NINTENDO DS REVIEW: SPIDER-MAN 2

Games based on Spider-Man 2 have come in all shapes and sizes. The latest is a launch title for the Nintendo DS and it is an entirely different game than any that have appeared since they started trickling out last July.

Based on the movie, but utilizing the DS' touch screen capabilities, Peter Parker's wallcrawling alter ego faces all new challenges - some of which are due to the latest crop of supervillains like Doc Ock and Mysterio and also because of the insane difficulty level later in the game.

Spider-Man 2 is an impressive looking game and it's certainly high profile enough to catch the eye of early DS adoptees. As with any of the DS titles, I couldn't help but think "gimmick" when it came to the touch screen. Call me a traditionalist but there was nothing wrong with the good old D-pad - analog stick - button interface of old. One prime area of functionality versus gimmick comes into play when using new moves in SM2. If there wasn't a touch screen, the developers would have simply mapped the new moves to various button combos. With the touch screen, you now select moves from the touch screen below. It may not be a big deal to some, but I actually find the touch screen takes me out of the game more than it puts me into it, and that's a big drawback for me. Certain other puzzle/minigames come into play during boss battles that utilize the touchscreen to solve them. I also found this gimmicky, although I could see some gamers getting off on this new method of interaction.

Vicarious Visions put a lot of effort into the visual appeal of Spider-Man 2 and they succeeded with flying colors. Spider-Man 2 is by far the best looking launch title. While the gameplay sticks to the 2nd dimension, the levels have a fantastic 3D appearance that will have most players gushing over the New York landscape. Most handheld Spidey games have stuck with the tried and true "swing from right to left, stick to buildings" and this game is no different. However due to the added muscle under the DS hood, Vicarious Visions was able to make the levels extremely large. They are so vast, that it turns out to be the games achilles heel.

Due to the hide and seek gameplay of locating items and hostages (within a time limit yet!) and the inability to change the camera focus so you see could see the environment around you a little better, gameplay becomes a frustratiing experience of trial and error. Unless you have the strategy guide at your side (I didn't of course) you'll be backtracking all over the city looking for one last hostage or item. Not fun, especially with that clock tick, tick, ticking away.

Anyone who has played the console version of Spider-Man 2 knows the emphasis was all on the swinging physics. Not true of the Nintendo DS version. The featured mechanic in this game is the webzip, which incidentally was removed from the console versions because of its virtual impossibility (Spidey would have to "reel" in his webs back into his arm for this to work) - as if webswinging and wallcrawling was possible anyway. During the first part of the game webzipping is fun, but a foreboding secret awaits....it's not fun later in the game. In fact, it's pure hell. Death comes fast and furious during the later levels and I was wondering how Halo 2's Legendary difficulty managed to get transported over to this DS game. You'll see what I mean if you get that far.

Those gamers not burnt on Treyarch's promise of cool things for reaching 100% on each level in the console versions, will find themselves spending a lot of time with completing this one. While it's not short on game, it does come up short on gameplay, and that's the important thing. It's fun to swing around the pseudo 3D cities, but the level of difficulty unhinges things later on. As mentioned, it's the best looking game of the launch titles, but it will take every ounce of spider-strength not to want to bust it in half.

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System: DS
Dev: Vicarious Visions
Pub: Activision
Release: Nov 2004
Players: 1
Review By Fenix
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
3.0
GRAPHICS
4.5
CONTROL
3.5
MUSIC/FX
3.0
VALUE
3.0