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Apr 19

Game of the Week: Spiderman Shattered Dimensions

Spidey_SD_Xbox_360_Flat_smallIf it wasn’t a comic book (game) plot, Spiderman Shattered Dimensions’ plot wouldn’t ever be taken seriously.  It’s the kind of thing a thirteen year old boy dreams up to tie the doodles together in his notebook.  However, as a device to give me different spins on Spiderman gameplay, I’ll take it.

Let me get the worst part out of the way first.  It appears that the developers, Beenox, don’t like webslinging.  They like web zipping instead.  Anyone who loved Spiderman 2 (the game), knows why this is disappointing.  If you’re willing to accept this, you have a pretty good game.  If not, it’s time too look elsewhere.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at the positives.  First, the game is narrated by Stan Lee.  This sort of instantly negates the levels of corniness that follows.  You have jumped into a Saturday morning cartoon and are willing to go with it.  Once you’ve been called a true believer, who are you to argue?

Next you get four different Spiderman games in here.  You get the Amazing and Ultimate versions of the webhead. You also get Spiderman Noir and Spiderman 2099.  Admittedly, using common controls they can feel a bit alike at times.  Beenox did a good job using distinct art styles and varying mechanics to give each a different spin.

Amazing Spiderman feels most like the Spidey we’ve played before.  He’s a good combination of power and agility.  He uses a lot of web based attacks.  He’s also where you miss the wide open webslinging the most.  He probably has the biggest mouth which makes him entertaining.  He has no unique powers but is well balanced and doesn’t feel weak in any area.

Ultimate Spiderman is in the black suit.  He combines web and tentacle based attacks.  With the black suit he has more raw strength so excels in direct combat.  He also has a rage meter that builds up as you fight.  Once full, you can unleash it to go all ‘Hulk Smash’ on everything.  This gives him a very direct sort of feel.  Tactical retreat isn’t really in his vocabulary.  This may make him the least challenging, but it remains fun.

Spiderman Noir is the odd spider out.  Except for a few arena areas, he doesn’t spend his time fighting.  If it wasn’t set in the Twenties or Thirties, you’d say he was copying Batman.  He lurks in the shadows and takes down the baddies one at a time when they least expect it.  Clearly the developers were inspired by Batman: Arkham Asylum.  If he leaves the shadows, he’s quite vulnerable.  Really, if caught outside the shadows, retreat is his only option.  I don’t know if I’d like a whole game of this, but as a change of pace, it was pretty great.

Spiderman 2099 is not Peter Parker.  You almost have to say that otherwise you really couldn’t tell.  He is Spiderman in attitude and abilities. Beside the shiny, high tech suit, he has two things that stand out.  One, he has accelerated vision that seems to slow down time for a bit.  Functionally, it works much like Ultimate’s rage mode, but it feels different especially when you’re dodging high speed missiles.  Next, 2099 spends an inordinate amount of time falling.  He has several sections where he is diving after someone or something.   He can accelerate and dodge obstacles.   Accelerated vision is sometimes useful here.   Unfortunately, it’s just not very compelling gameplay.

That sort of brings up a main point to the game.  Much of it feels like experimentation on a theme.  Much of it works.  Some of it fails.  Some fails spectacularly.  The best part is that none of it overstays its welcome.  Levels aren’t overly long and few of the bosses or their fights feel similar.  With something new around each corner, including progressive power ups, the game maintains a fun pace.

I could go on about the unique spins some of the universes have on classic villains.  Or I could go on about how Hammerhead felt like a rip off of Dick Tracy, but that would be missing the point.  The fun in the game is the sense of discovery.  If you have interest in comic games and can get over the webslinging issue, definitely recommended.  Excelsior, true believers.

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