Spider-Man: Friend or Foe
There’s a famous old saying by a man called Sun-tzu that goes something like, “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer”. While it’s a very thought provoking statement, and in many cases, a statement that rings true in life. I’m not sure if Mr. Sun-tzu said those words with the world’s most renowned super hero, Spider-Man, in mind. Personally, if my enemies ranged from a flying green goblin, a man made of sand and an octopus-man hybrid of sorts, I’d want to stay as far away from my enemies as humanly possible. But then again, I’m not Spider-Man.
It seems that through a series of unfortunate and equally ironic events, all of Spider-Man’s greatest foes have found themselves brainwashed by a crazed psychotic, even more evil than themselves. The story (of what you can make of it) is handled through a series of highly cheesy, and forgettable cut scenes. The game tries it’s best to inject some humour into the experience, which should prove at least mildly entertaining for the select few that decide to actually watch them.
With the help of a sidekick (who can be controlled by a friend for some co-op action), Spider-Man’s journey sees him scanning the globe across a variety of different locations such as Tokyo, Nepal and Transylvania, in order to rescue aforementioned bad guys. Each level is broken up into 4 sub levels, and it doesn’t take a degree in maths to realise that 5 levels multiplied by 4 sub levels equals a very short game. It’s not helped by the fact that Spider-Man: Friend or Foe is incredibly easy, and if you’re determined, the game can be completed in less than 4 hours.
Everything follows a depressingly similar pattern, too. No matter where your friendly neighbourhood spider finds himself. It usually consists of running through a series of bland, repetitive environments – coupled with an awful draw distance – only to be first confronted by a load screen (shrewdly disguised from the kiddies), then to be faced by a barrage of phantoms (the game’s main enemies). Disposing of these phantoms is all but a few presses of the X button away, and while trying to string together flashy combos is fun at the beginning, you soon wonder why you should bother when simply hammering on one button will get the job done, and noticeably quicker too. But at least through all this chaos, the game manages to maintain a steady frame rate. As soon as you’ve punched and web-slinged your way past a group of identical, brainless phantoms, a door will open and players can progress onwards, where they expect to do the exact same thing over and over again for a few more hours, until the game’s conclusion.
There is the option of upgrading your characters for those that want to get the most out of Friend or Foe. Spider-Man can learn new techniques to enhance his array of web-slinging abilities. But once you’ve acquired a particular move that lets players drop a web bomb from the air, Spider-Man becomes pretty much invincible. And you’ll be hard pressed to try anything else when this particular attack guarantees that you will not take damage, so long as you can keep pressing A to jump. But fully upgrading Spider-Man nets players precious achievement points, and if you purposely try to mix it all up, the combat can be rather fun, if a little primitive.
At the end of particular levels, there are boss battles to break up the monotony, and they provide about as much of a challenge as you can possibly expect from the game. While slightly different to fighting the phantoms, the solution is always very obvious, and once you’ve discovered what it is you need to do, it’s just a matter of time until you beat the boss, allowing players to move on to more mindless button mashing. That’s the entire game in a nutshell really, and players wanting more can always check out the versus mode where you and a friend can duke it out with any of the unlocked characters. Stages are attained through the main game, requiring players to divert (if only ever so slightly) off course. Although it’s quite hard not to spot these ‘secret’ doors thanks to the fact that they are huge, and most of the time, pressure panels will be lying just close by.
Playing Spider-Man: Friend or Foe, I couldn’t help but feel a slight sense of déjà vu. The game reminded me very much of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (which did not go down well with this particular reviewer at the time, or now even). Thankfully, Spider-Man: Friend or Foe’s more in depth and entertaining combat system raises this considerably higher in quality than TMNT, or most games pin-pointed at the younger gaming audience. It’ll provide a few hours worth of mindless entertainment for the children, but for anyone else, I suggest you keep the better games close, and the average ones as far away as possible.