Transdimensional Hellspider: 7 of 101
Saturday, July 3, 2010 at 1:26AM
Richard Terrell (KirbyKid) in Depth & Complexity, Indie, Review & Repair, Shmup, Skill

These are the 101 indie games that the title refers to.

Created by Linley Henzell, this indie shmup is surprisingly innovative. The space combat is both fairly simple (complexities) and deep (interplay). Unfortunately, it's hard not because of any simple skill based challenge. The hardest part of playing Transdimensional Hellspider comes from the dynamics and interplay of battle that are best overcome by embracing nuances. Explaining exactly how this game works and why it's so uniquely difficult will take all of our understanding of game design and the skill spectrum.  

The innovative enemy design in Transdimensional Hellspider (TH) is apparent after playing a few levels. The Hellspider (the singular enemy/challenge to each level) is procedurally generated and animated. Each variation has a heart, limbs that shoot various projectiles, and thrusters in the back. Destroy the heart and the whole spider dies. Destroy any one of the multiple thruster pods and its movement will be appropriately affected. Destroy the limbs that carry the dangerous attack pods and you'll have one less hazard to worry about. 

You pilot a space ship armed with a standard projectile and your choice of a special charge weapon. As I've detailed here, the CHARGE secondary weapon mechanic helps break up the monotony of the action (and possible static space) creating more diverse timings and strategies. The most unique part of the ship design is the extremely limited movement design. Instead of flying as you please in any one of 8 directions, you can only fly straight ahead. And though the space battles play out in a locked-on strafing spacing between the ship and the Hellspider, there are no sideway movement mechanics. To turn you must rotate your whole ship and then fly straight. While unconventional the limited set of player mechanics does not hold a game back. Rather, we must look carefully at how all the various gameplay elements and layers come together to create challenges. 

Let's take a look at the skill spectrum. Read more about the DKART skill system starting here

 

Dexterity

 

Knowledge

 

Adaptation

 

Reflex

 

Timing

 

Overall, because the movement is so limiting, the many possible variations of Hellspider, and the nuances of the interplay/combat design learning how to play Transdimensional Hellspider is a difficult endeavorer of trial and error. Like so many rougelikes, playing TH is more hard than fun because of its steep learning curve. The game gives no hints explaining how to improve (aside "dive-bombing tactics recommended) or the secret evolution difficulty system. Knowledge is one of the most stressed skills in the skill spectrum for Transdimensional Hellspider, yet it's difficult to experiment and learn about battling the more difficult Hellspider because after you lose all of your lives it's game over. Sure, the game isn't too big so this kid of difficulty design extends the playability of the game. Though I don't think checkpoints or a save system is the solution, I would like a place where I can practice and learn without such a steep punishment. 

The game is very emergent/dynamic in the sense that everything you do affects something else. I can imagine how difficult it was to program the rotating space and the procedural Hellspiders. Though most would probably give up on the game before embracing the depth/nuance, I pushed through and really enjoyed the game. If I could change a few things I would tweak...

 

 

Article originally appeared on Critical-Gaming Network (http://critical-gaming.com/).
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