Mystery in Games: A Critical Play of Spider

Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor, is a game developed by Tiger Style which I played on iOS.

Spider cover art

It is primarily a puzzle game: the player must navigate the manor as a spider, starting from the outside and venturing in, weaving webs strategically along the way. However, there is a mystery narrative throughout the story as well, which “The Secret of Bryce Manor” alludes to. Why is the kitchen abandoned to flies and spiders? What happened?

Although the player never explicitly has to find the secret out, the spider must weave webs throughout the house, and so the player naturally is finding clues along the way.

Pictures, lockets, engraved trophies, and other relics hint at the identity of the inhabitants. The mystery unfurls gradually as the spider navigates the levels.

The spider weaves webs alongside an abandoned locket, showing a picture of the Manor’s previous inhabitants

Because the players are discovering the story through objects and relics, the mystery of what has happened is discovered gradually. First, we see a picture of a family. Then, we start to understand their relationships, through the locket shown in the image above.

The Bryce Family in a portrait

Mechanically, because the spider is forced to traverse the entire space in order to advance through the levels, uncovering the story does not detract from the game’s goals. Instead, it serves as an extra layer of intrigue and incentivizes players to learn more.

Additionally, there are at most 1–2 relics per level which hint at the Bryce family’s story, which functions to intrigue without overwhelming. The player is enabled to concentrate primarily on weaving webs without being pulled into the story or having to remember many details.

This provides a great example of how narrative in games can enhance the game, while not detracting from the primary puzzle-nature of this game.

Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor provides examples of how space exploration, using objects as evidence, and balancing puzzle/mystery aspects of the game can create an engaging game experience.

CS @ Stanford