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Reviewed: Spiderman 2
Producer: Activision
Required System: Nintendo DS
Overall Rating:
Author: Michael Ahlf
Date: December 1st, 2004

Spider-man titles, as run by Activision, have always been a mixed bag. In fact, until the ridiculously awesome Spider-Man 2 on the home consoles, powered by a Grand Theft Auto-style engine, they were uniformly mediocre and stiff to play. Gameboy titles have suffered similarly, choosing to focus not so much on gameplay, but rather on flashy graphics and side-scrolling beat-em-up action.

With the advent of the Nintendo DS and its amazing capabilities, I was prepared for more. Finally, a system that could render in 3D, show off what a Spider-Man 2 handheld game could be, especially after seeing the last two Spider-Man titles on the GBA. I expected 3-D movement, some real action, perhaps even expansive levels.

What I got, unfortunately, was more of the same.

I accept that it's hard to do Spider-Man 2 justice on the handheld, given the expansiveness of the console versions. And it's not like Vicarious Visions didn't try - it's obvious that they did. It's more that they fell back on the same tired routines that have plagued Spider-Man titles in the past. Parker's repertoire is once again limited, and there's no feeling of freedom when stuck in a 2-D plane with 3-D backgrounds. In addition, instead of having open-ended missions and exploration, the game focuses on time limits, multiple objectives, and level memorization; a sure recipe for poor replayability.

The good: Don't get me wrong - it's not that the game doesn't have improvements. The designers put in multiple attack buttons (using the four buttons now available), Spider-Sense slowdown mode with the L button, and mappable "special" maneuvers that are triggered with the R button and selected by touching the square for the move on the lower screen. It's an interesting idea, and definitely makes the most of the bottom screen since they don't need maps (2D game) and would be foolhardy to try to cross action over the screens.

In addition, visually, the game's brilliant. Every bit of graphical beauty that could be put in, was; vibrant textures, highly detailed character models, and a greatly detailed world. The fact that the game looks that good will probably draw in a few gamers who shouldn't buy the title based on the gameplay, and that's unfortunate.

The bad: Unfortunately, everything else. While the audio is well defined and a definite step up from the GBA games, the music is still cut into short clips, and the digitized speech of boss enemies still leaves something to be desired. It's almost easier to play if you turn the volume off (or at least the music) and just stick the movie soundtrack CD into a nearby player.

Levels, despite being beautifully rendered and making lots of twists and turns, are inherently 2-D in design, with only the ability to move left, right, up, or down. It's painful to deal with, especially after having enjoyed real freedom of movement in other versions of the game. Adding to the frustration level is the "exploration" effect, based on giving levels "extra" objectives of a ridiculously short completion time and possibly extra, hard-to-find objectives to complete within that time. If you don't have tremendous patience, this game is NOT for you.

Finally, there's the combat engine, or problems thereof. Spidey doesn't really attack in a fluid fashion, and "combo" attacks aren't defined well; if you don't end knocking down an enemy, or walk too close as they get up, expect to get hit. While every enemy drops some health on defeat, the fact that they do this indicates that even the designers intended for the player to not happily incapacitate enemies with well-timed attacks, but to simply go through combat after combat of trading punches.

Added:  Wednesday, December 01, 2004
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 1/2

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