Monday, September 27, 2010

Spiderman: Shattered Dimensions Review

Just finished my first run-through (X-Box 360 version.) and its entertaining enough that I'll probably play it again.

Its certainly the best Spiderman game yet,  but fans of the character and gaming know that isn't saying much.  Over all its a solid playing experience and a lot of fun.  After the problematic open world approach led to frustrating game-play in the last few Spiderman games, Shattered Dimensions goes for a linear A-B-C style of sequential play that can become repetitive: Chase villain boss, defeat henchmen, rescue civilians and escort them to safety (bleh.), fight Big Boss, fight Big Boss again, rinse and repeat.  The thumb controls close up combat system in the level finales works intermittently, sometimes a nice change sometimes frustrating and annoying. 

Thankfully the level by level shifting between the four different Spidermen and their unique design and game-play elements help keep the game fresh.  There's an over-arcing storyline about Mysterio and a shattered mystical tablet that Madam Web contacts alternate dimension versions of Spiderman to retrieve, battling a villain for every piece.  Its basically just a framework for one boss fight after another.
Amazing Spiderman captures the colour and line art style of the comic books, 2099 is flashy and high tech with fun free fall combat sequences but occasionally blurry neon heavy backgrounds.  Ultimate just seems like Amazing but with the black symbiote costume and none of the dialogue heavy character elements that make the Ultimate comics unique and Noir has the best ... well, noirish design work.

However the shadow of the bat hangs heavily over the game there's no doubt about it.  Like most people I think Batman: Arkham Asylum was the greatest superhero game ever made and clearly so did the designers of Shattered Dimensions.  In game mechanics, fighting style and whole levels the influence sometimes crosses over into outright imitation.  In Noir Spiderman in particular the hide in the shadows and perform silent take-downs mode is almost embarrassingly similar to what dedicated Arkham inmates are used to.  Spiderman's spider sense vision is virtually identical to Arkham's Detective Vision and the final boss battle with Mysterio felt exactly like one of the hallucinatory encounters with Scarecrow scuttling from one shadowy fragment of reality to another until you get close enough to defeat the god like villain with the spotlight and the hallucinogen theme.

But this is quibbling.  The game captures the fun Spiderman quip heavy comic book action and the voice acting - particularly Neil Patrick Harris racking up another comic book character for his collection - is uniformly excellent.  Just speed-playing and finishing the story would take about nine or ten hours.  Actively seeking out all the level challenges and collecting every upgrade takes a few hours longer.

Either way it's worth the price of admission.

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