sunnuntai 7. syyskuuta 2014

REVIEW - Spider-Man: Friend or Foe | DS | 2007

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: October 2, 2007
PUBLISHER(S): Activision

In 2007, Activision deployed three different studios to work on three different versions of a weird idea they had for a new Spider-Man game. While the audience was moderately fresh off Sam Raimi's film trilogy, someone had the idea of placing all of the villains from the films into the same game, a stand-alone story set after the films - which ultimately turned out not to make any sense at all - and have Spider-Man form an uneasy alliance with all of them to bring down one more, MYSTERIOUS supervillain (hmm). The game was a critical bomb; despite some random praises for certain audiovisual values and the unique story's value for the Marvel fan, the game was slaughtered, each and every version of it. The Nintendo DS version has so much going for it - and then it just pisses on itself from several different angles, coldly nulling every decent bit.

Spider-Man & F(r)iends

Green Goblin, Sandman, Venom and Doctor Octopus, plus a few more of Spider-Man's worst enemies go missing and turn up having their minds controlled by a new, anonymous supervillain. If there's one thing a supervillain hates more than a superhero, it's someone else in control of their actions, so as Spider-Man frees his foes one by one, they join Spider-Man in getting to the bottom of this insane plot.

A walk in the park.
The game is described as a "love letter" of sorts, to the fans of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy, and it's classified as "official movie merchandise". Well, the truth is, the opening cutscene spills the beans: it has NOTHING to do with the films. Green Goblin, Venom, Doc Ock and the New Goblin all died, Sandman redeemed himself, and the rest of the comic book characters and villains who make an appearance in the game never had a passing reference to their credit in the movies. Yeah, sure, some scenes are influenced by the films, but if it's a movie tie-in you're looking for, you're in the wrong place. If it's a good Spider-Man game you're looking for, you're still in the wrong place.

Casting the thought of the game's non-existent bond to the films completely aside, Spider-Man: Friend or Foe starts as if it was one of the greatest Spider-Man games ever made. It looks like a magnificent ensemble game, there are so many characters and this is the first game in a long time besides a standard one-on-one fighting game in which constantly playing as villains actually makes some sense in its own insane way, and where it's cool. The touch screen is almost completely useless during standard gameplay, and I definitely see that as a good thing; it's where you start using the touch screen to "solve puzzles" where the game ultimately squirts a tense shower of urine on your face. Just when I was thinking the graphics were this game's stinkiest part.

At first, even the graphics look awesome. The smooth CGI cutscenes with a full voice track are magnificent accomplishments on the DS, and the game's in full 3D. Well, the CGI cutscenes soon change into much more cartoony stills, it feels like we're suddenly pulled into a whole different game. The colour palette during gameplay is extremely grey - definitely not what you'd expect from a comic book license. In certain levels, the touch screen becomes your primary gameplay screen, while the other screen shows your progress from a different angle. It's a mess, I had to use up one screenshot space for a very early shot to show you what sort of mess, exactly. OK, it's usually quite helpful to see beyond your standard scope, but I could've lived without actually seeing Spider-Man swinging from nowhere. It's bothered me in just about every game, how Spider-Man slings his web to nothingness, but here's it's even more bothersome since you actually SEE that he's swinging from thin air. It's ugly, and distracting.

The controls in general are good. Spider-Man, and whoever he has with him - you can switch characters at any time in the good old Donkey Kong Country fashion - move very fluidly, work great in combat and have a few special attacks in store to keep things as exciting as they can. You can buy more moves for Spider-Man from the "Web Store" in exchange for Spider Tokens scattered along just about everywhere, as well as characters for a free roam mode, and a couple of extra modes. Personally, I don't think you can bear the game that far.

What a mess.
The game is extremely easy, and turns extremely boring and repetitive in a matter of minutes, no matter how diverse the idea itself might be. It's a good idea with shit execution, to put it blunt and exact. Point A to point B, back to point A, back to point B, then on to point C, rescue a couple of folks, beat up some guys, beat up some more guys, beat up a boss, recruit the boss, start the circle anew with just the right amount of variables to realize you're making progress. If the neverending - or well, lengthy as fuck - cycle doesn't turn you off, then you can be sure that your companions' puzzles will. An early example is the _mandatory_ lockpicking system only Black Cat can use. If you hated the lockpicking in an otherwise great game like Oblivion was at one time, check this out. You have only a few seconds to open a lock with ever-increasing amounts of tumblers on the touch screen. The tumblers are supposed to shake and make a noise when you hit the sweet spot, but they do that very randomly. When your precious seconds are up, you have to start all over again. Even trial and error doesn't help here, as the sweet spots are randomized. Probably to give you time to pick up the stylus, the tutorial for the puzzle shows up on EVERY SINGLE retry. It sheds the final light on how poorly designed this game is behind its great concept and fluid controls, and keep in mind, this is only the second level in the game! You still have a long way to go and a lot of dog shit to shovel up. Or you could take the easy way out and just leave this game be - there are a whole lot better games on this subject out there.

Yet, this game could've served as a good template for another one if it wasn't bombed so bad. It has good ideas, really, and a good gameplay feel for a brief while - but like I said, when it comes to execution and delivery, Spider-Man: Friend or Foe is a piece of crap, there's no nice way to put it. Behind the veil of a strong start is a useless game, it's got no place. It has nothing to do with what it was supposed to promote, and even less with the already faintly consistent arc that Activision had going on with the Spider-Man games at the time.

+ Smooth controls
+ Good concept

- The touch screen "puzzles" ruin everything decent about the game
- The graphics are a mess
- Boring gameplay

< 5.0 >

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