Developer: Vicarious Visions
Release Date: May 4, 2007
With the release of the latest "Spider-Man" movie, a new game saw the light on every current gaming system. The console versions were more of the same web-slinging found in Spider-Man 2, while the DS version deviated quite a bit. Not only does it follow Spider-Man in a side-scrolling view, but Spider-Man 3 on the Nintendo DS is controlled almost entirely with the touch-screen.
The official movie game loosely follows the storyline of Spider-Man 3. You have the key villains like Goblin, Sandman, and Venom, but they aren't formally introduced — we don't even learn that Sandman killed Spider-Man's uncle. The villains are considered the "boss" battles, while most of the missions consist of fighting off local gangs. In fact, while the final fight is a team-up of Sandman and Venom like in the movie, the main villain in this game could be considered to be the Lizard (wait, who?).
The Lizard makes an appearance in Spider-Man 3 just like fans wanted, but not in the movie. Unlike the villains who appeared in the movie, you actually have to fight the Lizard in a boss battle two different times. On top of that, somehow he created a gang of lizard minions that you will also have to fight off throughout the game.
Now, while everyone would love to roam through New York on their DSes, gamers are met halfway, as Spider-Man 3 is laid out in a pseudo-free-roaming style. There are several areas you can swing through, but to get from one locale to the next, you have to use warp areas. This is not so much free-roaming in the vein of Spider-Man 2 on the consoles, but it's more interesting than simply going from level to level.
The city and the levels are laid out in a fascinating way. You can swing through the areas and climb up buildings, and as you get higher, it reaches a more angled view to show off the lavish cityscape. Random fights also break out as the crime level raises. While you can fight gangs to cut down on the crime in that particular area, you will be utilizing warps to access the missions.
The missions can range from fighting baddies to saving citizens to disabling bombs. Through all of this, everything is controlled via the stylus, except for movement. You can move left or right, crouch, and jump by pressing the directional buttons, and while you're in the air, you can press left or right to swing.
However, when it comes to combat, the stylus is your weapon of choice. To attack an enemy, you simply swipe toward him. In effect, Spider-Man will throw a few punches and then you can swipe up to launch an opponent into the air. Similarly, you can swipe down to perform a sliding kick or dodge, depending on if someone is currently attacking you. Also, if you swipe away from an enemy, you can throw him behind you.
In addition to butt-kicking attacks, the touch-screen is also used to implement Spidey's web-slinging powers. Double-tap anywhere on the touch-screen, and Spidey will thwip his web on the same spot on the top screen. This can be used to gain access to higher areas or, more importantly, to web up your opponents. Once trapped, you can throw them anywhere by simply swiping in the direction you desire. In addition to the normal directional stylus swipes, you will be able to purchase new moves with the money you receive from missions. These will allow you to pull off even better combos than before.
When you acquire the black suit, you'll be able to change into it once you engage in a lot of battles. You are automatically transformed, and it makes Spider-Man stronger and faster, since the black suit Spidey does more efficient combos. However, if you're not busy with action for a while, you will revert back to the classic red and blue Spider-Man suit.
In most cases, the control scheme works great, but unfortunately, it sometimes doesn't execute as well as you would hope. Spider-Man will leap across the screen instead of punching or thwip a ceiling when you want him to web an aerial enemy. For the most part, though, the controls make this game very fun, as it is a good diversion from the usual button-mashing of most action games.
Sadly, the enemies — including the bosses — are extremely easy. There is the occasional team-up with gunmen, but the game is generally a breeze because the bosses usually have some weakness that is easily exploited, and they move in extremely predictable patterns. In fact, there isn't even an option to up the difficulty once you beat the game.
Throughout Spider-Man 3, there are various races in each area of the city; these competitions aren't necessary to finish the game, but they're essential to getting a 100% completion rate. While some are easy once you get a hang of the controls, the biggest frustration is the way the races are set up. You must collect a certain amount of tokens throughout the race, and you have a time limit in between each token. Figuring out the layout of a particular race can take a while, as you will be starting over from the beginning quite a few times.
Graphically, this title has its ups and downs. Given the basic, blocky denizens of Manhattan, the character models are nothing to write home about, but the detail of the levels and layout of the city are pretty impressive. It is exhilarating to be swinging as high as possible and see all of the buildings and cars below.
It is always nice to see a movie game bringing in its actors for voice work. In Spider-Man 3, most of the big hitters — Tobey Maguire, James Franco, Topher Grace — lend their voiceover talents to the game. The music is also suitable, as it is intense enough to make you want to kick some butt during the battles.
While Spider-Man 3 for the NDS is certainly fun, it is probably most appropriate as a rental. The game barely clocks in at five hours, and there's not much to do after that. You could play head-to-head multiplayer, but it requires another cartridge. If Spider-Man 3 would've offered some more unlockables, an extra difficulty level, or a new playable character, it would have been a smart purchase. As it is, however, it is simply too short and lacking in extras, though it would make a worthwhile rental, just for the experience of controlling Spidey with a touch-screen.
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