tiistai 11. kesäkuuta 2013

REVIEW - Spider-Man | GEN | 1991

GENRE(S): Action
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 idea of a Marvel marathon first came to me as early as summer of 2010, when I first started doing the blog and wrote the first Batman marathon - which actually wasn't supposed to be a marathon at first, I had only done Batman: Arkham Asylum. A friend who I first got acquainted with around 2008 read the review and then I told him I was going to do some Batman retro reviews to go with it once I figured out what to do with the reviews I had written up 'til that point. He told me that he was always more of a Spider-Man fan and asked me to do a review of the first Spider-Man game on the Sega Genesis - he had it when he was a kid, and was kinda shocked I didn't know that much about Sega Genesis, or the game called Spider-Man. He told me it was a classic, and judging by his description of the game and its gallery of rogues, I was kinda intrigued. However, I told him that if I ever did a Spider-Man marathon, I'd have no choice but to take on the rest of the Marvel roster as well - after all, Marvel was always an interesting subject as a whole while DC Comics only had Batman, who alone outshined Marvel Comics. Well, I'm done with Batman for now, and well on my way with the Marvel marathon I envisioned back then, now it's time to take on this old favourite of a friend, as a kind of a favour to him... if you can count this review as such, 'cause the game hasn't aged too well. In fact, I think it never was too special. Unlike this friend of mine (born in '89), I was very much around when the game came out - playing the 8-bit Batman game and enjoying the hell out of it, something I still do. This 16-bit Spider-Man game has nothing on it, despite some good grounds.

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...
DUCK? Ha-ha!!
The control scheme is hit and miss, all the way. I kind of like the jumping and swinging, but climbing anything and attempting to hop off whatever you're climbing is pure hell. Many times there's a thug waiting on top of the wall you're climbing, and since there's no way to climb a corner, and he just keeps shooting forward once you're in his range without the slightest ceasefire, you have no choice but to jump up, hope that you make the jump and even if you make the jump, you'll probably have to eat a bullet or two before you can put the guy down with a web shot - provided you have enough webbing at your disposal. If not, good luck - and good luck with the rest of the level, as well. Like I said, power-ups do not grow on trees in this game.

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

< 6.1 >

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