Hey true believers! It looks like our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is back into the action saving not only New York, but four different dimensions worth of New York and realities. All after a small fight with Mysterio where Spider Man shatters the "Tablet of Order and Chaos," a few of the villains in each dimension find a chunk and get super-charged. With the help of Madame Web, each Spider-Man needs to collect these tablet pieces to make sure all reality doesn't crumble. You'd think a tablet with that power wouldn't be housed in a basic museum in New York, but then we wouldn't have the story.
But as this is an interactive medium for the comic book-esq story, the story is not what this is all about. How does it play? How does it look? How does it sound? Well let's get into that.
Ok, so four Spideys, four different looks and feels. Or so the tags on the box say. It was more of a four Spideys and 2.5 different looks. You had the Black/White Steam punk look of the Noire dimension, the cell shaded comic look for both Ultimate and Amazing dimension and then the not so cell shaded future look in the 2099 dimension. 2099 is where the .5 comes in here. It was different enough in looks to be counted as different, but not by all that much. I mean you could see a difference between all of the dimensions, but it was only truly different when swapping between Noire and the others.
Even though it was hard to tell some dimensions from others, all of the visuals of the game are extremely close if not perfect representations of the comic counterparts. So I do give kudos for that. I was just hoping with the stressing of four different worlds there would have been truly four different worlds to look at. Maybe they weren't as diverse as Activision and Beenox were originally planning.
Just like the graphics, there are four Spideys so four different audio schemes. Unlike the graphics though there really are four different audio schemes for each dimension. The classic detective for Noir, Saturday morning cartoon for Amazing, a bit more realistic for Ultimate and definable futuristic for 2099. There is little difficulty here to tell between them all. Why they did a great job for the audio over the graphics I don't know, but the audio team did an amazing job. From background music/sounds to the basic environment effects, you totally get an audible feel of a different dimension.
On top of that they even got different voice actors that sound completely different from each other for each Spidey. This was really the best way to get a ground on which non-Noir dimension you were in quickly. Also, the V/O work is top notch here as well. Each actor, with Neil Patrick Harris shining the most, captured the mentality and personality of each Spider-Man. In fact I even found myself laughing at a few of the really corny jokes Spidey is known for due to the delivery of the actors. Really well done and entertaining.
While I can excuse the similar dimension looks, the controls will get as much forgiveness as they give the player. That is not much by the way. The swinging and web slinging mechanics are sluggish and hard to use accurately. There were many times that I found myself trying to web shoot over to one platform in front of me only to get shot to one that is the opposite direction or into certain death. There is no way to ensure you are going to always swing to the spot you want to. Not to mention that for an agile character, it sure does take Spidey a long time to do multiple swings, no matter the dimension.
The combat, while not as sluggish, also has the same directional issues as the web work. Mainly in the fact that once you start a combo, there is no stopping it until the last fist is thrown. Nice for the hands to take a break, but bad when the guy in front of you only needs two more hits and the mass of enemies behind you get to smack you around from behind while the last 6 punches/kicks strike air. Not a very agile fighter any of these Spider Men are when you look at it that way.
One last issue with the controls and it is a bit with the camera, is the wall crawling as well. The camera has a set position based on where you are crawling and gods be damned that the developers let you change angle. It either shoots back to a horrible angle where you can see or get turned around. This is a HUGE pain in the ass when trying to play through the stealth missions that require you to sneak over head on to get turned around and be on the wall inches from the enemies head and gun. Could have used a lot of tweaking before launch.
The core game play is actually pretty decent given the faults of the controls. That is once you figure out how to deal with the clunkiness. In the end it is an open-ish level plat-former and action brawler. Mostly. Each level usually runs the way of swing/jump/run/somehow-get-to an area, beat down some bad guys, travel again, fight the boss before they get buffed, travel, more minions and finally big boss fight. Similar to how in the comics Parker needs to track down the big bad guy by beating minions so he can get the boss in the end. Pretty standard yet fun. At least in the dimensions where this is the formula.
Where things kind of diverge is again in that Noir dimension. The Black Sheep of dimensions I guess. This is where all of the stealth missions take place. Or at least the semblance of stealth missions as you can snag a guy standing right behind another, beat the crap out of him feet away from his buddy, make a bit of noise as you web him up and the other baddy seems to ignore the fact that his back up is gone. But at least it is stealthy in the terms of as long as you are in a game shadow you are invisible to everyone, even if they are mere feet away and it is a light shadow.
Now, I understand why they went with stealth for Noir. I really do, but they should have at least kept a few things consistent or changed them for the special way to have to run a level. That is, in all other dimensions Spidey, who is generally less armored than Noir, can take a rocket to the face and lose very little life. While in Noir Spidey is lucky to take three bullets before blinking red. On top of that, all of the enemies who are shooting at you in Noir seem to be masters at blocking and dodging as you can't even land one hit while they keep pelting you with bullets. Something not present in any other dimension as well.
Continuing on the from there, one thing that is present in every dimension is the Spider Essence (XP) due to how well your physical fights played out for you. Combo number, how much damage you dealt and how much you took are all calculated to award extra XP to level your powers. How is this fair when a fourth of the game you are almost required to not throw a punch? Why not score on stealthiness instead as you pretty much are dead once you start a physical fight in Noir. It makes me feel like I am required to lose out on XP because of poor design planning.
So I had issues with Graphics, Controls and a third of the Game Play of the game. But I still found it a bit of fun to play. At least after I figured out how to kind of manipulate the clunky controls so I could survive levels. Also while I did have main issues with the game play of the Noir dimension, as the stealth was ridiculous, I overly enjoyed the visuals and audio from it. The only reason I shied away from the Noir levels when progressing was so I didn't have to do the stealth, but I loved pausing and looking at parts of the level.
I won't say I overly enjoyed Spider-Man Shattered Dimensions, there were a lot of frustrations with glitches near the end, but I will say it was a fun play through over all. I would recommend it for anyone that is mildly interested in it, but mainly as a rent or a buy until you get 100% on Hard and then trade/sell it. This is a shame as I was hoping it to be Marvel's version of Batman: Arkham Asylum. It had the potential for it, hells some of the Noir stuff was just as dark, but it would need a lot of massaging to get it up to that level.
Spider-Man Shattered Dimensions was developed by Beenox and Published by Activision on September 7th 2010 for the Nintendo DS, PC, PS3, Wii and XBox 360. It retails for $59.99. A PS3 copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.