All three major consoles have seen the release of Ultimate
Spider-Man, the latest comic-to-game adaptation from Treyarch. Not wanting to leave the GameCube’s portable
little brother out, Treyarch has also cooked up a version for the feisty little
double-screen machine, and they’ve put its unique abilities to good use. Spider-Man 2 launched with the DS last year,
and while it was a competent tech demo for the system it lacked a certain
tightness and polish, and the DS functionality felt a bit forced.
Spider-Man for the DS fixes a lot of the earlier
bugs and deepens the gameplay experience with the addition of another playable
character. Just like the console
Spider-Man DS follows the story crafted by Mark Bagley and Brian
Michael Bendis, who are the writers of the monthly comic. Thus, the plot is highly professional and is
recreated almost word for word from the bigger console releases. An incredible amount of quality spoken
dialogue and stylized comic panels lays out the narrative, making the DS
version all the more faithful.
the story, though, there aren’t a whole lot of similarities. The actual gameplay is presented in a 2
and1/2 dimension perspective; 3D environments and characters, but played in a
side-scrolling fashion. It’s almost
exactly the same as the play mechanic used in Viewtiful Joe, and it works just
as well here. The graphics strive to
recreate the pen and ink look of the console versions, but they falls just short
of really accomplishing it. Still, the
artists came pretty close by making everything bright and loud, and the
comic-panel cutscenses make up the difference.
you probably won’t have a chance to stop and look at the scenery with all of
the hectic action going on. Ultimate
split between Spider Man and Venom, with plenty of variety sprinkled
throughout. The Spidey missions focus heavily on rescuing civilians in need,
and timing who to save first can be tricky.
Between beating up thugs, disarming bombs and hefting cars off of pinned
innocents, it’s always a juggling act with your friendly neighborhood arachnid.
webhead’s controls are focused primarily on the D-pad, face buttons and
shoulder triggers. Occasionally you’ll
have to stroke the touch screen to push or lift an object, which keeps you
thinking in the thick of things, but Spider Man’s levels are pretty traditional
stages are where things start to change.
He still moves with the digital pad, but everything else save for
jumping is controlled with the touch screen.
Tapping items will make Venom’s tentacles lash out and grab them, and
you can also perform a wall-zip by stroking to a nearby surface. Just like in the console ports, the only way
to replenish health is by dragging hapless enemies into the symbiote and
leeching them dry of life, which is also a point and drag affair.
control setup is very innovative, but a little too ambitious for its own
good. The touch attacks are only as fast
as your hand reflexes, so when you’re surrounded by thugs the situation can
quickly become a meat grinder. Boss
battles are especially frustrating with Venom; I found myself switching over to
conventional controls and button mashing my way through most of the fights. The whole concept of attacking anything with
the tentacles just by touching it is certainly creative, but it could’ve used
more than a bit of tightening.
If you can
get past some of the irritating play mechanics, Ultimate
Spider-Man is an
entertaining experience with a competent story.
Like its big brothers on the Xbox, PS2 and GameCube, it’s all too short
and gives you that hanging feeling once you’ve finished it. The multiplayer versus mode is only a passing
distraction, as it takes two cartridges to play and it isn’t very balanced
anyway. I’d give this one a rent, and
hope for a sequel with a tad more substance.
Who knows? In true comic book
fashion, the story leaves plenty of openings for next time.
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