Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions
I tend to avoid licensed tie-ins like the plague – especially multi-platform ones – but I was drawn to this one because I’m a fan of the classic Spider-Man comics and it looked like a quality port rather than the half-assed Wii release you’d probably expect. Having played through once I can say that whilst the game has its share of bugs (ha ha), it’s quite playable and doesn’t feel like a dumbed-down port in any way. From a story perspective the plot is as lame as the worst of shoddy comic-book crossover event stories, but what makes it fun to play is quality voice-acting and often-humourous dialogue combined with simple beat-em-up action.
The main graphical issues are those I’ve come to expect from any 3D game: namely camera glitching and the odd bit of clipping. The camera never breaks the game, but it does have an odd tendency to rotate around your character a bit when you perch on a high point for more than a couple of seconds. I did get trapped in a wall and stuck on scenery once, but I was able to resolve matters without having to restart from a previous checkpoint.
Controls are an area that is relatively trouble-free, but for the near-absence of user-definable settings. There are two control schemes which offer a choice in the method of executing normal and strong attacks. By default attack strength is tied to a tilt of the remote – not a huge deal, but there are combos that require rapid switching between strong and normal attacks and it’s nigh impossible to pull this off with any degree of consistency. The alternate control scheme offers separate buttons for strong and normal attacks, but replaces the ability to quickly block/dodge by holding/releasing a button with a toggle between offensive and defensive postures that feels awkward and decidedly less agile than Spider-Man should be. In the end I chose to suck it up and avoid combos that involved toggling between attack strengths so I could retain the ability to quickly pop in-and-out of a defencive posture. If I had the ability to remap controls I could easily have found a compromise that would have made pulling off many combos less hit-and-miss.
The game’s length feels just right with a dozen missions split between the four characters. Despite some differences between the attacks of the four heroes (and the Noir universe gameplay) there’s a lot of repetition because nearly all the bosses bar the Noir ones fling out mini-me versions of themselves to fight as fodder, revealing a lack of imagination on the part of the game designer.
What has kept Shattered Dimensions on my shelf is the great dialogue – especially Stan Lee acting as the narrator – though the one-liners peppering the fights are over-used and repeat too often, to sometimes embarassing effect. The new characters created just for this game are so well-designed and acted that you wouldn’t know they weren’t based upon a character written for one of the comics. There’s also loads of unlockables in the form of extra attacks, stat levelling and alternate costumes to justify extra replays for completists.
Whilst not as strong as Marvel Ultimate Alliance, it’s still a good bit of fun for Spider-Man fans despite the flaws. I enjoyed the cut scenes, in-game dialogue and the data files for all the characters, though I’d love to see a stronger Spider-Man game in the future which addresses the shortcomings of this one.
Batman: The Brave and The Bold, The Videogame
Hot on the heels of Spider-Man was the release of this DS/Wii-exclusive Batman game. In many ways it’s the superior game: better writing, glitchless gameplay (thanks to the old-school 2D perspective), solid controls and incredible animation-like graphics. Where it falls a bit short is length: only four episodes you can blast through in under five hours. With five characters to play as (four + Batman) and multiple weapons to level-up you’ll get some decent replay value though.
The biggest edge this game has over Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is that dialogue between characters continues throughout each episode rather than being over-reliant upon canned one-liners for background noise. This dialogue is often amusing and keeps the game engaging despite the repetitive beat-em-up gameplay. Way Forward really did a great job here and I like the fact that the tone of the episodes is closer to the Batman Animated series from the late 70s than the darker Batman of modern cinema. For fans of classic beat-em-up action it’s not to be missed!