Swinging Into Action!
If you’re a gamer that goes back to the original NES days and are something of a Spider-Man fan, like myself, you have likely dealt with a solid string of so-so games. We may not be quite as embittered as the Superman fans out there who are still reeling from Superman 64, but the Spider-Man games haven’t always been top notch quality either. I recall how excited I was to get a Spider-Man game for the NES back in the day and how disappointed I was with what I received. Sure, the system was limited, but Spider-Man was a character that needed more than eight bits could offer.
Fast forward to the recent games tied into the mega successful movie franchise. They were… alright, in that they let you fly around the city and capture what it was like to be the web-slinger, but they were saddled with overly repetitive gameplay and a feeling of Grand Theft Auto-lite without the same depth or scope. Not terrible, but hardly amazing.
Enter Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, in what is quite possibly the best game to date in Spiderman franchise. It’s not a free roamer, so get that out of your head if you’re a fan of the franchise based on the movies, but it captures much of what makes Spider-Man the popular superhero that he is.
Stan Lee starts the game off, providing the story’s narration, something that immediately made me both smile and feel as though I was experiencing a story first-hand, told to me by one of comic’s legends. The general plot goes like this: Spider-Man catches Mysterio attempting to steal a tablet with some sort of magical power. In the ensuing ruckus, the tablet is shattered into several pieces, which are scattered into three other dimensions beyond the most familiar Spider-Man universe. A mysterious woman (at least mysterious to those not fully up to date on comic book lore) named Madam Web explains how four different versions of Spider-Man, from the past, alternate present, “normal” present, and future must work together to retrieve the tablet pieces or face the end of all four worlds.
In reality, the plot doesn’t matter too much as the focus is being able to play the different versions of Spider-Man. In “our” Spider-Man world, Spidey acts and has abilities pretty much in line with what you’ve come to expect. He can swing across levels, perch on lampposts, blind enemies with his webbing, combo melee attacks, toss objects, and crawl on walls. There are also a slew of special abilities available to be purchased to upgrade the different Spider-Man versions in a rather unique and fun system of challenges and item collecting. In a nice effort to keep the different versions unique enough in their play style, some of the upgrades effect all four versions while some only effect one.
The alternate world Ultimate Spider-Man is in the famous black suit and is more physical than the traditional Spider-Man. He has the ability to enter a rage mode that turns him into an instrument of destruction. Of the additional Spider-Men, the symbiote bonded Spidey plays the most like the Amazing Spider-Man.
Spider-Man 2099 plays like an amped up version of the traditional Spider-Man, with an ability to slow down time until the power meter runs dry. His special moves also keep up the theme of fast attacks, allowing him to zip from one target to the next at lightning speeds. Spider-Man 2099 is a definite departure from the other two, and the world built around him is futuristic in its setting. While some of the combat plays similar, it’s different enough to keep it interesting.
Spider-Man Noir is far and away the most unique of the experiences. Set in 1930, this universe has an obvious noir feel to it. Most notable is that Spider-Man Noir needs to attack from the shadows, ala Batman in Arkham Asylum. Head to head battles will get Spidey killed quickly, so quick attacks from the darkness are the order of the day. More than any of the other modes, the feel of the world and combat style breaks up the game drastically and provides a stealth option as a welcome change.
Another strong point of Shattered Dimensions are the boss battles. Many of the stages play as an extended chase sequence throughout the level in pursuit of a famous Spider-Man villain who is in possession of a piece of the tablet. The boss battles are much more interesting than your standard beat’em up fare and have a grand scope to them. It’s not God of War, but to be fair, what is? The battles are varied in the manner in which to attack the boss and creative in the set and level design. The developers obviously put a great deal of effort into making the entire experience a good one and the boss battles are a place where that really shines.
The cel-shaded graphics work well for the comic book vibe and present a great visual style. Each of the different dimensions is represented by adding its own flavor to the world, with Spider-Man Noir and Spider-Man 2099 being the most varied. In particular, I found the noir world to be such a drastic change in both setting and gameplay that I especially looked forward to playing those levels, despite the frustrations of not being able to fight enemies head-on.
Completing the hat trick, along with gameplay and graphics, is superb voice acting. Each of the Spider-Man versions have their own unique voice actor, with none other than Neil Patrick Harris voicing the Amazing Spider-Man, Christopher Barnes voicing Spider-Man Noir (Barnes voices Spider-Man in the 1994 Fox animated series), Dan Gilvezan as Spider-Man 2099 (Gilvezan voiced Spidey in 1980s cartoon), and Josh Keaton as Ultimate Spider-Man (Keaton currently voices the cartoon running on the CW network). Needless to say, the cast is full of familiar voices. In addition, the dialogue is genuinely funny and full of good quips, an essential part of the character. All four versions manage to feel unique due to their respective voice actors, yet similar in personality despite their different circumstances.
For those looking for a multiplayer experience, that’s the biggest letdown, as Shattered Dimensions doesn’t offer multiplayer support. If no multiplayer is a deal breaker, you’re going to miss out on what is the best Spider-Man game I’ve played. An all star voice acting cast, varied combat and stealth, a fun story, great graphics, and challenges built into an extensive skill tree system gives Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions a lot of replayability. For comic book fans, this one is a no brainer. But for those that aren’t traditionally a fan of these games, this may be worth checking out anyway. It may change your mind.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.5 Graphics
Cel-shaded graphics are a wonderful choice for a comic book game and they really shine here; each world has its own unique feel and looks great. 4.0 Control
Other than difficulties locking onto targets to land on and targeting the exact enemy in a group, the controls are solid. 4.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The voice over work is nearly flawless, with experienced voice actors of the Spider-Man universe sharing the spotlight together. 4.3 Play Value
The lack of multiplayer will hurt it with some people, but the sheer number of upgrades and collectables should keep gamers coming back for awhile. Besides that, it’s a whole lot of fun. 4.4 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.