tiistai 2. syyskuuta 2014

REVIEW - Ultimate Spider-Man | DS | 2005

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: September 19, 2005
DEVELOPER(S): Vicarious Visions
PUBLISHER(S): Activision

It's time to return to Spider-Man for a short spell, more specifically take a look into the webslinger's adventures on the Nintendo DS. A year and some months back, I reviewed Ultimate Spider-Man for the Game Boy Advance. You can read the original review here to gather my takes on everything not related to this specific version of the game; audiovisuals, gameplay and such. The DS version was released on the exact same date as the Game Boy Advance version and it was made by the same people, but "port" is the wrong word to use here despite some superficial similarities, since the DS version is quite a different game. And a better one.

Spitting Venom

Peter Parker meets up with his childhood friend Eddie Brock; Peter and Eddie's fathers used to work together on a cure for cancer until they both died in a plane accident. As Spider-Man, Peter breaks into Trask Industries to steal the "cure" - a mysterious, formless black substance - only to get consumed by its dark, parasitic power. Peter manages to escape the parasite, but it finds a new host in the embittered Eddie, and transforms him into the monstrous Spider-Man clone Venom, controlling his mind and forcing him to murder. While Spider-Man is out catching bad guys, Eddie roams the streets trying to cope with his recently split personality.

It's so delightfully cartoony.
That's still the plot, it just plays out a bit differently. First of all, while a few of the levels have the exact same basic design as they did in the Game Boy Advance version, their content is very different and diverse. There are some mild puzzles and several type of hostage/distress situations to solve. In turn, a few of the levels have the same basic idea as they did before, but the design is completely different. For example, Eddie starts his killing spree in a public park instead of the "comfort" of a sewer.

Ultimate Spider-Man looks amazing, it's one of the best-looking DS games I've played thus far. Although the game plays out in clean 2D, the world around you keeps clicking right and left in smooth 3D. One of the screens - depending on which character you're currently playing, as well as your own option which I'll surely get to in just a bit - shows dynamic close-ups of some events in comic book strips. It looks really cool. The cutscenes - also comic book strips - are fully spoken with the voice actors from the animated show reprising their roles, there are even no subtitles at all, which already makes a 2005 Spider-Man game a much more advanced and polished DS game than that pairing of Iron Man games made years later. And that's not the only bit of good news when thinking of those specific games, but let's get to Spider-Man first.

The first level is a thrill ride - it's literally friendly neighborhood Spider-Man doing what he does best: be friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. This level teaches you everything you need to know about Spider-Man, from his basic movement to the very few dips into the usual swamp of the touch screen. There's a touch screen minigame to unlock certain areas, and certain actions which require a lot of force, such as lifting up a car, require you to stroke the screen with the stylus. The time limit for these actions is surprisingly fair, in comparison to a whole lot of hectic action games that force the touch screen upon the player, it feels a lot smoother and passes for a part of the game better than per usual. From the touch screen, you also select in perfect peace which special ability you want as your combo finisher, the touch screen has nothing more to do with those. Once Spidey's special attack meter is full, you can finish up a combo with a simple, devastating, acrobatic manouver. All in all, gameplay's very fluid. But then we hit the same old snag: Venom.

I used to love the hell out of these
The biggest disappointment in the Game Boy Advance version of the license (not the game, but the license) was Venom. As long as you play as Venom, you encounter a weak, slow, stiff blob that heavily contrasts the agility and fluidity of his arch nemesis. If you gave me the simple notion that there's a game where you can play as either Spider-Man or Venom, I'd hardly hesitate. I'm a Venom fan all the way, but these games make me second-guess myself. I never thought I'd say something even remotely like this, but I hate how the game forces you to play as Venom. On top, you're driven to the understanding that you can only use the touch screen to control Venom, which will only make you frustrated even more until you realize that you can just as well use traditional controls, and you can just as well switch the game screen back to the upper one; the game really doesn't give you one hint that you can do that and enjoy all there's to enjoy about playing as Venom. The best part about playing as Venom is eating people - and even that's not a constantly essential trick. Venom sucks in these games.

The point is ultimately lost in the final moments of the game, when Venom is revealed to be the final boss. To me, that just doesn't make any sense. I was expecting some sort of an uneasy alliance between these two, against a third party. It's not the first time we've seen one or more playable characters get it on in the end of the game (or at some other point of a series), but I can't really explain it without going to extreme lengths with the game. It just simply doesn't make sense, and that's final from me.

Half of the game is great Spider-Man entertainment, some of the best we've ever had to enjoy on any portable system, but the other half is a bulky, mostly boring drivel with some mildly fun parts. Well, at least the touch screen controls are perfectly optional, that gets great respect from my end. Would get even more, if they had bothered to include that piece of info in the Venom tutorial.

+ Great graphics, polished sound
+ Playing as Spider-Man feels awesome, the controls are responsive and fluid

- Advanced touch screen controls; luckily they're optional
- Playing as Venom sucks ass; too bad, since I'm a well-known fan
- The plot starts out strong, but ultimately makes no sense; never cared much for the Ultimate reboot anyway

< 7.8 >

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