perjantai 12. heinäkuuta 2013

REVIEW - Spider-Man | GBA | 2002

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
RELEASED: April 16, 2002
DEVELOPER(S): Digital Eclipse Software
PUBLISHER(S): Activision

Sam Raimi's first Spider-Man movie premiered in the summer of 2002 and featured Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man, Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin and the gorgeous Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson. Not only did the movie become one of the greatest box office successes of all time, it was also named one of the best live-action superhero films of all time, alongside Richard Donner's Superman from 1978 and Tim Burton's Batman from 1989. Activision had been cooking up a game based on the movie for quite some time, and the game was actually released a month prior to the film's theatrical launch. The game was met with overwhelming response, considering it was a movie license (the Xbox version holds the highest average of the different versions on Game Rankings, at 78.17%). On the exact same date of this game's release, Activision also unleashed a little more comic book-like Game Boy Advance counterpart called Spider-Man, which was - a bit surprisingly - also received quite well.

Your friendly neighborhood bundle of pixels

That hostage a nun? Keep her!
After being bitten by a radioactive spider, nerdy high school student Peter Parker develops spider-like senses and abilities. After the death of his uncle in the hands of a mugger, Peter vows to use his great powers responsibly and becomes Spider-Man, the wall-crawling and web-slinging hero of New York City. Meanwhile, the brilliant scientist Norman Osborn - the father of Peter's best friend Harry - experiments with a performance-enhancing chemical designed for military use. The unstable formula works, but drives Norman completely insane, marking his transformation into a psychopathic killer who media dubs the Green Goblin.

X-Men came out in 2000, and despite what some critics were saying about the movie, I loved it - so did those critics once they got their thumbs out of their asses. Spider-Man came out in 2002, and it was met with unanimous praise. I went to the theatre all jacked up, and... initially hated the movie. Well, that's a heavy way to put it - I didn't really hate the movie, but I was distracted on the first viewing by an assortment of ugly spots. The heavy use of horrible CGI and the Green Goblin's still fucking ridiculous suit got all my attention. Kirsten Dunst's wet t-shirt too, but that was actually the key to get me to watch the movie again, and appreciate it as what is - a very good movie, one of the best superhero flicks there ever was. Still, especially after watching the sequels which had nothing as artificially ridiculous as the Goblin's get-up in them (except for the casting of Topher Grace as Venom), it might be the most conflicted movie of the trilogy. Great plot, great actors, spotty visuals. That's the first Spider-Man movie in a nutshell, if you ask me. Didn't know what to expect of the Game Boy Advance game - it looked so much like most 2D Spider-Man games I've ever played. I guess I was just hoping they somehow managed to scrape up all the best qualities.

Guess where this is? Yep, the docks!
Well, it is like most 2D Spider-Man games I've ever played. Only better. It doesn't really sound like anything, but that's better than sounding horrible. As far as the looks go... well, the in-game 2D graphics look quite decent, but the occasional dive into a 3D web-slinging setting and the few "cutscenes" look outright awful. At least there are no movie stills - as a matter of fact, not at all. The few "cutscenes" I mentioned are ripped off a teaser trailer, I believe. The main reasons for the total lack of force fed movie references are quite simple: first of all, I think they didn't want to spoil anything and secondly, the game really doesn't have that much to do with the movie. Although the very basic plot is the same - Peter becomes Spider-Man after Ben's death and Norman becomes the Green Goblin - it's very different. Norman's the one ordering other villains around from the start, as he's studying Spider-Man and his abilities, and developing his infamous "Goblin gas" further, somewhat based on his findings. These other villains are quite the small, but nasty bunch, composed of Shocker, Vulture and Scorpion - villains who I guess were not considered for the movies at that point, therefore free game for game developers. Norman's alter ego doesn't even show up before the end of the game.

This particular game called Spider-Man (the sixth one I've reviewed?) is one entertaining action game. Basics of gameplay are pretty much the same as in the few handheld games I've reviewed lately, but the game just plays out better, and the levels are designed very differently. Instead of straightforward runs, the levels in this game are either cubic mazes or gauntlets, each with a certain main objective to deal with. For example, in one level you need to find and break a certain amount of lethal gas containers to keep the gas from spreading - the level's quite small horizontally, but the freedom to swing in any direction reveals a quite large vertical base, which basically means these containers can be found anywhere in the level. After you're done with the objective, just mosey down to the end of the level and you're done with it altogether - no need to find an awkwardly-placed "Exit" sign like in many games. Sometimes you need to find extra items such as keys to be able to beat the level. There are a few secret items lying around, too, including photo opportunities which go on to unlock those movie stills luckily ousted from the in-game equation.

Crawlin' through the subway.
The gauntlets aren't that fun - although the controls are very tight in general, Spider-Man tends to get down on all fours, reluctant to get up no matter what you do (shades of the old DOS game which I reviewed first), and jumping down is much faster than crawling down, or rappelling down a web. The 3D bonus levels are of a simple, one-button scheme, but God damn painful to look at. Oh well, in a fit of positive thinking, one might say that these sorts of levels keep the game alive and create a diversion the earlier handheld games didn't have.

That's about it. I must say that Spider-Man is one of the better licensed games - especially games licensed off a movie - available for the Game Boy Advance, but I'll not boost it any further before trying out the rest. Yet, it's safe to say that thus far, it's the best handheld Spider-Man game there is. On to Spider-Man 2...

+ Not a very traditional movie license; great use of other source material
+ Objective-based levels instead of those endless runs against copy/paste backgrounds
+ Good controls...

- ...Climbing or crawling isn't always that fun, though, which is most evident in the gauntlet levels
- The boss fights are innovative, but consuming
- The audiovisuals are a bit disappointing

< 8.0 >

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