Turning a pile of shame into a pile of victory!
Originally released for PlayStation, ported to the Nintendo 64 (2000), Dreamcast and PC in 2001.
Getting it working
As far as I can tell, there are no patches for this game. For some reason, using the icon from the startbar and desktop led it to immediately crash, but right clicking the disk drive icon from the 'my computer' dialogue (with the disk in, of course) and selecting “Run enhanced content” had it working perfectly.
Port ahoy! Though this is doable with the keyboard, you will be bogged down in frustration. D-pad is a must if this is to be fun.
One recurring frustration with this game is the way it sometimes glitches during and after cut scenes. Here are the problems I had, and how I solved them.
I recommend that before you start, go to the cheats menu (special, then cheats), and type in MME WEB (with the space). This will give you the ability to select your level, and you will need it. In my playthroughs, the beginning of “Police Evaded” inescapably plunged me to my doom, for some reason spidey chased Venom and died during several cutscenes with him on buildings, and the scorpion battle went straight from cutscene to 'game over'. I don't recall this problem in my first play through a couple of years ago, and strongly suspect my dual core system to be causing the issues. Rather than stuff around trying to get it to work properly, it is easier just to skip the problem spots using the cheat. Given how many checkpoints the game has, you really don't miss much.
I suggest doing any section of the game with hostages in 'Kid Mode'. Any harder difficulty, and every time I loaded it the hostages got shot during the cutscene that shows the situation. Brilliant.
I could not get the music working properly – in most places, the first few seconds of each track would play on a loop. Good luck to anyone who wants to sort that out.
Finally, if there are any points where you are inescapably stuck, the cheat for god mode is ADMNTIUM. I didn't need it for my playthrough with the d-pad, and I suck, so no-one else has an excuse... but if you're stuck with the keyboard, it may be necessary at some points to compensate for your lack of control.
Colourful fun, glitchy controls, brown-pants final boss.
So, the game opens with a cutscene, establishing who the characters are – wait.... “Zis”
Doc Ock is... German? Huh!?
This opening cutscene would tell someone new to the spider-man franchise nothing informative, and holds several contradictions to existing spidey lore. Still, Ock is looking suitably Ock-ish, his design is a slight tweak on the green costume seen in some of the older comics and looks quite swanky. As in all the cut scenes, the script is spot-on for the meter and feel of the earlier Spidey comics, but the incredibly underwhelming quality of the pre-rendered graphics seems a step down from simply rendering them in-game.
So, someone pretending to be spidey steals some of Ock's technology. Spidey is upset. The imposter wrecks Brock's camera, causing him to freak out and hallucinate his boss, and be overcome by Venom. Ock and carnage release some green stuff from some vents.
The gameplay itself opens with a voiceover from Stan Lee, showing a city swamped in the...uh...yellow... stuff we just saw released. The voiceover really sets the tone. Don't expect gritty drama, this here is golden-age of comics in gameplay form: superfluous cameos from other Marvel heroes, wise cracks that are so bad they're good, and a plot with more twists and turns than common sense. Black cat, complete with spine-bending poses and creepy glide instead of a walk animation, serves as our plot advancer and gives tips to the webbed wonder if he walks into big glowy question marks. Which is easier said than done, as the controls feel like they have a mind of their own. In general, the controls and the camera's inexactness aren't too bad. Button mash at baddies and they go down eventually, jump in approximately the right direction and you'll web swing to the building you're aiming at. But, try to line up to walk through a pickup or press a button, and you're in for a fun time. Be prepared to miss. A lot.
Once Mr. Lee's cheerful invitation to enjoy the game is over, Black Cat pops down to have a bit of a chat. She lands, and glitches. She glides toward spidey, who obligingly headbutts her in the boobs. As you do. Spidey then embarks on some difficult-to-judge, life-in-hands web swinging between buildings, avoiding the deadly yellow stuff of doom. The citizens of the city are presumably breathing it, and as none of the other heroes you meet along the way (like the Punisher and Captain America) are panicking about this, I have to wonder why Spidey dies when he falls into it. Maybe Marvel really dug DC's idea of the Green Lantern's weakness to yellow, and decided to slot it into their universe? Anyway, the yellow stuff is bad, so you stick to rooftops filled with grunting grunts. Later, you stick to rooftops covered in grunting police, who grunt the same grunt as the grunts.
I hear that the combat system is quite robust if you do it right, but I just spammed the punch button and got by quite well. Helpful arrows highlight where your foes are, and health and webbing pickups are conspicuous enough to be obvious in all the environments. Not that there is much variety in the environments: rooftops, sewers / subways, and the final stronghold. The latter is most certainly the most nicely designed, playing to the strengths of the limited polygon count and coarse textures. Overall, the graphics aren't amazing, but they're not so dreadful that they disrupt gameplay.
The difficulty settings are spot on - Kid Mode is a fun romp, where the lizard-man enemies gently massage your aching shoulders. On Easy their ministrations are less comfortable, and on Hard they're ripping your freakin' muscles off. Across all difficulties, web swinging can be stressful at times as it is difficult to judge when you will swing to a building or plunge to your death. This isn't too much of an issue, as checkpoints are copious and nicely placed.
At times the main plot, to see who was behind the fog, became foggy. Digressions like saving J. Jonah Jameson from scorpion, duking it out with Rhino, freaking out with Mysterio, battling Venom and rescuing your rather grumpy wife seem to be there merely to pad gameplay and make things take longer... Which was necessary – even with these distractions, the game is VERY short. This is actually a good thing. If any of the elements had been drawn out further it would have lost novelty very quickly. This way, the lead-up to the final boss fight is still exciting, building tension.
Ah, the final boss fight. Since I was a wee lass, the strangled cry of “I died!” and writhing, distorted form of Doc Ock (a villain I have long adored) has haunted my nightmares. Whether this is due to the horrific final form itself, or the rather stressful escape from him, I do not know. This is the point where I was continually stuck, bound as I was to the inefficient keyboard controls. But today, oh, today my friends, was a day of d-pad victory. Even without the perhaps irrational deep seeded fear of the final boss, I am confident the final level of this game is a fittingly heart-racing finale. Some may see the lack of actual fight as a let-down, but as you've just had two boss fights, the flight is a nice change.
Overall this game was fun, but with some tweeks to the camera and cut scenes, it could have been much better.
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