Being the resident old fart here at Nerdbastards, I’ve been playing videogames longer than some of my colleagues have been alive.
No, seriously. I think I have pubes older than a few of them.
But I digress.
What I mean is that when it comes to certain kinds of games, I can give a fairly educated opinion. Then I’ll tell you to get the hell off my lawn. Parker Brothers released the first videogame (with graphics, anyway) to feature Spider-Man way, way back in 1982, for the Atari 2600.
Scott Adams (no, the other one) had done a text adventure game in 1978, and it was updated in 1984 with graphic illustrations and ported to various computer consoles. I played it on my trusty Commodore, along with a Hulk and a Fantastic Four text adventure. And boy howdy, did I suck big green donkey balls at it.
And in the late 80s, I played Spider-Man and Captain America in Doctor Doom’s Revenge on my PC. It was impressive for the time, but actual gameplay was limited mostly to kicks and punches.
That put me off Spider-Man games until about 2000, when Neversoft and Activision gave us “Spider-Man,” for the original Playstation and Nintendo 64. I loved the hell out of that game, because in addition to being a fun game, you could unlock an assload of different costumes (with different powers), it had good voice acting, and it had a totally sweet “What If?” mode, in which you entered a code at the beginning of the game, and the rest of the game would unfold in a similar way but with slight cosmetic differences. It was a nice touch.
The first Spider-Man movie game was kind of the weak sauce, but “Spider-Man 2” was much, much better, with an open Manhattan in which you could swing from building to building to your heart’s content. Spider-Man 3 kept the open part, but it seemed much emptier for some reason.
Recent Spider-Man titles that followed had their good points, but none of them really pulled down my pants and taunted me, if you know what I mean. I loved Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, but that wasn’t strictly a Spidey solo title.
Then there’s Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. Is this the most fun I’ve ever had playing a Spider-Man game? Yes and no. Mostly no, unfortunately. I really wanted to have a gameboner for this, but there are a few problems that keep us just friends.
Let’s start with the good, though, shall we?
The gist of the story: Mysterio tries to pilfer a mystical artifact, the Tablet of Order and Chaos, from a museum. The tablet gets broken in the ensuing fight, and this causes problems with the delicate fabric of reality. Spider-Man (and three other versions from different Marvel realities) is enlisted to put things right again. You get to play as four different versions of Spider-Man: The Amazing Spider-Man (the “normal” one), Noir Spider-Man (from a pulp-inspired retro universe), Spider-Man 2099 (a future Spidey, duh), and Ultimate Spider-Man (from the comic of the same name). Each Spidey has a slightly different set of moves and special abilities.
The story was penned by current Marvel scribe Dan Slott, whose work I enjoy tremendously.
In addition to story narration from Stan “The Man” Lee, each incarnation of Spider-Man is voiced by an actor who has previously performed the character in cartoons. Neil Patrick Harris (Spider-Man: The Animated Series) handles Noir Spidey, and Josh Keaton (Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. Not to slight any of the others, who all do smashing jobs, but for me, Dan Gilvezan will always be the voice of Spider-Man. I was at the right age when the cartoon came out, and it just stuck that way.
Gilvezan also used to do commercials for Jack in the Box back in the early 80s, so I also get a wee case of the munchies while playing the 2099 levels.
Also, each Spider-Man has a different visual style, which is kind of nice, too. It helps keep things separate. All of the styles look great. The whole game looks great, in fact. Where it starts to lose a bit of its shine is about midway through.
Each Spidey level, no matter which version follows the pattern of introduction, initial villain fight, pursue escaping villain, fight minions, catch up with villain, pursue some more, deal with more minions, and then battle the villain as the boss of that level. It’s still great fun–don’t get me wrong. It just kinda takes out the element of surprise; it makes your progress in the game seem scheduled.
Each version also has different game styles. The Amazing levels are your standard Spider-Man action game. The Noir levels are much more stealth-centric (they reminded me a bit of Arkham Asylum), and the 2099 levels are less ground-based. The Ultimate levels are similar to the Amazing levels.
The camera can be a bit dodgy at times, but this is hardly unique to this one game. Of course, combine the dodgy camera with touchy controls (the Noir levels are particularly troublesome in this aspect), and it makes for unnecessary frustration. Wall-crawling in the Noir levels made me want to punch kittens in the face a few times because the controls and the camera were conspiring against me, making Spidey turn around in circles like an idiot, thus ending up with me getting spotted.
The control issue conspired more with the design in the 2099 levels; with so much moving around all over the place and you flying around in addition to web-spinning, you get a bit lost at times.
The other gripe with the game was that it seemed a bit on the short side, especially given the rote mechanics of advancing. It’s nice to spend the points you earn in each level on character and combat upgrades (including bonus costumes), but as the levels aren’t as open as the sandbox-style Spider-Man 2 game, there’s not quite as much incentive to go back to get in-game achievements you might have missed before.
It would’ve been kind of neat to have the different Spider-Men have to fight in universes that weren’t their own, but I can also see how that would be really difficult to pull off.
Still, all said, I still recommend the game. If you find it on sale, definitely grab it, because of all the Spider-Man games, this one seems to have the most Spidey-like Spider-Men in it. It’s not like a generic superhero game in which they skinned it with a few Spider-Man characters.
And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get just a little charge out of hearing “my” Spider-Man in a video game.
Check it out.