Turning a pile of shame into a pile of victory!
2004, Fizz Factor
Note: the PC version of this game is completely different from the console versions, lacking a lot of the open world exploration element. It is also much easier, as it is pitched at a younger audience.
Getting it working
I had no issues whatsoever with installation or general running, but every now and then the game refused to start properly. If this happens, terminate the program via task manager, and try again – it will work eventually.
Rhino block, villain flock, chuck a rock, kick Doc Ock.
Ah! At last! A made-for-PC Spidey adventure! No more struggling with the keyboard and d-pad, this baby's made for a mouse. This is a very easy game, as it is pitched at a younger audience. It has been in my pile of shame for years simply because I didn't have the heart to beat the crap out of Doc Ock, let alone movie!Ock, who is made of awesome and should be allowed to succeed in all his plans... But I had to man up and kick him in the head.
The snarky tutorial at the beginning is pitch perfect. They honed the idea from the previous Spider Man movie tie-in game, where the tutorial snark was a little too insulting, and thus fell short of funny. All of the objectives are clearly laid out, and apart from one level where a supposed-to-be triggered event didn't occur (leaving me stuck), I didn't loose track of what I was supposed to be doing. As I have the directional sense of a damp paper bag, this means the levels were very well designed.
The in-game graphics were not amazing, but weren't distracting from gameplay either. Serviceable. Everything was recognisable, and the draw distance was quite good without any framerate drops. The pre-rendered cutscenes were quite nice for their time - the characters are all recognisable, and the voice actors did a surprisingly good job with a mediocre script. The voice acting was not so inspired in the in-game cutscenes, with Aunt May and Spidey's exchange being the most lethargic rescuer/rescuee exchange imaginable. The mixture of pre-rendered and in-game cutscenes felt a little off. Also strange was the way the cut-scenes to propel the plot jarred you from location to location: one moment Spidey was running around the city, dodging slow-moving cars, the next he was out of costume, being chastised by his aunt. My personal favourite was a cutscene that occurred mid-web swing, causing Spidey's animation to become stuck. Thus he fell gently on his face as Mysterio marvelled at how he had managed to get so near to defeating his evilness. Face-falling is obviously a talent Spidey saves up for when he's really in trouble.
Doc Ock's first in-game reveal was great, featuring a kick-ass rock guitar hit. A nice feature is that each boss is introduced with a little profile, and instructions on how to beat them (likely a concession to the younger audience). Ock was described as a “Crime-Obsessed Nuclear Physicist”, a career we can all aspire to. It just made it all the harder to kick him in the head.
Which brings me to the combat. It is a button-masher's paradise – you literally point toward an enemy, and click a lot. If you like, you can jump, then click, to kick them in the head. Both are effective, but there is something poetic about downing ten thugs by repeatedly introducing your foot to their craniums. Most enemies clearly telegraph their attacks. The large thugs shout “Here I come!”, one of the most blatant warnings I have heard in any game. The strategy in combat is thus limited to deciding when to retreat or duck, or zip out of reach, and is only worth thinking about if you're facing more than five thugs at once.
Zipping is pretty free-form in outdoor environments, and there are only a few surfaces you can't zip to indoors. It was less integral to success than in previous games, and is often superseded by simply running, or jumping repeatedly to quickly scale a building. The web-swinging is limited to anchor points, which would have been fantastic in the other ported Spidey games, but was incredibly limiting with the mouse. Surely a more exact controller should be capitalised on for greater swinging freedom? Also annoying was that web shots could only be performed from the ground, and temporarily paralyse Spidey. There were many situations where fighting would have felt much more fluid if dodging, or swinging, could occur while shooting. This wasn't a big problem for most of the game, though.
The majority of the game loosely follows the plot of Spider Man 2, with some extra villains thrown in: Rhino, Puma, and Mysterio join in on Ock's plans. Seeing how badly it went for Rhino and Mysterio last game, it remains to be seen why the villains keep towing Ock's line. Perhaps it is because he is just so damned awesome. Anyway, the highlight of the game is where Mysterio trips out the city. Jumping puzzles are really enjoyable with Spidey's powers, which let you approach them in lots of different ways. Also, the graphics are at their best here – the long draw distance comes into its own and immerses you in the freaky world. It makes a great change from the almost claustrophobic-feeling city and indoor locations, and leaves you fresh and ready to take Ock down. Another point of note are where Ock inexplicably pulls cars (as in automobiles) from a train and throws them at you. This epitomises the gameplay experience – it makes no sense, but you can see what is going on and have fun whilst doing impossible tricks.
The game is rather short, and in no time you'll be at the final boss fight. Oh Ock, I'm so sorry for torching you with your own device that was intended to help humanity, and then kicking you multiple times in the head. RIP.
The game has the same bittersweet ending as the movie it is based on, but ultimately doesn't feel satisfying – Ock's redemption occurs in just a few lines. As the tragedy of his fall into evil wasn't covered at the start of the game, this final twist would doubtless confuse anyone who isn't familiar with the plot of the film.
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