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Spider-Man 2

Platform(s): Nintendo DS, PSP, PlayStation 2, Xbox
Genre: Action
Publisher: Activision

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NDS Review - 'Spider-Man 2'

by Nathan Mourfield on Dec. 31, 2004 @ 2:05 a.m. PST

Genre: Platformer
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Release Date: November 21, 2004

Spider-Man 2 is an innovative attempt by Vicarious Visions and Activision to create a solid platform title for the new Nintendo DS handheld. While this game has some great potential, it falls flat on execution and does not salvage the bad movie-to-game reputation.

The plot essentially follows the movie's storyline: two years after becoming Spider-Man, Peter Parker is trying to go to school while working for the local pizza delivery joint. Instead, he ends up saving people from fires and performing other heroic deeds, which in turn interferes with school and work. You know, normal young superhero issues.

Spider-Man 2 for the DS has amazing visuals rendered in 3D; when Spidey is web-slinging, the backgrounds move fluidly and are graphically impressive. With the swinging from web to web, climbing up walls, and matrix-like slow motion caused by "Spidey Sense," the visuals of this game are outright mind-boggling for a handheld title.

On the other hand, the music and the audio were rudimentary at best, being reminiscent of some of the cheesy Game Boy Advance titles of old, and the sound effect for hitting a villain actually sounds akin to some of the NES platformer titles. There was no effective use of the stereo or simulated surround sound capabilities of the DS, probably attributable to the game being released before it was ready.

Level design was hectic and haphazard, causing a lot of backtracking and confusion. With the web-slinging as a mode of transport, whole areas could be missed due to the disorder of the layout. The developers should have a least provided a map, because as-is, the game is slightly frustrating to play. On the second mission, it is extremely difficult to find all of the 24 escaped convicts, leading most people to stop playing the game on that level. In addition, there are places that are nearly impossible to get out of, even though there are power-ups in those areas. Having to backtrack to find 12 out of 24 villains on a single level is a tad annoying and seemed to be game filler.

Game controls are typical of a GBA platformer; the buttons manage most of the game, and there is minimal touch screen interaction. This is a solid foundation for a platformer and caused no issues, and later on, the title uses more of the touch screen, focusing on mini-games like knocking debris that Doc Ock throws at Spider-Man, tying up villains, or defusing bombs. The game does a good job explaining the controls throughout the game, and the learning curve was quite low so the player will be quickly learn how to kick some tail.

Combat can be confusing since Spider-Man has this bad habit of sticking to walls. It was frustrating to jump over an enemy in an effort to dodge his attacks and the find myself sticking to the ceiling, thus throwing off my timing. In addition, most of the special attacks have to be unlocked, which is no easy task. The villains seem to get some great advantages in blocking Spider-Man if the "Spidey Sense" mode is not activated.

The cut scenes, while basic, were probably the best part of this game because they helped to define the background story in a compelling way, and added some extra depth to the title. Unfortunately, this was just not enough to carry the game. Since this is a movie-based title that so closely follows the movie's storyline, the player can get a better experience watching the movie.

One of the hooks for the game is to beat all of the levels while completing the optional objectives. These objectives might be a preset time limit or defeating all of the villains. Usually, there are two or three of these optional objectives, along with a couple of required ones. The time limit is the greatest pain, due to issues with trying to locate items in the levels. If 100% of the optional objectives are met, then a special unlockable article will be revealed. Since the objectives are so hard to meet, the player has to go through a level four or five times to learn where things are in order to beat said level within a five-minute timeframe. This should not be deemed as replayability, but monotony. It is a sin to waste the player's time, and this game has been a bad boy.

Spider-Man 2 for the Nintendo DS is not one of my recommended titles. It has the ingredients of a good platform game: good graphics and controls, but unfortunately, poor level execution and weak audio take away from the game. With a little extra work to hammer out some of the gameplay issues, the title could have been a contender. However, with almost zero replayability, execution issues, and no multiplayer capabilities, I would suggest that players go towards other titles, especially since this title is on the higher end of the DS' price points.

Score: 5.5/10



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