Spider-Man is by far my favorite superhero, but by no means am I up to speed on what he’s up to in the comic book universe. There are just too many incarnations going on at any given moment to be able to follow. Plus, if I started collecting comics, I’d have to give up on video games, and then what would I do with the 300 plus games I’ve got laying about? This is why gamers are lucky to have a game like Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions that gives them a whole four Spider-Man variations to play and get familiar with. Spider-Man in four different flavors sounds like a whole bunch of awesome, but can it really live up to its comic heritage or will it fall flat on its face?
Fans of Spidey in print will find this to be one of the most true to its source games in quite some time. Each version of Spider-Man has a different art style attached to their levels. For the record the four different Spider-Man comics turned video game are: Amazing Spider-Man, Ultimate Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2099, and Spider-Man Noir. Each of these has levels ripped straight from the pages of the comic books. Graphics are clean for the most part. Spidey is well animated as are the thugs, goons, and monsters he fights along the way. Though, the goons themselves get repeated time and again throughout any given stage. Bosses are amazingly detailed and are exciting to see brought to life, especially in their comic book form. Levels also give you a lot of room to go exploring and collecting various extra items used to unlock further skills and bonus materials.
Like the graphics, the audio is excellent in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. Spidey has lots of his trademark wit intact throughout the game. Plus, the voice over work is on par with a quality animated series. Neil Patrick Harris, Christopher Daniel Barnes, Dan Gilvezan, and Josh Keaton all reprise their roles as the different incarnations of Spider-Man, so it’s already off to a better start than most games. Fans of Spider-Man and the animated series over the years will also recognize some of the villains represented in the game because some of those voice actors have returned as well. Oh, and it’s also probably worth noting that Stan Lee narrates the story. The music is great and sound effects are likewise, though, the real treat is getting to hear Spider-Man the way we remember him over the past twenty years or so.
Each version of Spider-Man plays a little differently from the next, but the basic actions all remain the same. The game rewards you for playing each character the way they’re supposed to be used as opposed to giving everyone the bum’s rush. You are rewarded for meeting certain criteria for each level, for example as Noir Spider-Man you might get rewarded for sneaking up on ten unsuspecting goons. You earn points which can then be used to unlock stronger attacks, extra health, or alternate costumes amongst other things. While three of the Spider-Man versions play alike, Noir Spider-Man plays more like a stealth action game along the lines of Splinter Cell or Metal Gear Solid. The break up of the action is somewhat welcome, though, the creeping around just doesn’t seem to fit into the Spider-Man tradition of gaming. It also brings the fast pacing of the game to almost a halt, and if it weren’t for some memorable villains in the world it would be annoying. As it is it’s just semi-tedious.
Speaking of which, most of the levels in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions are pretty big, but that doesn’t mean that the developer should make them boil down to glorified find the hidden spider quests. You could probably complete the game by breezing through it, but you probably won’t because you’re going to want to be as powerful as you can be as early as you can, which means completing as many of the level goals and finding as many emblems and hidden golden spiders as you can. This makes games tedious and has nothing to do with Spider-Man in any form. I’ve never seen a comic in which he goes after a boss only to pick up trinkets and knick-knacks along the way. There’s also the occasional ‘rescue the innocent bystander’ section of the game where you swing around and pick up someone who is completely helpless and get them over to safety.(Even worse than finding hidden spiders if you ask me.) So, while the game has some really great moments for Spider-Man fans and non-Spidey fans alike there are also some plain no-no’s for video games in general. Still, the boss battles, cutscenes, and overall story tend to make up for most of the games flaws and really make it worth playing through to the end.
Aside from some control issues, which are to be expected, it must be really hard to get Spider-Man and his webslinging abilities to really do what the developer and gamer want them to do, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions really does a good job of what Spider-Man is. He’s funny, tough, agile and a superhero. Fans of the webcrawler will definitely enjoy Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions as will the casual fan or action adventure gamer. Kudos to Beenox and Activision for a very good game when it could have been easy to cash in on the Spider-Man license.
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