Spider-Man, Spider-Man! He does whatever a spider can! Spins a web, any size, and he catches thieves just like flies! Look out, it’s the Spider-Man! Yes, Hollywood’s new golden boy of the superhero genre has attained new heights of stardom with the release of Spider-Man 2 into theaters everywhere. After all of these years of comic book obscurity, Spider-Man has stolen the spotlight and is standing in the dead center of the American mainstream. The advent of this blockbuster series has paved the way for the creation of new toys, posters, plastic lunchboxes, and anything else you can paste Spidey’s webbed image on. It was only a matter of time before the movie’s impact infiltrated the gaming world, with revamped games that made fans swoon left and right. With the release of the Nintendo DS, it was inevitable that a Spider-Man 2 game would be released onto the new handheld. But unlike the awesome movies that have graced the silver screen, Spider-Man 2 DS comes off as a mediocre beat’em up with the Spider-Man logo printed on.
It’s been a while since the humble Peter Parker became the legendary hero of the Big Apple. While he has become accustomed to webslinging his way around the city, he’s yet to figure out how to balance out his heroic duties with the demands of everyday life. Sure, he can climb up the sides of buildings and has a fair amount of super strength, but he still has to deal with a college workload, keeping a job, staying with his love interest Mary Jane, and tending to his old Aunt May. Yes, being a super hero isn’t all that its cracked up to be. And if poor Mr. Parker wasn’t already stressed out enough, a new villain called Doc Ock has emerged to terrorize the city with his diabolical science experiments. It’s up to Spider-Man to stop this new menace and bring some semblance of peace back into his life.
So what does this heroic arachnid have to help him combat evil? Spider-Man comes equipped with basic punch and kick attacks, mixed in with some fairly acrobatic flips and moves. If he feels impending trouble, he can activate his Spider-Sense, a nifty little feature that allows you to briefly slow down time and dish out some heavy-duty punishment on your unsuspecting foes. Unfortunately, his punches don’t really have that much of an effect on even the most basic street thug. Maybe it’s because the hit detection and button responsiveness in this game are pathetic, causing you to second guess your every punch and kick lest you accidentally miss an enemy. If you don’t feel like beating the hell out of some hapless thug, you can always try swinging around the level to your heart’s content. He can also shoot webbing out of his wrists, letting him swing over dangerous areas or attach to a nearby wall or object. Too bad the webbing has an abysmal range and only works on certain walls, forcing you to study your surroundings in hopes of finding a decent wall or platform to aid in your progression.
And it’s not like it’s hard to find your way through the levels. The levels of Spider-Man 2 are linear, offering little in exploration and freedom that many of the series’ fans had grown to love. Instead of swinging around freely, you’ll enter each level with a list mission objectives and a timer counting down to your imminent failure. You’ll have to spend some time exploring every nook and cranny of these places to achieve your goals. They usually involve rescuing hostages or beating up some bad guys stationed at various points in the level. While this may sound like fun, it becomes more aggravating when you’ve missed a hostage or hoodlum and you’ve only got thirty seconds left in on the timer. You’ll have to swing back straight across, back to the beginning of the level, and pray that you can find whatever you’ve missed. And when that godforsaken timer runs to zero, you’ll be forced to start the level all over again, with only the hope that you’ll do better next time.
To make matters even worse, the game makes little use of the features on the DS. That infamous touch screen has many gamers salivating, but it has little impact with the progression of the game. The only time you’ll get to use your stylus is when you’re disarming bombs or fighting bosses. These poorly veiled attempts at mini games will make a seasoned gamer cringe at their lack of quality. These usually involve dragging the stylus across the screen, or shooting projectiles out of the air by tapping the screen. While these rare occurrences are a breath of fresh air from the pathetic combat system, they could have been much more elaborate and challenging.
Also, the overall lack graphical and audio quality makes for a truly disappointing experience. The DS is capable of three-dimensional imagery, yet Spider-Man 2 focuses on a hybrid of 2D and 3D graphics. The levels behind you rotate as you turn around a corner, but it offers little in terms of realism. At least the characters are alive with vibrant attack animations and movements. You can watch Spider-Man’s decent array of attack animations or Doc Ock’s writhing metal tentacles. It’s a shame their bodies are pixilated nearly beyond recognition, making you squint to actually make sense of the images onscreen. Even their voices come out faint and scratchy, making you turn up the volume to understand what’s being said. Also, the game comes equipped with a soundtrack of generic action tunes, which add little dram or urgency into these lacking levels. When you look at the graphical qualities of Super Mario 64 DS or Feel the Magic, you have to wonder how this poor game was ever allowed into the gaming scene.
The Spider-Man series has struck a chord with countless fans around the world. His unique abilities and quirky character traits make this hero stand out from the tried and true cookie cutter heroes of old. And while the movies will continue to mean big sales for all involved, Spider-Man 2 DS is the runt of the litter, the poor game that was released with a formidable amount of problems. The game’s combat system needs an overhaul, the levels lack inspiration, and the presentation will make your eyes water. When compared with its contemporaries, this game lacks the shine and polish that gamers are expecting when they try out their DS for the first time. This is shameful way to start the new batch of DS games, and we can only hope that things will get better as time progresses.