Spider: Secrets and Switches

As you might expect from the subtitle, Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor is full of secrets. Nearly every level has one: an area that’s only accessible through a gap that looks like a solid object at first glance, or has some other trick to entering it, containing a little more enigmatic art and some extra bugs. (Thus, completists like me can always tell when there’s a secret to be found. If you eat every visible bug and don’t get the “Level cleared” alert, there must be more bugs you don’t see.) In the simplest and earliest cases, all you have to do to find such things is guide your spider on a circuit of the room’s periphery. When you suddenly go through the wall you’re climbing, you’ve found it. But that doesn’t always work. Sometimes the secret is on the interior, inside a floating object that you need to jump onto to explore, like a dresser with legs that the spider can crawl under. Such things dissolve to a cutaway view when entered. Also, some secrets have to be opened up first by other actions, such as jumping at a wall switch to press it. There’s one that requires something like five different switches to open.

In fact, switches and other nudgeable objects are a pretty important mechanic, providing your only way to alter the environment in other ways than spinning webs. In some cases they control access to non-secret portions of the level. There’s a repeated gimmick of turning on a light to attract moths, which you’d otherwise have to laboriously hunt down over a larger area. It’s used a lot because pressing a switch is just one of the few reasonably plausible actions a spider could take — despite being not actually plausible at all. Spiders are light. Even a big spider like a tarantula would have difficulty moving your standard wall switch.

I recall thinking similar thoughts about Bad Mojo, a graphic adventure game in which you play a cockroach. That roach was capable of amazing feats of strength for a bug its size. But at least it had an excuse for being as smart enough to solve the game’s puzzles: it was actually a transformed human. The spider in Spider is, as far as I know, just a spider, and wouldn’t realistically recognize a switch as something pressable even if it realistically had the ability to press it. Just as it wouldn’t recognize the portraits and letters and abandoned keys in the secret areas. It’s just another part of the strange disconnection between diegetic player goals and avatar goals in this game.

Speaking of which, I seem to have accomplished the game’s goals for the spider, predating my way through the house and reaching the end credits. So, the game is off the Stack. But at the same time, it’s clear that my time in Bryce Manor is not over, because I have goals that the spider does not. Now that I’m not so occupied with mere game mechanics, I can try to unravel the backstory, and to find the Secret Room mentioned in the achievements list. I think I know basically how it’s found: it involves switches that don’t look like switches in various levels. I’ve spotted some hints on what to look for, but I’ll have to keep an eye out for more.

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