Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions
It could’ve been Doom, Dormammu, Green Goblin, or even Venom, given the right circumstances. But of all the villains who could place the delicate balance of time and space in great peril in today’s episode…it was Mysterio. Our friendly neighborhood you-know-who had caught his fishbowl headed foe red handed at Empire State University trying to steal the recently discovered Tablet of Order and Chaos. Not easily spooked by Mysterio’s “powers”, it looked as if Spidey was going to once again emerge victorious. However, in a moment of desperation, Mysterio used the tablet to shield himself from our hero’s assault, resulting in it being smashed into pieces and letting rip a light show that could be seen from Radio City Music Hall. As Mysterio escapes with only a fragment of the artifact, Madame Web appears before a very bewildered Spider-Man, informing him that the energy burst has jump started a deterioration of all reality. Fragments of the tablet have not only been scattered throughout NYC but also into other dimensions. Preventing the Marvel Universe from being embarrassingly deleted by a not so grandiose costumed crook will take the combined efforts of not one, but FOUR Spider-Men.
For those who are skeptical, despite the fact that these individuals don the same namesake, and have the same prowess, the Spider-Men are not just separated soley by their fashion senses. The Spidey we’ve all grown to love, dubbed as Amazing Spider-Man, utilizes intricate web-based attacks, Spider-Man 2099, of a possible future, has lightning fast speed and an Accelerated Vision to slow down time around him, Noir Spider-Man uses his mastery in stealth to conquer heat packing thugs, and Ultimate Spider-Man, much to his dismay, finds himself once again bonded to the Venom symbiote, which grants him a Rage mode. In an interesting form of navigation, the player can choose the order of which wall crawler’s levels to partake in to finish an act.
The most astounding aspect of the game is how greatly differentiated each hero’s world is from one another, not just in setting, but in art. Amazing and Ultimate Spider-Men dwell in cel-shaded worlds, while 2099 lives amongst sharp, sleek graphics expected from a sci-fi setting, and Noir Spider-Man hails from an interesting world where things are just dark and gritty, a world where colors are eaten by black and white as soon as one steps away from the light.
A word for non-Marvelites
The other Spider-Men are not characters created only for the game. Spider-Man 2099 had his own comics run in the ’90s and returned for the Timestorm 2009-2099 story arc. Noir Spider-Man was part of the special Marvel Noir series that catered to the same roaring ’20s portrayals of the X-Men, Daredevil, Punisher, Iron Man, and Luke Cage. Ultimate Spider-Man is part of the recent Ultimate Marvel series which is a modern retelling of all the Marvel characters, with a canon completely different from the ongoing mainstream Marvel series. The term “Ultimate” is merely used to help readers tell one series apart from the other.
While things may tend to get repetitive with the common pattern of fight the thugs, save the civilians, fight the boss normally, fight even more thugs and save more innocents, and finally fight the boss again now empowered by a tablet fragment, the game impressively keeps things fresh and addicting. As you win battles, challenges, and collect spider emblems you gain spider essences that are used as currency to upgrade your stats, learn new moves and even unlock costumes. In the same amount of time it takes to get used to web swinging and diving in 2099, all the moves the Spider-Men use can actually be chained into one another making for some very awesome, acrobatic combos. I never tired of pulling off the Eight Legged Fury for a finisher as Amazing Spider-Man, who performs a miniature version of his MvC Maximum Spider super and Noir Spider-Man looks as if he’s having a Star Platinum “OraOraOra” moment.
Without a doubt the secret weapon in keeping you drawn to the game is its ability to make you laugh. We all know that whenever a Spider-Man opens his mouth a witty wisecrack is sure to be heard, followed by the frustrated snarls of villains. This is all thanks to the beautifully written dialogue, executed by the best talents of voice acting (see info box).
Personally, I say Noir Spider-Man stands out the most as the best illustration of what the game has to offer. While the music of the other worlds are passable, the noir levels keep things appealing as you pummel your foes to the sounds of catchy swing music – it sounds impossible I know but it actually works! Obviously influenced from Batman: Arkham Asylum, the enemy encounters are divided up between engaging in hand to hand combat, and having to use stealth to take out an area full of gun toting thugs. The stealth scenarios are where the Spider Sense is most useful, you will need it for tracking armed enemy movements and planning your attack, much like how Batman used his cowl’s X-ray vision. The game makes sure that cutting corners is impossible as unlike the other Spider-Men, Noir Spidey does not have the ability to disarm enemies from afar and when attempting to face gunmen directly he deals little to no damage. The stealth stages do well in revealing a brutal aspect to the Spider-Man legacy. When a takedown initiates our hero fires a rope of webbing into his prey’s head, dragging the catch into the shadows, and depending on where you’ve cast your line from, Spider-Man will either slam the victim repeatedly against the wall, punch the palooka’s face in repeatedly, or lift and slam the person on his front, before tucking his catch to sleep in sheets of webbing. This is the only part of the game where the sound effects are noteworthy. Everything the Noir world has to offer brims with excellence, apart from when fighting Hammerhead, despite having his back turned towards me as I’m yards away, he suddenly, inexplicably, knows where I am when I step into a spotlight.
Voices of the Spider
The actors who voice the four Spider-Men have already had experience voicing the titular hero in past cartoons. Amazing Spider-Man, voiced by Doogie-I mean Neil Patrick Harris lent his voice in Spider-Man: The New Animated Series first shown on MTV. Christopher Daniel Barnes, who voices Noir Spider-Man, voiced the hero in the Spider-Man ’90s cartoon. Veteran voice actor, Dan Gilvezan, lent his talents in the ’80s cartoon Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends before voicing the game’s 2099 counterpart. Finally, Josh Keaton provided the voice work for the game’s Ultimate version and had voiced Spidey in the recent series The Spectacular Spider-Man.
Another aspect that distinguished the Noir playthroughs from the other worlds is the fact that I did not encounter any glitches; this game is cluttered with them. Though there are the harmless ones where enemies are stuck inside a door, there are a number of glitches that will force you to restart from the last checkpoint. Your character can become frozen in midair, run in place with no response from button mashing, be knocked from a building and not able to recover, and, did I mention that all this can still happen DURING THE LAST BOSS FIGHT? If it wasn’t for the generous number of checkpoints in each level I probably would have quit the game entirely and gotten my refund by now.
Errors unfortunately do not stop there, other flaws include the camera, which has a tendency to literally go INTO the fight thus crowding up the view. Freestyle wall crawling is just as faulty, the game seems to stress itself out in trying to figure out whether to assign “up” or “down” as the way to get from wall to ceiling based on how the camera follows you. Sadly, as much as I love listening to the Spider-Men’s quips there are times when the game wishes to break the silence by having a joke said over and over making them age quickly. And while certain boss fights offer the unique experience to go into a first-person view for up close and personal brawls, setting the analog sticks for evading when not hitting causes non-responsive moments.
These hiccups can be fairly overlooked, however, the biggest shortcoming in the game is the overall length. There are a total of four acts, with the fourth act having only one level where the Spider-Men come together for the last bout, leaving three acts having 12 stages. That’s only 3 levels per superhero, thus leaving the 180 challenges not often completed during the first playthrough and with how strictly structured the levels are, leaves one feeling rather caged in utilizing the signature travel of web swinging and catapulting. The game’s story very well places it up for blame for its length. While it’s astonishing to have the four corners of the Spideyverse come together, having the individuals engage in a simplistic quest of run the obstacle courses, beat the bad guys, get the fragments, leaves the heroes’ well known profoundness completely ignored. As a consequence, the game fails to educate or remind players how or even why these Spider-Men carry the burden of their personal responsibilities. It’s no different from choosing to write a tale with a bright idea on a sticky note which, like the game would result in a prosaic ending.
This puts the game’s replay value in great question. With depth not on the list, the only other reasons to replay the game would be to revisit levels after powering up, catch up on challenges, try hard mode, and working combos as a mirror for trying on pieces from the secret wardrobe collection. Therefore, hardcore fans looking for new foodstuff to sate the hunger for web slinging may be much obliged to save this title from the dreary fate of dust collecting. Otherwise, for non-webheads, please be advised that though the action comes in four flavors it may be an endeavor that calls for an acquired taste.