Not only is Spider-Man one of the coolest superheroes out there, but he's clearly the one comic book character that gets the best videogames. His unique superhuman abilities, most notably his wall crawling and web swinging capabilities, tailor extremely well to the gaming format, and it gives developers plenty of room for ideas to create a fun and faithful action design. But never have his abilities been dependent in launching a brand new gaming platform, but that's exactly what Activision has done with Spider-Man 2
on the Nintendo DS. It's the first time the webhead's premiered on a videogame system for the hardware's debut, so all eyes are upon him to see just what this guy can do on the brand-new handheld platform. For the most part his outing is a success, but it still could have used a few tweaks to tighten up the gameplay.
- 16 chapters
- Supports GBA cartridge port for "secrets"
- Cartridge save (three slots)
is not a port of the excellent console game that was released earlier this year for the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox. Vicarious Visions' Nintendo DS Spider-Man 2
certainly borrows the situations and story elements from the Treyarch design, which beefs up the movie storyline with additional fights situations between Mysterio and The Vulture. But this handheld game is an original production that's more inspired by the team's Game Boy Advance Spider-Man
game: Mysterio's Menace.
And, in fact, loyal players of that game will find a little hidden treat if they put these two games together...
The game isn't an open-ended design. It's completely linear, following chapters that take players through the story of Peter Parker and Doc Ock, peppering up that story with the same additional baddies from the console games. So, by default this design's a slight step backwards to what the namesake has already offered up gamers on the bigger systems. You're not going to get the freedom of exploration, swinging through Manhattan like it's you're own personal playground. No, this game is much more in line with previous 2D Spider-Man games; Spider-Man can do things like stick to any wall in his path, but that's about the extent of the "freedom" this game offers. Levels can be out in the city or a part of interior locations...or a combination of both. Each level has a certain quota required of Spider-Man to complete before players can move onto the next chapter, most of which either entails a) rescuing hostages, b) defeating all enemies, or c) both rescuing hostages and defeating all enemies.
Spider-Man has a ton of moves at his command, most of which must be unlocked in order to take advantage of them. The game doesn't have an enormous focus on the touchscreen abilities of the Nintendo DS, but it does put it to use right off the bat with a live "menu" selection that gives players easy access to special attacks and techniques. Switching from a webpull to a split kick is as easy as touching the appropriate "button" on the screen. The touchscreen also comes into play during boss battles, offering simple challenges like shutting down switches, or defending against incoming objects. Nothing this game does via touch screen will sway you to believe in the "new" style of control, but at least these ideas compliment the idea somewhat successfully.
At the absolute very least, Spider-Man 2 is a testament to the 3D capabilities of the Nintendo DS hardware. The fast, fluid 60 frames-per-second graphic engine shows what can be done on the handheld in a very short amount of time, and because of this silky smooth engine Spider-Man 2 is easily the best looking launch game on the Nintendo DS. Spider-Man may only be a few polygons, but he moves with animated grace that's really only possible in a 3D engine; as great as he looked in sprites on the GBA, his polygonal self is a vast improvement. The environments, too, are equally gorgeous, constructed with a lot of depth and detail that really show off what the system can do. Granted, the game sticks to an on-rails 2D side-scrolling camera, but the 3D effect is more than a mere illusion. Walk down a street's intersection and you can see the road and skyline draw backwards down the street for several blocks. The levels take advantage of the 3D environment by rotating the set path to create winding corridors, and the designers definitely put this effect to use early in the game to give the player an "ooh, neat" feeling right off the bat. Enhancing this effect are some slick full-motion video cutscenes peppered throughout the storyline, lifted from the sequences in the console game.
But where the developers impress on the visual side of things, the gameplay isn't quite as tight. As awesome as the levels look on the Nintendo DS screen, they're way too spaced out and require an enormous amount of exploration to find every item that's required in the level. Hostages and enemies are scattered so far apart that it's extremely easy to overlook an area that one might be "hiding," and the fixed camera, always at the same distance from the character, never allows players to look around while swinging through the environments. So if you miss one hostage or enemy in your trek through a given area, it may take several minutes of backtracking to locate that stray in order to complete the level. And for a game that rewards players for finishing levels under a certain time, this design is just a little unfair.
The game is definitely a lot of fun putting Spidey's abilities to the test, even if web-swinging isn't as heavy a focus as wall-crawling is in this design. Spider-Man 2's real focus is its way cool "web zip" function. This is a technique that's been seen in past Spider-Man games, but it's pulled off extremely well on the DS, and it's clear that the level designers enjoyed it so much that they made sure that the areas require players to do it. Basically, if there's a wall close enough, Spider-Man can quickly zip to it with his webbing. This can be pulled off in any of eight different directions. Players benefit from this technique because Spider-Man is virtually invulnerable during the zip, so he can zoom through hazardous fire or smash through enemies that might be in the way. It's handled very well on the DS.
Combat, on the other hand, isn't quite as ironed out. The game offers a similar structure where players can string together attacks to take out enemies much more quickly, but the collision between Spider-Man and the enemies isn't as forgiving as it should be to make it a satisfying ability. You'll need to be right up against enemies to nail them properly, and in many cases Spider-Man's reach isn't long enough to get enemies that you'd figure would be an easy target. A looser and wider attack range is definitely needed. The game's Spider-sense makes combos a little more "fun" since players can, as in the console game, slow down time and take out enemies with less risk. But even this isn't balanced as well as it could have been. Spider-Sense can only be activated when an enemy is attacking, and by that time, it's too late to pull it off successfully. Many times, you'll activate Spider-Sense when you've taken damage, so you get to watch Spider-Man crumble into a heap in slow-motion. Yippie.
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