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(DS) Ultimate Spider-Man
By Ron Ayers
Nov 11, 2005,
6 :24 pm
Games based on comic book licenses have traditionally been brutal, but since the releases of Spider-Man and X-Men Legends, gamers are now at least willing to take a peek. Spider-Man has become one of the most milked comic book licenses in recent memory, and has appeared on every major platform (he managed to avoid the N-Gage). Another wave of the games is now breaking, and Ultimate Spider-Man arrives as the second Spider-Man title to hit the DS in less than 12 months.
On the outside, Ultimate Spider-Man appears to be a fairly straight-forward action / beat Ďem up. In fact, if you just looked at a quick two minute demo, you may even begin to draw comparisons to Viewtiful Joe. But what lies under its pretty exterior is an experience that will probably cause you to throw your DS across the room.
During the course of Ultimate Spider-Man youíll have the opportunity to play as both Spider-Man and his nemesis Venom in your standard action platform schtick. When playing as Spidey the top screen will display the majority of the action, while the bottom screen is used for selecting a ďspecial moveĒ or performing contextual actions. As Venom the gameplay is shifted entirely to touch screen.
The graphics in Ultimate Spider-Man are very pretty, and by far the highlight of the game. As I mentioned previously, if youíre watching a demo, you might begin to draw comparisons with Viewtiful Joe. The graphic artists did a wonderful job merging the comic book look with a cel-shaded feel, and a 2D/3D engine. The animation is smooth, and the frame rate feels like itís right up there. Anyone creating a DS game should be playing this to see graphics done right.
When playing as Spider-Man, the controls seem fairly basic - kicking, jumping, punching, shooting webs. Our hero's levels are really the best part of the game, but are slightly marred by the developersí use of the DS touch screen. Many times in the middle of gameplay, youíll be forced to start stroking the touch screen to push up a pillar, or to disable a bomb, which is fairly difficult to do with your fingers. This means youíve got to have that stylus somewhere handy, but youíre already using two hands to play the game!
As Venom, you move with the d-pad but use the touch screen to perform certain attacks, eat your enemies up for energy, throw items and leap up to tall platforms. Which is fine and dandy, until you have to jump, and guess what - youíve already got one hand on the control pad, and the other with a stylus. When you canít get pass certain portions of the game because youíre lacking a third-hand, thatís a problem.
The other issue with the controls is that they don't always work. When trying to get Venom to use his tail to pull himself up to ceilings, youíre supposed to just stroke the stylus from his center to the platform you wish to leap to. Too bad it only seems to happen one out of every five times. Ultimate Spider-Man wants to use the touchscreen, sort of, but with its wonky touch detection and you-must-have-this-many-arms-(3)-to-ride-this-ride approach, you can't help but wish they'd just abandoned the concept.
As mentioned before, the Spider-Man levels are pretty enjoyable. For the most part youíre trying to save civilians, disarm bombs and defeat bosses. You're jumping around, swinging on webs and crawling through vents, and all this is pretty easy to grasp. Unfortunately, with many of these objectives there are timers; for each of them individually. If one of these timers goes off, youíre dead. Youíll lose many a life trying to just find these objectives, which are marked with an exclamation point that sort of vaguely points you in a general direction. It comes off as a fairly cheap way to die in the game, eliminates any exploration, and puts you on a bee-line through the levels.
As Venom youíre just trying to survive by killing everything. Instead of timed objectives, your life energy just slowly dwindles and you have to replenish it by eating people, which is kind of fun. Just tap a person with the stylus, and drag him or her onto Venom. There are some spots you can just sort of camp to heal yourself, but this isn't always enough to overcome some bosses. For both characters, some boss battles are pushovers and some just make you want pretend the touchscreen is punchscreen. A happy median would have been nice.
The presentation of the game is very nice, and the comic book art comes across very well on the DS screen. The sounds are good olí comic ďbiff-bam-boomĒ and the comic cut-scenes between levels have some neat voice-overs. The story really didnít do it for me, but Iím sure itíll do it for Spider-Man fans. Iím just a bit picky.
Visually the game is stellar. It seems like the curse of DS innovation may have struck, where a perfectly good game must have some sort of touch screen effects to be a DS game
Ultimate Spider-Man reminds me of many dates Iíve had in the past. Sure sheís attractive and nice, but once you sit down with her, you realize how frustrating and annoying she really is, sometimes you deal with it and go out on a second date and fall in love, other times you decide itís not worth your time. This analogy brought to you by Ultimate Spider-Man on the Nintendo DS, where enjoyment can be yours after simply tolerating hellacious beatings for the first few hours and taming a wilily control scheme. Ultimate Spider-Man, on a store shelf near you.
Editors Note: Ultimate Spider-Man does include a head-to-head multiplayer feature. We were unable to test this feature for the review.
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