Ah, Nintendo DS, you
haven’t been out that long and already you’re bringing us great joy via a
cartridge the size of a stamp (Super Mario 64 DS, how I love thee).
Among the launch titles is Activision’s Spider-Man 2, a game that loosely
follows the plot of the blockbuster sequel and adds many of the elements found
in the Game Boy Advance version so this one is in no way a portable version of
the superior console game. Yet with its cool technology and ability to display
some pretty impressive visuals, is this the ultimate portable Spider-Man game?
“With great power comes
great responsibility,” Uncle Ben tells Peter Parker on the fateful day he is
shot dead by the hands of a criminal Peter had let slip through his fingers.
And so he becomes Spider-Man, a web-slinging crime fighter that went
head-to-head with a villain calling himself the Green Goblin. Yet what he
didn’t tell him is that with great power also comes isolation and fear that his
enemies would come to harm those he loves the most–like Mary Jane Watson and
his dear Aunt May. In Spider-Man 2, Peter finds himself struggling to
make ends meet while attempting to juggle school, work and the superhero life.
Worse yet, he is witness to a failed experiment by the brilliant Doctor Otto
Octavius who comes to blame Spider-Man for the death of his wife during the
experiment’s meltdown. Soon Spider-Man becomes the target of Doc Ock whom aside
from being completely homicidal but the proud owner of four powerfully deadly
mechanical arms. Want more bad news? There’s also a creep that calls himself
Mysterio and a grizzled old man with wings that calls himself the vulture who is
intent on killing him.
Like I mentioned above,
this one follows key plot points from the movie and adds elements from the GBA
version so not only will you be battling against main bad guy Doc Ock but taking
on a slew of thugs and two familiar enemies straight out of the comic book. The
game’s first level is more of a training ground and it is here that we find
Spidey at his weakest. He can punch, kick, jump and use his web in various
ways. The web-slinger also has some Special Moves, abilities that can be
upgraded the further he progresses. He starts out with three abilities
(web-shot, split kick and slide kick) but use of these moves depletes Spidey’s
Special Meter–a meter that can be filled up by picking up power-ups. And, of
course, there’s the Spider-Sense, which acts like a Max Payne-styled
bullet time and slows the action down enough for our hero to dodge blows.
For the most part,
Spider-Man 2 nails the Spider-Man moves and abilities perfectly. You’re
able to swing from place to place, although it takes just a little practice to
become accustomed to swinging. You can crawl along surfaces and perform a
number of cool acrobatic moves during combat. One of the many levels has the
Spider wrangling escaped convicts with his web pull ability. You’ll also have
to make your way through Manhattan to rescue a number of hostages in crisis and
battle a number of criminals along the way. Completing a level usual rewards
you with some unlockable upgrades to our hero’s health meter as well as
introduces new moves to his combat moves. As tough as it is to beat a large
number of foes, especially when there are timed missions, it becomes pretty
repetitive. Luckily, there are some cool boss battles (the game even recreates
the battle atop a moving subway) that add more dimensions to the story and the
various situations throughout the game’s sixteen levels.
Control-wise, the game
makes it pretty easy to pull off some cool moves right off the bat and combat,
which is pretty enjoyable once you’ve upgraded Spidey’s abilities, is pretty
challenging. The top screen sees the most action, of course, which leads us to
the bottom screen that sadly isn’t implemented the way we want. Used more as a
map and a special ability selector (touch the ability icon for your special
ability of choice like Web Net) you won’t fan any touch-screen mini-games here.
Unfortunately the game’s level design and difficulty level will not fail to
frustrate. For one thing, the missions (with a main objective and secondary
objectives) will have you searching the city with nothing but a vague map to
follow. This mean you’ll lose valuable time looking for the specific location.
Why is this bad? Well, at the end of each level you’re graded and getting a low
grade (something that happens often even if you really try) means no upgrades
will be earned.
Visually, Spider-Man 2
gives us a good sense of what the DS is capable of graphically since this is
one really great-looking game with detailed environments and more than decent
character models. We’re talking about what looks like a traditional 2D game
with some 3D backgrounds and characters that move smoothly enough. The city of
New York looks pretty good too, actually, but it’s not the vast playground of
the console versions. Still, you’re able to pull of some really
spectacular-looking moves and web tricks. There are cut scenes that move the
story along and they’re surprisingly great. Already we can see how the DS
exceeds the Game Boy Advance in this department.
As for the game’s sound,
it’s not as well balanced as the game’s graphics but what’s found here sound
great through the system’s speakers. There are sound bytes for each boss and
great sound effects–particularly surrounding Spidey’s webbing and his punches.
Enemies cry out in pain and scream when they’re tossed around the environment.
Much like the console version, you’ll have to rely on the cries or pleas of help
from helpless hostages so voice work is used well throughout the game. The
game’s score is also dramatic and exciting and boy is it repetitive. This is
highly unfortunate since the score does come from the film itself.
There are many things that
could have made this game truly amazing like actually including the bottom
screen for other things rather than a map, a move list and dialogue subtitles
but the missions are plentiful and the game looks beautiful. Spider-Man 2
is great way to welcome our new portable hardware so if you want a really
challenging but downright fun action game starring our favorite Marvel hero,
this is the game to buy.
The controls are tight and pulling
off combos is not hard to do but thanks to poor level design and incredibly hard
boss battles you’ll spend most of the time starting a level over and over while
yanking your hair out of its roots. Still, you’ll find it hard not to love the
fact that all the things that make the Spider-Man character so cool (like
acrobatic swinging, Spider-Sense and crawling along the walls of a building) are
present and accounted for. It’s just a shame the game didn’t take full
advantage of the touch-screen.
amazing visuals really do show off the system’s graphical capabilities. While
it gives you a 2D view there’s plenty of 3D backgrounds (plenty of great views
of the city) and characters (Doc Ock looks more menacing here than on the GBA
version). It’s also great to see our favorite web-slinger pull off neat combos
and the cool web-zip move in a portable format.
The Nintendo DS is capable of
bringing us some great sound from its speakers and, much like the graphics, this
game puts it to good use. The sound effects are really good and so are the
sound bytes (the most dialogue comes from the bosses you’ll be facing). As for
the soundtrack, it’s straight out of the movie only you’ll hear it through a
continuous loop and that’s not cool at all.
Some of the timed missions will have
you starting all over again and sometimes that in-game map can be a little hard
to decipher so you won’t get there where you have to on time. Some boss fights,
especially when dealing with the Vulture, can be fun yet really frustratingly
difficult. Thankfully Spider-Man gains some health and special meter upgrades
that can make the fight a bit easier. And what exactly does a player have to
do to get a decent level grade that‘s not an F or a D?
This is a lengthy game so you get a
lot of bang for your bucks and who doesn’t love kicking tail as Spidey? There
are some cool unlockable bonuses, plenty of character upgrades and cool boss
fights. Unfortunately, Activision dropped the ball in terms of doing something
unique with the bottom touch screen by incorporating it more in fights.
Far from perfect yet still loads of
fun, your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man gets a much welcome portable action
game with Spider-Man 2 on the DS. While it doesn’t really take advantage
of the touch screen technology (darn) and the game can sometimes be too
frustratingly hard; this is the truest Spider-Man game to come along since the
super sweet console versions of the game.