In the world of video games, Spider-Man has had much better luck than most superheroes. Until last year’sArkham Asylum, you would be hard pressed to find a good Batman game that was released after 1995. With Superman, I don’t know I guess Death and Return of Superman on SNES was decent but the man has one of the worst video games ever made to his name. Spider-Man however, has done ok for himself. He had some solid games back in the 16-bit era (I still like to bust out the occasional Maximum Carnage session), and has had several decent outings in recent years. In fact, I would consider Spider-Man 2 to be one of the best movie adaptation video games of all time, and one of my favourite games I played on the original Xbox.
In many ways, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is a departure from the recent Spider-Man titles. The question is, does it continue Spidey’s streak?
The central premise behind Shattered Dimensions is that you are actually able to play as four different Spider-Men (Spider-Mans?). You have regular ole Amazing Spider-Man (aka Neil Patrick Harris), Ultimate Spider-Man, Future Spidey, and finally Noir Spider-Man. Each level puts you in control of a different Spidey. It’s a pretty good hook, but one that doesn’t affect things as much you would expect.
Although you will be playing as four different characters in four different universes, there aren’t too many glaring differences between all of them. Sure each Spidey has his own unique moves and abilities, but each of them still generally has you doing the same things. With Future, Amazing and Ultimate Spider-Man, you will find yourself repeating the same general pattern in each stage. You swing through a hall, enter a room, beat up everybody in said room, and continue.
The one stand-out exception is Noir Spider-Man. Noir is not much of a fighter, so instead you will have to rely on stealth to get through these stages. These sequences definitely have a heavy Arkham Asylum vibe to them, as you spend the majority of the level swinging from ledge to ledge in order to use your web grab an enemy that’s below you. Of course if you’re going to borrow elements from any game, Arkham Asylum is a solid choice, and what worked well there ends up working only ok here. The Noir sequences definitely stand out as the most unique portions of Shattered Dimensions, and while they are fun at first, they tend to get repetitive and overall they just feel a little too simple. The ways you can dispatch enemies are fairly limited and you’ll have seen just about everything Noir has to offer before the end of the first mission.
With the remaining three characters, the focus is definitely on the aforementioned combat. There is the occasional unique touch, such as the falling sequences that crop up every now and then during the Future levels, but for the most part you will be battling often gigantic hordes of bad guys. While all of this plays fine, there’s nothing particularly engaging about it. The combat is decent, with an impressive arsenal of moves at your disposable, but it tends to venture into button mashy territory a little too often. It also feels a touch clunky and very rarely did I have to employ any sort of strategy to make progress. It essentially boils down to “hammer on button, make things dead”.
One thing I haven’t really touched on is that this is not an open-world game, which the majority of the recent Spider-Man titles have been. The closest you get to open-world are a couple of stages that give you a contained area to roam around in and complete tasks in the order of your choosing. Overall, I would say this game is at the polar opposite end of the spectrum of open-world and has an incredibly video game like structure to it. There are three acts, each one containing four levels (one for each Spider-Man of course). Each stage is focused on a different boss that you will fight at the end of the level, and often throughout it as well.
The boss fights are definitely the highlight of the game. Each fight is completely unique and these encounters usually provide the most exciting moments. The stand-out for me was the battle against Sandman, which has you jumping on obstacles that are being flung around inside a sand tornado, all the while trying to make your way towards him to launch a water barrel into him. The entire stage where you take on Deadpool was also well done, as they do the patented Deadpool “breaking of the fourth wall”, where he directly acknowledges that this is a video game. The game is almost worth playing for some of the boss battles, however some of the levels often feel like an obstacle that is in the way before you can partake in these fights.
This wouldn’t be a complete review if I didn’t touch on the one element that drove me insane throughout the entire duration of the game – everything that has to do with characters talking. The voice acting itself isn’t bad, although Future Spidey sounds like a senior citizen, it’s the words these characters are saying. I know Spider-Man is meant to be pretty corny but come on! At numerous points throughout the game, he actually said the phrase “See ya, wouldn’t want to be ya!” That’s some mid-90’s kid’s movie shit right there. That’s Power Ranger shit right there. I’m fairly positive he never said “Have a nice trip, see you next fall” but I wouldn’t be shocked if it was there and I just blocked it out. Saying it once would be unforgivable but he goes back to it many, many times.
This leads me to my other big problem with the audio, the voice samples repeat far, FAR, too often. It hit a point more than once where I had to mute the TV just to get away from it. During a boss fight, the voiceover will tell you time and time again how to win the fight, even when you are in the middle of doing exactly what they are instructing you to do! It’s often excrutiating and I have no idea who thought it would be a good idea to have these dialogue pieces run damn near non-stop.
Now despite my issues with the god-awful dialogue and it’s refusal to leave me the hell alone, I did find the title to be generally enjoyable. That is, when the game would let me enjoy it. I chose to save this for last, and maybe I was just having a string of bad luck, but this game felt glitchy as all hell to me. On five separate occasions I encounteredd a bug that forced me to restart from the previous checkpoint, which sometimes set me back further than I would have liked. Usually the glitch involved me clipping through the floor or through a wall, and then falling and falling forever. I can deal with this sort of thing if it happens once, but five times? By that point it felt like the game was physically trying to stop me from enjoying it more than I was. It just feels unfinished.
Shattered Dimensions is a solid idea and I think there is a great game here somewhere, but it’s rudimentary combat, simplistic stealth and frequent glitches took away from the enjoyment I did get out of the boss fights and some of the more unique sequences offered in the Future sections. It’s a solid rental as there is fun to be had, butSpider-Man 2 needn’t worry about being dethroned.