This review was originally published 03/13/2011 on Game Observer (now defunct). It has been republished here for archival purposes.

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions cover art

Beenox combines several different styles of gameplay and visuals into a fairly enjoyable but very short, disjointed, and sometimes unstable Spider-Man adventure.

I’m so glad that the last few Spider-Man games have not been constrained to follow a movie’s plot. Even though the Spider-Man 2 movie game was arguably the best Spider-Man game since the first one on the PS1, I really want to see developers try something a little more creative with the Spidey character. I’m one of the people who thoroughly enjoyed Web of Shadows and was really hoping to see further development with that game’s fantastically tight controls and combat mechanics. But Beenox had different ideas for a Spidey game – much more ambitious and creative ideas. They scrapped the free-roaming open New York and web-swinging mechanics that have become a staple of Spider-Man games since the second movie game in favor of a dimension-hopping beat-em-up. It’s actually a nice change of pace.

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions - Sandman tornado
This battle against the Sandman early in the game is one of several exceptional action set-pieces.
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The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises' opening scene reminded me a lot of the opening scene of Dark Knight and put a bad taste in my mouth, as if this movie would end up being just a bigger version of Dark Knight and that Bane would feel too much like the Joker.

Fortunately, the movie ended up going in a different direction. Dark Knight was all about the Joker setting up his master plan, but never being able to follow it through (since he never fully breaks the spirit of Gotham's citizens, and Two Face gets covered up by Gordon). This movie, instead, focuses on the villain's master plan actually working! In essence, this movie follows up on Dark Knight by essentially establishing the version of Gotham City that Joker was striving for. Bane succeeds where the Joker failed. Bane throws Gotham into total isolated anarchy and breaks the spirit of its people the way that Joker just couldn't do. Rises offers apocalyptic spectacle that actually works! So many movies try to make the villain's plot too grandiose, and make the threat so immense, that the movie sort of falls apart and gets silly. In this case, however, the apocalyptic vision of Gotham works exceptionally well.

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the amazing Spider-Man

I have to say that I was impressed with how quick a 2 hour and 16 minute movie could feel. The Amazing Spider-Man is slightly shorter than The Avengers, but it is just about as well-paced. Despite being stuck with another telling of Spider-Man's origin, the movie manages to keep things moving along without getting boring. It does this by offering a very different version of the characters and events leading up to Peter's transformation into Spider-Man. But it lacks the same emotional impact that the first movie had and ends up feeling a bit more sloppy.

First and foremost, Andrew Garfield is not your father's Peter Parker. He's much more confident and outgoing, as well as being tall and handsome. I would even go so far as to say that he comes off as being cocky. As such, he doesn't quite live up to the socially-outcast-nerd identity that most fans assume. Garfield's Peter Parker does, however, express his techie, intellectual side much better than Tobey's previous interpretation of the character. Even before Peter is spider-bitten, we see him inventing unique tools and gadgets, manipulating photos for the school paper, and offering Uncle Ben suggestions for fixing a leaking washing machine.

A major point of the movie's early plot is the mysterious disappearance of Peter's parents. Richard Parker's work in genetics is something that apparently got him in trouble with some unreputable individuals, and he and his wife Mary had to leave Peter with Ben and May and run away. When Peter learns that his father used to work with Curtis Connors at Oscorp, he sneaks into Oscorp in order to find out what they were working on. It is here that he wanders into a room containing the experimental spiders that give him his powers. Despite his intelligence, and fondness for science and technology, he just starts playing around with stuff in the lab. You'd think a smart guy like him would know better, but whatever.

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the amazing Spider-Man the amazing Spider-Man

I'm a pretty big Spider-Man fan. As such, I tend to get pretty excited when a new Spider-Man game is announced. I was pretty impressed with some of the things Beenox accomplished with Shattered Dimensions, but still didn't feel like the game hit its potential. Last year's Edge of Time game was a monumental disaster, and kind of has me turned off a bit with regard to Beenox's approach to Spider-Man games.

Having been underwhelmed by Beenox's last attempt at a Spidey game, I was a bit disappointed that they were going to be handling the movie tie-in.

I haven't been keeping very well-informed about the game. I haven't watched any trailers or previews. Pretty much the only info that I've gotten for it have been a few previews in GameInformer. But I did finally watch some E3 footage:


E3 preview with critical commentary.

UPDATE: June 17, 2012: Uncut gameplay video from GameInformer validates my complaints

Came across this preview of The Amazing Spider-Man game that was released yesterday on GameInformer's website. The video contains several minutes of uncut gameplay, which includes footage of Spider-Man webswinging well above the tallest buildings in the vicinity, making it all but impossible for his webs to actually be connecting to anything.

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Spider-Man: Edge of Time box art

I’ve played quite a few Spider-Man games in my time. With that, I’ve played a lot of pretty bad Spider-Man games. But Edge of Time just might take the cake. After Shattered Dimensions proved to be a fun and well-designed (if not a bit rough around the edges) game, Activision apparently decided to let Beenox try another Spider-Man game, and made the horrible mistake of trying to rush it out before Batman: Arkham City sucked up all the comic-book-gamers’ attentions.

Edge of Time forces us into another game featuring multiple Spider-Men, but this time, instead of a dimension-hopping adventure, we get a time-travel story. The basic premise is that some bad guy from the future (2099) has built a time portal at the Alchemax building and is trying to kill the modern (Amazing) Spider-Man. Spider-Man 2099 discovers the plot and takes it upon himself to go back and prevent this from happening. Fortunately, the designers kept their ambitions constrained to just those two Spider-Men, and didn’t try to complicate matters by going further back in time to encounter, say, Black-suit Spider-Man, Scarlet Spider, Man-Spider, or any other Spider-Man variants from Marvel’s history. Just Amazing and 2099.

The time travel story gives the game is primary gimmick: the things you do in one time period (usually the past) can affect the other (usually the future). This seems to be an effort to correct one of my primary complaints with Shattered Dimensions, which was the overall lack of integration between the Spider-Men in the various dimensions. In this game, both Spider-Men now directly interact. In fact, they spend pretty much the entire game talking to each other through some time-traveling communicator thingie. Kudos to Beenox for trying to address a criticism of the previous game. It’s too bad they totally blew it.

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Grid Clock provided by trowaSoft.

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