Our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is no stranger to the Game Boy Advance platform. Not only did he get a decent send-off in an original adventure during the system's first year of life, but Activision also offered up a product that coincided with his theatrical debut just a couple years back. Sam Raimi's amazingly fantastic sequel is a prime opportunity for Activision's next superhero outing, and on the consoles the webhead's been given quite the realm in which to swing around and save some lives. On the GBA however, it's a recycling of the game design that Digital Eclipse produced for the first movie. Changes have been made to update the presentation, but with all the elements that have been added, not enough was done to actually fix what was wrong with it the first time, and that makes the handheld Spider-Man 2
feel like a significant step backwards from the previous game in the series.
- Thirty levels
- Side-scrolling and 3D levels
- Cartridge save (three slots)
The game opens up just as the movie does: pizza delivery. Continuity aside (Spider-Man's delivering instead of Peter, which sort of gives away his secret identity to the pizzaria), it's a clever way of introducing (or reintroducing) Spider-Man
's complex controls and capabilities to the player. Here, players will learn the web-swing and wall-climb techniques, as well as some basic combat skills when Spidey's assaulted by random thugs in the city. Early in the adventure Spider-Man
's only got a small amount of combat skills, but his abilities can be enhanced by spending earned points on advanced techniques. This mirrors what Treyarch offers on the console versions, and definitely adds more replay to the entire game design...players will be more willing to explore and perform extra tasks if they're rewarded.
The side-scrolling portions, the majority of Spider-Man 2's game design, feel somewhat half-baked this time around, even though they're based entirely on the GBA game released for the first movie. As a whole they're challenging and fun, but issues that cluttered up the original Spider-Man still hurt the sequel: stiff hand-to-hand combat that doesn't smooth out even when "purchasing" additional, more enhanced maneuvers, and wonky wall-climbing when turning corners or heading into narrow ventilation shafts. Players will even find some places where Spider-Man won't properly stick or climb like he feels like he should. Level designers also throw a few effects into the mix that the scrolling engine just can't seem to handle smoothly; watch the flowing fire and smoke trails of a burning building, for example, bring the fast-paced action to a crawl. But most importantly, the boss battles, easily the weak link of the web in the last Spider-Man Game Boy Advance title, should have been improved for the sequel but end up, again, a series of lame levels that confuse more than challenge.
Another element that Digital Eclipse attempted to bring to the GBA game is the console game's "open ended" level structure. Peppered throughout the side-scrolling levels are challenges that take place in a 3D city. The Game Boy Advance is not a 3D system, though, and these levels show just how limiting the hardware is in this department. The only "challenge" these levels offer is overcoming the choppy animation, wonky collision detection, frustrating controls in order to get to the next level on the map. These levels build upon the last game's bonus levels, also a choppy, sluggish mess of 3D on the Game Boy Advance -- but at least they were relegated to a special bonus that supplemented the side-scrolling challenges. In Spider-Man 2, Digital Eclipse pushed these levels more prominently in the game design. The game would have been better off without them.
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