I loved the Spider-Man 2 game. I remember renting it with very little expectation and then playing it to the point where I had done literally everything there was to do in that game. Even after playing it to completion and returning the rental copy, I toyed with the idea of going to a store and purchasing it. That’s how god damn good it was. Alas I didn’t end up purchasing it until actually just a couple of years ago, but it was just as good as I remembered it being. I now see that I already discussed my affinity for Spider-Man 2 in my review of Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions last year, but it’s too late, those words are already typed, there is nothing I can do about it now.
Since Spider-Man 2 I have yet to be as impressed with any of the subsequent Spider-Man games. Spider-Man 3was a solid title, as was Web of Shadows. But other titles such as Friend or Foe and Shattered Dimensions did not impress, particularly Friend or Foe. I found Shattered Dimensions scaled things down too much and when it was announced that the new Spider-Man title, Edge of Time, would contain only 2 Spider-Man variants as opposed toShattered Dimension’s 4, I became concerned I would have the exact same issue again.
Sure enough, I did indeed have this issue, only on a much larger scale this time around.
Spider-Man: Edge of Time’s central hook is that you alternate between modern day Spider-Man, and Spider-Man 2099. The two can communicate with each other through time and must work together to take on a bad guy who is actually voiced by a very unenthusiastic Val Kilmer. The idea is that one Spider-Man can affect the universe of the other one by the actions they are performing in their own time period. It’s a decent enough idea, but it is not implemented well.
Right from its introduction you can tell that the time manipulating aspects are almost more of a bullet point feature to list than an actual gameplay mechanic. The very first time you make use of this is when a giant robot is attacking Spider-Man 2099. As modern day Spider-Man your task is to destroy the facility that will eventually be responsible for creating this robot. Once you destroy it, the robot in the future does disappear but then turns into a bunch of smaller robots. So then I guess I didn’t actually destroy the facility after all? This is about the extent of time alteration you will see – very slight tweeks to events, but nothing earth shattering by any means. Most of the times when it happens are scripted anyway, so the core concept of being able to alter timelines is more of a narrative feature than a gameplay one.
Spider-Man Edge of Time is primarily a beat-em-up, a strange path for Spider-Man games to take but it is one these games have traveled before. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that the combat was never the best part of a Spider-Man. It’s always solid but it’s not something you would want to be the main focal point. This is another reason I was disappointed in Edge of Time. One of the last things I want to do in the role of Spider-Man is spend most of my time on the ground beating up hoards of identical looking enemies, but that is about all that you do throughout the entirety of Edge of Time.
The combat is decent, but a little on the button mashey side of things. You can hammer on the attack button mindlessly and you’ll get through I would say about 80% of the fights without much of a problem. That remaining 20% is really just the boss battles. There is an upgrade system where you can unlock additional moves, but I rarely found that I needed to use them to win. As with previous games you can shoot webbing and use your webs to zip up close to enemies and attack them and it all works well enough but doesn’t make the combat any more engaging. Again the strength of these games has never been their combat so why each subsequent Spider-Man title seems to focus on it more and more is simply beyond me.
Even more befuddling is why the sense of scale keeps getting smaller and smaller with each passing year. Edge of Time is the biggest offender by far as the entire game takes place within the same building. That’s right, from the very beginning until the very end you are confined to the exact same area. It would help if at least different sections of the building took on a different visual style, but they never do. It’s nothing but metallic corridors and the occasional open laboratory area. I’m sure you can guess that this means there is never much of a reason for Spider-Man to do any actual swinging. I could probably count on one hand the number of times I actually did it, and I bet most of them were only because I could, not because I actually needed to. Why would you ever make a Spider-Man game that takes place entirely indoors?! Every new area is just as bland as the previous ones so there’s never anything to get excited about. It’s the same repetitive combat in the same repetitive areas from start to finish.
Speaking of repetitive, this game is guilty of this consistently, not just in the combat and visuals but in the tasks you’re performing. I lost count of the number of times I had to trick a guided missle into hitting and opening a locked door, but I do know that it damn sure wasn’t fun the first time so you can imagine how not fun it is once you’ve cracked double digits. On top of that, some individual sections go on and on and on. The one that immediately leaps to mind is the fight against Black Cat. First you follow her around a large room because she has a key that you need to progress forward. Once you catch up to her, you fight her. Then after her health bar is drained, you follow her around until you once again catch her and another fight ensues. Then you win and do the exact same shit a third time. It feels like nothing but padding in an already short game and it adds to the feeling of the entire experience being a mindless chore the whole way through.
There is one thing that kept me interested in the game and can be pointed to as the primary reason I saw this game through until the credits. Shockingly enough, it was the story. Usually the story is secondary in these games, nothing too memorable but serving as a decent narrative to drive everything forward. Here it was the one thing I was interested in and I was not expecting that. The plot takes a few unexpected twists and I was always curious to see how things would play out. I mean you know they can’t go too drastic with anything, but Edge of Time nevertheless tells an engaging tale.
I’m sure you won’t be surprised when I say I simply can’t recommend this game to anyone but the most diehard of diehard Spider-Man fans. Edge of Time is a Spider-Man game where all you do is run through restricted spaces and punch guys with no sense of freedom whatsoever. If you were to tell me that this game started out life as a non Spider-Man related title, I wouldn’t even bat an eye. It’s all over in about 5 hours and there are challenges and unlockables to keep you going but I was more than done with Edge of Time when the credits finished rolling. We already know the same team is working on next years Amazing Spider-Man so holy shit fingers crossed that this was just a quick cash grab before the main event next year.