Hey comic fans, remember the days before the original Spider-Man (and some would argue, X-Men) films hit the big screen and changed the way Hollywood viewed comic book films? Before then, comic movies weren’t just forgettable, they were downright stupid.
Yet now, despite more than a few comic-related flops under its belt, it seems like the film industry finally “gets” how to make comic book films. With last year’s Arkham Asylum, Rocksteady showed us that, yes, it’s just as possible to make a phenomenal comic book game, and Beenox’s new take on Spider-Man, Shattered Dimensions, certainly had a lot of potential to hopefully continue the trend of quality comic-related games. Sadly, as much as I love Spider-Man, the webhead’s newest outing on the Wii could hardly be classed on the same level as Batman’s Arkham, despite its best efforts.
It all sounds good, if a bit ambitious, on paper: Mysterio steals a tablet with inter-dimensional powers, and Spidey accidentally breaks it, effectively creating a rift in the Marvel dimensional continuum. With the help of Madame Web, four different Spider-Men have to track down pieces of the tablet using different gameplay mechanics that reflect that nature of their own respective powers. Amazing and Ultimate Spidey are more or less the same, with the former being classic Peter Parker and Ultimate, wearing Venom’s symbiotic black suit, given a rage ability to match his costume’s aggression. Spider-Man Noir has to use stealth to take out his enemies, and, in one of the coolest aspects of the game, Spidey 2099 gets in on the action as well, using a slow-mo power that evens the odds against fast enemies or tracking weapons.
One might think creating a game based around four different Marvel universes (each with their own distinct visual style, no less) would be a challenge, and you’d likely be right. ; The immediate fear that came to mind when I started playing Shattered Dimensions was that perhaps Beenox had spread themselves too thin and the gameplay would feel largely the same between worlds because of it. This is actually less of a problem than you might think, though that isn’t to say it isn’t still an issue. Beenox was clearly aware of what was at stake here, and gameplay has been broken up to add some variety to the invariable beating of lots of baddies as a result.
Where Shattered Dimensions falters is there isn’t enough of this practice. In some levels, you’ll be chasing a villain and can theoretically run past most other enemies, at least until you inevitably hit the age-old design of being trapped by a barrier until you clear all adversaries in your path. Spidey 2099 has some awesome freefalling sequences to break up some of the action, and from time to time, you get to make use of your webs in elegantly-designed setpieces that have Spider-Man webslinging away from a massive series of tidal waves or zipping between pieces of floating debris in a massive sandstorm, as examples. Even the stealth approach to boss battles in the Noir segments of the game are interesting and break up the flow of simply pummeling everything in sight. Moments like these are where Shattered Dimensions thrills, but they rarely last for more than a few minutes. After that, it’s back to business as usual, slogging through every last thug, sending you on a wild goose chase to destroy a certain objects before proceeding, rescuing civilians, and often, protecting them afterwards. If there’s one design flaw of Shattered Dimensions, it’s that it excels at wasting its potential.
The result is some dimensions are more interesting or fun that others. While as a fan, I probably prefer the Amazing Spidey to the others, I had a better time with the 2099 and Noir levels. Even Ultimate’s symbiote gave him a little flair that regular ol’ webhead just doesn’t seem to have. It’s not that the Amazing levels are terrible, or that they’re poorly designed.
It just feels like Peter kind of got the short end of the stick, and his levels have the most rote gameplay, where you’re simply moving from one area to the next, beating baddies and webslinging with only the occasional deviation. Oddly, the responsiveness of combat feels strangely misbalanced, as well. Amazing and Ultimate can tend to get stuck when fighting, leading to pauses between controller input and on-screen output, while Noir Spidey’s stealth moves make fisticuffs a weapon of last resort. 2099’s fighting technique is smoother and faster, although all four Spider-Men bafflingly share a great deal of their move set. Once again, the differentiation in playstyles made 2099 and Noir standout, while Ultimate and Amazing lagged somewhat behind. The complexity of the controls don’t translate that well to the Wii either, like Travis Touchdown changing between low and high stances in No More Heroes, you have to angle the Wii Remote up or “straight” to switch between light and heavy attacks, which can be a pain when trying to pull off a combo that requires both. I can’t speak for the PS3/360 versions (though the design between games is near-identical), but making use of the game’s upgradable move system to pull together powerful combo chains just seems like it would be better suited to an actual controller.
It may seem like I’m ragging on certain aspects of Shattered Dimensions a lot, and while the design does feel uneven, the point is the game ends up feeling like a mixed bag. There are certain levels, strewn about throughout all four universes that Spidey fans will get a kick out of. But for every cool moment as one of the Spider-Men, there are just as many ones that are forgettable. The story is particularly bad,it basically suffers from Kingdom Hearts syndrome in that whatever baddie Spidey happens to be taking on tussles with webby a few times, he then uses their piece of the tablet to gain ultimate power, much in the same way that Sora and company simply had to defeat the Heartless that had integrated themselves into the plot of whatever Disney world they were currently in. Yawn. I wanted to like Shattered Dimensions more, but it’s hard when both the controls and the design are often working against that goal. It’s a real shame, too, because there are a lot of things I enjoyed here. It’s a cool concept, the stealth and freefalling segments are great fun, I love the effortless, stylized look and fluidity of Spidey webslinging, and the period-style dialogue in the Noir sections was good, even if the AI wasn’t. But if you’re a true Spider-Man fan, you might want to entrust this one to GameFly, or check it out on another system.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
Shattered Dimensions’ varied aesthetics are impressive on the Wii, particularly the 2099 segments. Amazing and Ultimate both walk like Neanderthals, though. 3.0 Control
Motion-based switching between light and heavy attacks can make pulling off combos a bit tricky, though everything else works fine. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The soundtrack is forgettable, though the various incarnations of Spidey are actually entertaining. If only the sound bites didn’t repeat so much. 3.2
Shattered Dimensions has its moments, but it also has a lot of times that are relatively uninteresting.
3.3 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.