RELEASED: 1990 (SMS)
AVAILABLE ON: GEN, GG, SMS
DEVELOPER(S): Sega, Technopop (GEN)
The first 16-bit Spider-Man game was released in 1991 on Sega Genesis, and instead of a completely new game, it was a port of a fairly successful Master System game, released a year earlier. This game is most commonly known as Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin, but officially it's known as just Spider-Man. The Genesis port, in particular, is historical for being one of the best-selling games based on Marvel Comics, and naturally, a title which went on to influence the development of a whole array of 16-bit Marvel games. We're talking about best selling, and influencing the development - not necessarily a very good or influential game in itself. This one's still quite popular in retro circles, but what I see is a frustrating, uncomfortable drivel with boring level design; quite entertaining after what I've just been through by the strength of three bad games, but a very disappointing start to Spidey's 16-bit career.
Caught in a web
"Honest businessman" Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. The Kingpin, has gathered around a whole group of Spider-Man's arch enemies - Doctor Octopus, Electro, The Lizard, The Sandman, The Hobgoblin, and last but not least, Venom - planted a bomb somewhere in New York City, and laid the blame on our friendly neighbourhood hero. Spider-Man must evade the police as well as his boss, clear his name and bring these foes to justice.
|I don't give a fuck 'bout no laws of gravity.|
The level design, backgrounds included, is extremely generic and boring, character design is of much better quality - despite of very few different enemies. The game was praised for its graphics back in the day, which I have to question because yes, while I think the boss sprites are very faithful to their comic book counterparts and Spider-Man's movement is artificially swift and smooth, there's really nothing much else to cheer about. The game looks really bland and I honestly think better looking Genesis games were released back in the 80's. The music's some generic ambient jive, not really loud enough to get on your nerves though.
The level design is truly the most enfuriating flaw there is to Spider-Man. The levels are basically cubic mazes with no clear indication of which direction to go, and when you finally figure it out, you're probably dying due to a thug with infinite ammo waiting around each corner and there are at least two bosses in each level to take care of. Top it all off with the absolute minimum of extra health to collect, and NO additional checkpoints to the start of the level. That's right, even if you get capped by the second boss, you'll have to do the whole level again - the whole boring level. Oh yeah, and since I didn't mention it yet, there are instances where you MUST take damage to be able to proceed. Oh yeah, and if you want a hint of what the enemy A.I.'s like, check out my review of RoboCop 3 for the SNES; actually, it's exactly the same! They just shoot, shoot, shoot. Duck, and they won't be able to hit you - they just keep shooting forward. Actually, the levels are also extremely similar to those in RoboCop 3... hmmm...
|Not much health or webbing left. How about I...|
You can buy more webbing (hmm, interesting...) with money, and to get money, you can use a camera to take pictures of enemies. You can also use a web shield to absorb bullets, and you can also return home to rest at any time to replenish your health. Sounds very dandy, but truth be told, these features are completely useless. OK, maybe you'll get some kicks out of that camera stunt, and certainly more ammo, but there's just no practical use for that shield, and even if resting at home sounds like a good idea, doing it means that you'll have to do the whole level all over again.
Needless to say, Spider-Man is an extremely frustrating game - not totally bad, though, and the presentation's quite all right. That's one of the most important basics to take care of when you're making a licensed game, since if at least the presentation's good, kids might dig it. They don't care about the stuff us grown-ups do. We've all been kids...
+ Good presentation
+ An epic rogues gallery
- On/off controls
- Shitty level design
- Lousy enemy A.I.
- Useless extra items and features
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