cheerful, or bright and friendly, with all sorts of nuances to their tone. Ooblets, say, or Adventure Pals. I often qualify talking about such games with "but not too sweet", or noting that they have a dark side to balance it. Webbed is different. It has the tiniest hint of salt, but it has not an ounce of tragedy or sorrow. It isn't merely unsaccharine, but fundamentally joyful.

The other word that acomes to mind is adventure. The acceleration as you climb and swing around gives you a sense of pulling yourself forward that isn't just satisfying on a basic physical level. It feels like you're really travelling and covering ground in a way that steady motion doesn't. But there are two moments that really made me feel like I was embarking on something, and I'd be a fool not to recognise that it's Stijn Van Wakeren's brilliant soundtrack that crowns them both. I won't spoil the second one, but the first is when you arrive at the muddy foot of a tiny hill, which of course is a mountain to you. It's the simplest of Webbed's three areas, but throwing myself into that task as that tune kicked in is one of those game memories I wish I could experience again for the first time. If this soundtrack were in a Nintendo game, everyone would already be going bonkers about it.

The spider from Webbed floats beneath a branch covered in yellow flowers, using a leaf as a little parachute

As for the rest, it's hard to fault. So many games feel, if not dull, then merely okay to get around. Underwhelming movement has bogged down many huge open world games and more modest platformers alike, but Webbed has absolutely nailed its web slinging physics and sounds so well that even months after completing it twice, I still boot it up from time to time just to enjoy flinging myself around for a few minutes. I cackled when I was given the final control prompt, I allcapsed at Alice when I found the secret area, I pestered Astrid with screenshots of the ants merrily addressing me as "comrade spider!".

You can play through it in a couple of hours, but the joy I felt when I finally reached my captive boyfriend was so pure that I spent a full minute leaping and skittering and dancing around with him exactly as the music was gently encouraging me to do. What a ridiculous thing to do and feel about a pair of mute cartoon spiders. Or if you're arachnophobic, mute cartoon blobs wearing a beret, who roll when they move and gently squish themselves when you press the 'dance' button. Webbed may be small but it's an all-timer and I'll be recommending it to just about everyone without reservation for years to come.

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The all-seeing eye of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, the voice of many-as-one.