Spiderman 2 DS
Developer: Vicarious Visions
|FIMP: Spiderman 2 DS [NDS]|
When "Spiderman 2 DS" was announced as a traditional side-scrolling brawler, I was sort of pleased -- I felt "in the mood" for an old school beat-em-up. Although I didn't like the way it sort of shoveled the touch-screen aspects in there, a good game is a good game. And it looked like a good game. Viewtiful Spidey is the impression that I got. After reading mixed reviews citing flaws such as horrid level design, however, I was skeptical. And at a ridiculous pricetag of $39.99, I wasn't really feeling it.
Thanks to hole-in-wall store, I picked up a used -- and like new -- copy for $25.
My impressions, about 10 chapters in?
First the good. In almost every game he's starred in since Treyarch's PSone iteration of Spiderman, Spidey has been one of the funnest characters to control. Zip-lining to surfaces, webbing foes, clinging, climbing, and swinging through the city make controlling Spiderman just a blast. In "Spiderman 2 DS", it's no different. Spiderman can stick to anything, and his web zip-line makes for conveniently brisk traversal of levels. Swinging through the air is smooth and seamless. My only beef so far is that his basic punching and kicking could use a little more range. Otherwise, everything is just smooth with Spiderman.
This is probably helped in great part by the smooth visuals. Although the gameplay is strictly 2D, everything is in true 3D, and everything runs at a constant 60 FPS -- no slowdown, anywhere, whatsoever. Levels scroll by similar to Viewtiful Joe -- the background does not just go by left and right, but also around corners. Everything about the graphics is also just so smooth, and even though they are only slightly above N64 quality in terms of texturing and polygon count, I'd still say this is possibly one of the best looking games overall on the DS.
The combat is, aside from Spidey's unfortunately short range, pretty fun. It's not as deep and intriguing as Viewtiful Joe or even Double Dragon Advance, but the satisfying thwack from the DS speakers and the impact you have on enemies is nice. Spidey can perform a variety of 3 hit combos depending on the sequence of punches and kicks, with directional input in the mix, you key in. But the combat can also get a little cheap -- enemies can sometimes whip out moves that have an almost unfair priority over yours. Thankfully, when your Spider Sense is tingling, you can slap the L button and the game will slow-down a la Max Payne, Viewtiful Joe and well, The Matrix movies. You also move slightly faster than the enemy, giving you the edge.
And, well, I think that's about it for the good, mostly. The sound doesn't bear much mentioning other than the fact that voice samples come out clear during stages. The music is plain, the sound effects are standard.
The bad stuff comes in from all angles. And I mean that literally. The level design, in all of its 3D "glory", is absolutely Halo-rrendous. Where to start, where to start? I'll save the in-depth complaints for a full review, but suffice it to say, you'll face reptitive backgrounds. You'll face a vertical scale that's large enough to make you want to skip the nooks and crannies -- i.e. you won't want to go and stop on every god damned balcony or ledge, but you have to in order to complete your goals (more on that in a sec). Some of the levels are also just loopy -- in an effort to bring a 3D level structure into a 2D game, there's a very liberal use of the afore-mentioned "corner-turning" gimmick that the 3D lets Activition accomplish. And they use this "corner-turning" in some levels to connect rooms and entire floors to each other in what is supposed to be a logical fashion. So for example, you could start on one part of the floor, just keep running to the right, and eventually come back to where you started. It would be good, except Vicarious Visions just simply constructed the levels in such a confusing manner that it just gets aggravating, and you're sure to get lost.
Then there are the goals, which are almost the same in every friggin' level. Beat this many enemies. Finish the level in this time frame (which is usually very short and will frustrate novice gamers). Do this many thats. Do that many thises. It becomes a treasure hunt of Rare proportions (thanks for buying them, Microsoft). And with the horrid level design, this is just made absolutely worse.
There are more redeeming factors other than the good points I mentioned above. I will be back with a full review of "Spiderman 2 DS" when I finish it, which will probably be sometime early next week. I'm hoping the last four chapters prove to be much more fun that the first 10. As it is thus far, "Spiderman 2 DS" is a very mixed bag.
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