Activision put some major focus on doing Spider-Man 2
justice in its PlayStation Portable incarnation. While many of the games for the new system just test the waters as upgraded versions of classic or current hits customized for the handheld, this game is almost entirely a new production -- new levels, new story sequences, new CG, even new voice-over from the Hollywood cast. It could have been just a cut-down version of the PS2 game, but instead, the game was given to the portable veterans at Vicarious Visions to try something else. It's not nearly as big as its console big brothers -- nowhere near as expansive as the 'living city' second game -- and suffers some of the problems in camera and handling that the series has always faced. But for the short time that it lasts, it puts on a good show and offers some good thrills.
This is a brand new Spider-Man adventure set in the second film's storyline, borrowing some of Spidey's moves and skills from the last few games starring Marvel's wonderboy and also adding some of its own. Spidey's awesome web antics from Spider-Man 2 are dearly missed (that game nearly ruined us for all other superhero games), but the new Easy Swing system gives the webslinger some of swing back and allows him a bit of room to test the vertical limits of the few city stages. It helps that the PSP is powerful enough to kick out large levels that stretch to the sky and nearly to the streets below -- it's only a little sandbox compared to the playground offered on consoles, but you'd be bouncing off the walls in anger if these stages weren't there to let you sling your webs.
It takes a while to get comfortable with the buttons and control layout of the PSP Spider-Man 2 -- it has always been a complicated game, and with little but important things changing every time out, you'll have to get a feel for what's back from other games and what has been left out. This time out, Peter Parker's alter-ego can't vault up the side of a building, but he can launch ziplines to take him up and down and everywhere else he wants to go; he can't cannonball through a crowd, but he can swing baddies around with his Web Rodeo or bash them in the neck while riding on their backs. The return of the Cocoon is immediately forgettable, but it is good that the PSP game brings back the second attack button -- there are independent punch and kick moves now, and combined with the variety of web moves, there are plenty of ways to put a thug down.
The production scope is much smaller, but this game does help put into perspective just how powerful PSP is compared to PS2. Spider-Man himself is phenomenally detailed on the PSP screen, with a customized shadowing technique that wraps around his body to make him stand out even more. Thugs are much less detailed, but they were ignored in the console game as well -- Spidey and the Rogue's Gallery of bosses steal the show. It runs at a smooth framerate, and there's often extra detail in the background that's only there for smashing and showing off, which is always a good thing. Audio production is impressive, with cast members like Tobey Maguire and others returning for voice-over lines (but not the legendary Bruce Campbell -- and oh, how it hurts that he isn't here.) The music soars, and the thuds and thwacks pound over headphones. The CG sequences are drawn a little hokey, but the random details that are there for atmosphere -- like when Spidey smirkingly makes fun of Mysterio -- are extra little strands that help get you caught in this web.
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