Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Stan Lee has bills to pay, too

Let's get his out of the way: Spider-Man Shattered Dimensions is easily the best Spider-Man game since Spider-Man 2 on the PS2, and not because it got the swinging mechanic right. It didn't, no game since (save perhaps the Bionic Commando reboot) has even come close, and I don't really understand why. What Shattered Dimensions does to sidestep that unrepeatable lightning bolt of a game is just be in a different genre entirely. It is a linear beat 'em up/platformer/stealth action game that never tries to be open world or recreate the miraculous freedom that Spider-Man 2 did. In short, it is barely a Spider-Man game at all, and as bad as some of the recent ones have been, that is actually a compliment.

This is not to say that there aren't problems. Every once and a while you do have to swing and do so accurately and quickly. Sometimes it works, like last night when I was running from an avalanche of sand with Sandman's face pushing it forward. The camera angle swung around to the appropriate vantage point and all went well. Other times the camera does not give you a usable view, instead turning wildly back and forth, obscuring not just where you are supposed to go but where you have been. Only the ability to recover from any fall by pressing the right trigger saves these moments from being truly game breaking. If I died every time I fell during the last 2099 level that would have probably been the end.

Each level, regardless of which Spider-Man it stars, does a very good job of staying focused on one major enemy. Think of it as how Mega Man's robot masters had entire worlds decorated to their tastes, then replace Metal Man and Air Man with a noir Vulture or futuristic Hob-Goblin. (No, I am not saying that Shattered Dimensions is as good as Mega Man 2, it's just an analogy that I would hope everyone would get) This keeps things from getting visually boring, if only what you do in the levels was as nicely varied. Noir Spider-Man is always stealthy, regular Spider-Man is platforming with some fighting. The other two, symbiote suit Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2099, are almost all button mashy brawling. The game isn't terribly long, so none of them will have enough go arounds to get truly annoying, but the 2099 worlds are almost impossible to look at. It's as if someone watched Tron and decided that it wasn't neon enough; it honestly hurts my eyes.

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