Does whatever a spider can.

Watching the reruns of the 1967 animated series in the 80’s was my first exposure to Spider-Man, and the theme song from the show is usually the first thing that pops into my head when I think of the character. He was my favorite superhero as a kid, more than either Superman or Batman (although Batman was a close second). So when I saw a preview of the new game Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions as few months ago, I preordered it from Amazon.

It showed up on Tuesday this week and I’ve played about four hours so far. My initial impression is: great game, I’m having a lot of  fun, but I’m a little disappointed.

The graphics are absolutely amazing. The game looks very very good, both the world and the animations. Beenox has really managed to make the comic book art-style come alive. Playing in the game is like being in a comic book, but it looks and feels like a real world. What’s more, each of the four universes: Amazing, Ultimate, Noir, and 2099; have their own recognizable style both in graphics and dialog.

click for a larger image

Besides the graphics, the voice acting is also very well done. Neil Patrick Harris does the voice for Amazing Spider-Man (he did the voice for Spider-Man in the New Animated Series). Christopher Barnes does voices Spider-Man Noir and originally worked on the original animated series from 1994. Josh Keaton is the voice for Ultimate Spider-man (he did Spider-Man in the 2008 Spectacular Spider-Man show), and Dan Gilvezan voices Spider-Man 2099 (he did Spider-Man in Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends from the 80’s). Of the four, Neil is my most favorite and Gilvezan is my least. They all do a quality job and have good dialog, but something about Gilvezan’s voice bothers me (while I wrote that part after the tutorial, after the first 2099 mission his voice is starting to grow on me). Oh yeah, and Stan Lee narratives, and it totally fits.

Beyond the sights and sounds, the action is fun but linear. The game opens with a tutorial mission that sets up the conflict of the story and introduces you to each of the four Spider-Men. Once that’s completed the first four stages are unlocked, one for each universe. When you pick a stage you select a difficulty level (easy, normal, hard). When you finish the stage, the game rates you on speed, use of combos, and how many collectibles you found. All completed stages are marked with which difficulties you’ve completed (so if you finish a stage on normal, then easy and normal are filled in). Each stage also has a dozen or so challenges that you can complete for bonus points (which are used for combat and character upgrades). The stages/ so far, are linear starting with an encounter with a villain and progressing through a series of areas to a final boss battle. Re-playability is limited to playing again on a higher difficulty or playing to finish a challenge that was missed (some of them are optional and some aren’t).

I’ve finished the first four stages (all on normal), which completes Act 1 and unlocks a cut-scene and the next four stages.

While I’ve really enjoyed the game so far, the disappointment I mentioned above is in the linearity. This is completely a problem of my own expectations. After I preordered the game I put it on my media black-out list. My assumption was that like most (all?) of the recent Spider-Man games it would have an open explorable world to web-swing through and include a series of story-line missions. If I’d thought it through, I would’ve realized this isn’t really possible considering there are four different universes to populate, which have been a ton of work I’m sure.

So my disappointment with the game has nothing to do with the game itself, but is just from a mismatch between reality and assumption.

I’ll write a follow-up, once I finish the game.

Spider-Man, Spider-Man
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7 thoughts on “Spider-Man, Spider-Man

  • September 10, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    That sounds like fun. He’s one of my favorite heroes as well. The only spider man game I have is, if I remember correctly, Spider Man II on the X-box. I played it for roughly an hour. The city swinging physics were amazing, they absolutely nailed that sense of freedom. Then I got into my first fight. There was this fat guy dressed like a boyscout that had a baseball bat. I swear it took me five minutes to beat him down. After that the game came out of the tray, and has remained on my shelf ever since. From the sound of it combat in spider man games has evolved quite a bit since then 🙂

    • September 10, 2010 at 1:56 pm

      Yup, I loved the city swinging in Spider-Man 2: the physics felt just right and I loved how the wind picked up the faster you went. The combat was definitely rough around the edges, and Shattered Dimensions is much better in that regard. If you’re a Spider-Man fan, I’d at least recommend renting it to see if you like the new mechanics.

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  • September 11, 2010 at 2:34 am

    I’ve heard good things about the game. But like all things, it’s not easy to deal with your own expectations. I know that expectations have really killed enjoyment of Mafia II for some people. Of course, it might help if game companies were a little more aggressive in helping to manage expectations about their games.

    • September 11, 2010 at 5:19 pm

      It’s a tough question. Obviously companies want to get as much good press and buzz for their products as they can, but over-hyping can be just as damaging as under-hyping.

      Still with Shattered Dimensions it was completely on me. My assumptions were all based on previous games by other developers, and I was purposely avoiding any more details about the game since I’d already decided to buy it and play.

  • September 11, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Fun but linear is about what I expected. Hopefully, someone will make a Spidey game one day with an open world. It would be like Crackdown with Silly String.

    • September 11, 2010 at 5:20 pm

      If you can find a copy, Spider-Man 2 for the original Xbox fits that bill pretty well. The open world missions get pretty repetitive though, and of course the graphics are dated. I think Spider-Man 3 is similar, but I haven’t played it enough to say for sure. Of course the problem with 3 is as much to do with the movie it’s based on as anything else.

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