Queensland Made Games Are Having One Hell Of A Year

Queensland Made Games Are Having One Hell Of A Year
Image: Sbug Games

Queensland is having one hell of a year for games. And last week the state added another piece of brilliance to the pile, a game about a little spider just trying to find her boyfriend.

That game is Webbed, an adorable adventure from Sbug Games. A prototype of the game has actually been playable for years — a small placeholder level with surprising fluidity for a browser-based game was published on Itch.io in October 2019.

But last week, the full Webbed adventure hit PC. And judging off how it went, I can imagine it won’t be long before publishers come calling to have it ported to other platforms.

webbed
Lasers on a spider? Sure. Image: Kotaku Australia / Sbug Games

After the evil crow nicks off with your boyfriend, you’re tasked with recruiting support from the local wildlife to deal with the forest’s biggest bully. That involves helping ants rebuild their mech, using a moth’s nest as a heated air ship with fuel from the local dung beetles.

It’s a little bit absurd, which completely works in the game’s favour, because most of the time you’ll be focusing on doing this. (The soundtrack is perfect for the game, too, and you can hear that in the GIF below.)

You’ve got your regular webslinging, which functions much like something from Insomniac’s Spider-Man. But what’s really neat is the right-mouse ability, which lets you create a web bridge between two points. Because it’s done by holding down right click and then dragging from point to point — and you don’t have to be particularly precise about it — the experience feels like you’re flicking your mouse almost as much as the little spider is flinging from edge to edge.

It’s genuinely brilliant. You can then use those bridges to give you something else to sling towards. Or you can simply walk on those little web bridges, which is handy for dealing with environmental traps.

You can also use those webs to pull or move objects around. It’s not exactly a breakthrough when it comes to platforming puzzles, but it’s deeply, mechanically satisfying.

It’s no surprise, then, that Webbed is sitting on a healthy 97 percent user rating from almost 1,100 reviews on Steam. Steam’s a platform with an audience that always appreciates mechanical depth, especially when it’s a system that works as smoothly as Webbed. (There’s the odd instance where you’ll accidentally get a bit stuck or objects will stick to the ground courtesy of a web that can be hard to see, but troubleshooting problems isn’t too difficult — just blast everything with lasers if you need to.) It helps that the music has the perfect direction too: a whimsical, almost cheeky touch, a bit like you’re a ’90s ABC cartoon character going on a cute little adventure.

Image; Phantom Abyss / Team WIBY

Webbed, rightfully so, has been named for a few gongs at this year’s Australian Game Developer Awards. But it’s not the only Queensland game to clean up. Unpacking, the zen-like adventure about moving house and rearranging things to your delight, was also nominated in four categories. The state has also produced the excellent mobile remake of The Oregon Trail via Gameloft Brisbane, and Phantom Abyss from Team WIBY (pictured above) has done well on Steam since its early access launch. Plus, there’s Grow: Song of the Evertreewhich will be out before the end of the year, and Len’s Island which looks amazing for Animal Crossing fans.

len's island
Image: Len’s Island

And that’s before you even consider some of the state’s biggest projects that were delayed. We were supposed to get Sports Story, the successor to the brilliant Golf Story indie, until it was delayed into 2022. On the bright side, Sidebar Games continued the Australian tradition of announcing the delay in the best possible way (complete with an adorable Iwata tribute).

Considering most of the narrative around video game development tends to be Melbourne-focused — which is fair in a sense that the state puts the most effort into funding and marketing it — it’s nice to see so many breakout hits from across the country. And if you zoom out a little, it’s really been a banger 12 months for local games: Hits like Project Wingman, WA’s continued reverence of strategy games with Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector, The Forgotten City just recently, The Artful Escape, or this week’s early access launch for Age of Darkness. 

Yeah, it’s been a real solid 12 months for local games.

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