'Spider-Man': Spinning something great in 4 dimensions
October 13, 2010
Despite all his superpowers, Spider-Man is a guy who’s got the odds stacked against him. He can web his enemies up, swing from buildings, and crawl up as many walls as he wants, but there are still going to be a seemingly endless number of baddies coming back for a piece.
Add to those odds that “Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions” could be just like the endless cash-in franchise games that fill your local video game retailers and what are the chances that the game could be any good? Fortunately, like so many comic book storylines, this Spider-Man game really defies the odds.
“Shattered Dimensions” follows the paths of four different Spider-Man personas. There’s the Amazing version, who looks like the Spider-Man we’ve all seen, Ultimate Spider-Man, who dons a black suit similar to Venom, a Noir character in an all-black 1920s-era getup, and Spider-Man 2099, who looks, well, future-ish. In this adventure, each Spider-Man is tasked with finding pieces of of a broken tablet that have spread across all four dimensions. Though the reasoning is a little cheesy, the premise gives developer Beenox ample room to mix up the elements of what is essentially a beat-em-up game into something varied, deep and really enjoyable.
Each Spider-Man shares the basic controls: you can web sling, lock-on to enemies, dodge and fight using the same buttons, but the play style of one dimension to the next is often very different. Noir episodes have you hiding in the shadows, lying in wait for baddies to pass by so you can web them up. The futuristic Spider-Man is constantly flying (or falling) over megacities - and the emphasis is more on constant action.
The game’s variety takes a deeper turn with the upgrade system. Thorough explorers will find dozens of small spider tokens littering each level. These accumulate points to unlock new attack combos, special moves or character upgrades - sometimes for all the dimensions, or sometimes for just one. The upgrade currency is supplemented by a branching achievement system, which offers harder tasks as you complete the easier ones and gives players another way to get those spendable points.
You’re going to need those upgrades as you make your way through the game. Combat is heavily dependant on the combo system. On the Wii, physical attacks are done mostly on the Wii remote, while web slinging is handled by the Nunchuck. Combat can be one of the few stumbling blocks in the game, as enemies don’t wait to attack you once at a time (and when they’re not beating you down, they’re audibly wearing you down with the same one-liners). Familiarizing yourself with chaining attacks together becomes very important. Goons don’t have Spider-Man’s agility (or knack for snappy one-liners), so web slinging away to formulate an attack plan is almost always doable.
Bosses are another story. Each level is capped by a villain from Spider-Man lore. Some are up-close encounters, literally placing you in first-person perspective to duke it out “Wii Sports”-boxing style, while other times you’ll have to deal with some guy the size of a city block.
To its credit again, Beenox makes variety the name of the game here. With a rich presentation, varied gameplay mechanics and lasting replay value, “Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions” is the rare franchise game that takes its licensed material and spins it into a complete package. There’s a ton of bonus content: concept art, CG movies, figurines on top of all this, so if you’re looking for the next great single-player brawler, look no further.