Spider-Man: The Movie
What a confusing title. It turns out that Spider-Man: The Movie is actually Spiderman: The Game Based on the Movie. I use the phrase “based on” very lightly since there really aren’t many similarities. Sure, there’s a webslinging hero, the villainous Green Goblin and a couple levels loosely based on the movie, but everything else isn’t much like the excellent film. In fact, it turns out that Spider-Man: The Movie is just another average game with a cool license.
You all know the story of how Peter Parker was bit by a spider and gained his amazing powers. With great power comes great responsibility, and Peter finds this out the hard way when he realized he could have saved his Uncle Ben’s life from a murderous criminal. All of this has been compelling material since Spider-Man/Peter Parker first debuted over forty years ago. Unfortunately, the only reason the plot exists here is to usher in the next stage. Everyone lacks the memorable personalities they had in the comics or movies.
But the plot is pretty much expected to become second-string when you’re controlling Spider-Man himself. Swinging from building to building, webbing baddies in the face and wall crawling tend to be a bit more exciting than a narrative. With the many different techniques Spidey has at his disposal, it’s a good thing there are such excellent tutorials. The many different guides will show you how to swing, fight and evade enemies like a pro. Best of all, Mr. Bruce Campbell provides the groovy voiceovers here. His arrogant quips and cheesy jokes make for a truly entertaining time. I wish Bruce Campbell was in every tutorial.
The 21 levels are pretty much divided into three groups. The most prevalent are the ones where you swing through the city, either in hot pursuit of a villain or simply taking out some lesser enemies. Second are the levels indoors in which you look for keys and beat up plenty of thugs along the way. Finally, there are a couple stealth stages which were apparently tossed in to add some diversity to Spider-Man: The Movie.
Probably the most entertaining levels are the ones that have you webslinging through New York City. Flying hundreds of feet in the air becomes particularly exciting when you have to take out some enemies via webbing and some fancy acrobatics, all while hot on the heels of an escaping villain. If you end up losing the evil-doer, it’s game over. The only problem with these stages is that even though the environment looks enormous, you’re limited in the places you can actually go. Spider-Man just turns around when he gets to the edge of the screen, and if you get to close to the ground he automatically spawns back in the air. This lack of freedom is disappointing, but at least this was remedied in the sequel.
Equally mixed are the levels that have Spider-Man on the ground. The strength of these segments is how much the decent combat system is utilized. There’s many baddies waiting to get taken out, and there’s plenty of ways to do it. Many combos can be learned from icons hidden across the levels, but that’s not all Spider-Man has up his sleeve, or suit. If you’re feeling particularly sneaky, you can crawl on the wall and land on an enemy’s head and then unleash a fury of punches on his dome. Of course, you can always opt to web the enemy and then unleash some pain. The choice is all yours with the satisfying fighting options.
What make these levels less enjoyable are some obnoxious locked doors and spotty camera angles. Having to find a switch (or sometimes multiple switches) doesn’t exactly feel like something a superhero should be doing when the city needs saving. Some of the camera angles are equally unwelcome. While climbing on the walls, it’s easy to become disoriented and end up moving the wrong way due to the sporadic camera angles. Things get even more confusing when you’re locked onto an enemy and the view becomes completely blocked by an object.
The poor camera angles carry over to the simplistic stealth portions at the end of the game. The game encourages you to hide in the shadows, but that’s especially hard to do when the camera prevents finding a suitable hiding spot. Even if the camera was perfect, the couple stealth stages in Spider-Man: The Movie would have still been ineffective since all you have to do is hide in the shadows for a few seconds after being spotted and everyone seems to forget what happened. It makes Metal Gear Solid look realistic in comparison.
Adding to the average gameplay are some merely adequate graphics. The best parts are the many big-budgeted cutscenes that are undoubtedly eye-catching. The city also looks fantastic with its many skyscrapers and epic scope, but the indoor areas are bland and devoid of anything interesting. Spider-Man himself is animated quite well, but most of the enemies are repetitive and rather uninteresting. Keep up with the inconsistency is the music and voice acting. The Danny Elfman score from the movie isn’t used, so we’re stuck with an unremarkable score. Willem Dafoe and Tobey Maguire reprise their roles from the movie, but for some reason Tobey’s performance makes it seem like he was rather tired while recording. At least Dafoe and a host of passable replacements pick up the slack.
Spider-Man: The Movie is a very short game, clocking in at roughly five hours. Fortunately, this game has some of the best bonus features around. There’s a host of production photos and unlockable costumes, but that’s not even the best part. There’s a whole mini-game in which you play as the Green Goblin. This is probably better than the actual game. If only more games rewarded people who played through till the end with such enjoyable features.
Spider-Man: The Movie isn’t one of those awful licensed games that you always hear reviewers complaining about, but it certainly isn’t a game worthy of high praise. It gets some things right, but it also gets many things wrong. Voiceovers by Bruce Campbell and some excellent unlockable features just aren’t enough to make this game worthwhile. Watch the movies or read the comic instead.