previews\ Sep 2, 2005 at 8:00 pm

Ultimate Spider-man - NDS - Preview 2

His name is synonymous with Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man comic book series, and so when the opportunity came for Brian Michael Bendis to pen the script for Activision’s Ultimate Spider-Man title, it was a dream come true.

Vicarious Visions has taken that story and adapted it to the Nintendo DS, and fans of the console will be pleased to note that while Spider-Man is played mostly on the top screen, with the bottom being used to set up powers, some motion graphics panel work and his power meter, Venom can be controlled through the touch pad.

First the story, as it is one of the most important aspects of this game …

Spidey uncovers some information that both his father and Eddie Brock’s father were working on a bio-chemical suit that would encase the body and give it the ability to call upon natural body chemicals and compounds to destroy cancer cells. It was supposed to be the cure for cancer (all of this is detailed in Ultimate Spider-Man Volume 6). The partners ran into funding problems, went to work for a corporation who found out about the “suit,” and immediately claimed it for their own, seeing military applications. The Parker-Brock partnership was ruined. They tried to recreate the compound, but never got far enough along. Both were killed in a plane crash – which may have been murder, but that point is left hanging.

Peter, as a 15-year old, looks up Eddie – whom he knew in childhood – to share some videos he found of their parents. Eddie shows him a vial of the compound, which basically looks like black ooze. As Spider-Man, he attempts to take a sample to work on and try to continue his father’s work, which is also what Eddie is doing as a student at ESU. Some of the gunk spills on Peter’s bare hand, and it spreads and envelopes him in a living suit, which begins to feed off him. Only through his supernatural (aka mutant) abilities is he able to get the suit off him. He confronts Eddie with the truth of the ooze, and takes the vial to destroy it. Eddie is not happy. And he has a second sample, which he puts his hand in. The suit envelopes him and thus is born the malevolent force known as Venom.

Both Spidey and Venom are playable in the game. There are about 18 missions or so, and players will either play as one or the other, but here is the kicker – while Spidey’s missions are much more chivalrous, Venom’s are pure evil, something reflected not only in the texturing and shading used in the game, but the music is more ominous as well. Remember, the “suit” feeds off Eddie Brock’s lifeforce, so in order to survive it (and Eddie cannot control it, it controls him), the suit feeds off enemies and even civilians.

Now, the nice thing about feeding off others is that using the touchscreen, you can actually “grab” the victim and drag them into Venom’s body. Other objects can be picked up and tossed using the touch screen. Most of Spidey’s, on the other hand, is stock DS controls, although you can use the bottom screen to pick the special power you wish to use.


The game is basically a two-dimensional side-scroller platformer, replete with puzzles that have to be solved to advance to the next level. The animation and framerate (in the previewable code on display at a recent Activision event in San Francisco) were smooth. Like a lot of platform games of the type, though, there is some repetition. Early on, Spidey will have to defeat a stream of villains in order to activate the portal that will move him to the next level. After so many are defeated, the portal activates. And the easiest path is not always the ground-level horizontal one. Of course, Spidey can zipline to the ceiling or jump, and work backwards to find power-ups and clues and unlock game elements that help clear his path.

But while the NDS version is in a markedly different style than its home-console cousins, the Bendis storyline is still a rich and entertaining experience, and should give Spidey fans something to look forward to when the game releases in late September.

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