Sunday, May 15, 2016

Reunited and It Feels So Good: Spider-Man Shattered Dimensions

Wait a minute! I was supposed to be updating this blog!

Whoops! Too slow!
(image from Giant Bomb)
Now that I've played a little more of it, I'd like to talk about Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, which I purchased in an Xbox Live sale last week. As an action game, it's pretty good, combining the high-flying acrobatics of past Spider-Man titles with the flashy, combo-heavy combat of the God of War series. However, as fan service, it's absolutely incredible. The game is spread across four Marvel universes, each home to a different Spider-Man. Here comes the delicious twist... each of the webheads is played by a different actor from the past thirty five years of Spider-Man cartoons. Neil Patrick Harris from the short-lived CGI series gets things started as Amazing Spider-Man, and after a brief scuffle with Mysterio, we're introduced to his three parallel universe counterparts. Chris Daniel Barnes from the flawed but well-intentioned 1990s series is Noir Spider-Man, a leather-clad vigilante in a world of muted colors and superhuman mobsters. Josh Keaton from the promising yet all too brief Spectacular Spider-Man plays Ultimate Spider-Man, who fights re-imagined villains in the black suit that eventually becomes Venom.

Wait, wait! This is the best part! The futuristic Spider-Man 2099 is played by Dan Gilverzan, from 1981's Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. Now I realize in hindsight how cheesy that series was (they fought a pixelated monster called Video Man at the height of the video game craze if that tells you anything) but Gilverzan's glib performance remains a highlight of the show, and it's a joy to hear him reprise the role after all these years. It's even better now that the writing has improved... when dimensional gatekeeper Madame Web instructs Spider-Man 2099 on how to fend off a swarm of troops in the tutorial, he responds, "Keep the battle tips comin', lady! It's like having Sun Tzu as a life coach!" The kid in me loves the return of his favorite Spider-Man... but the grown up loves the less stupid dialog!

First person punching scenes like this one
provide valuable catharsis after a frustrating
boss fight.
(image from Fandomania)
Okay, enough geeking out. Even without the fan service, Shattered Dimensions is a pretty solid game. The levels are kept linear, but that just keeps the design tight and leaves room for thrilling scenes that seem plucked from a big budget action film. Watch Spider-Man dive after the Hobgoblin from the roof of an impossibly high skyscraper! Sweat bullets as Kraven the Hunter kicks aside two of his strongest thugs so he can fight you himself! Succumb to the sadistic pleasure of pounding a mafia kingpin's face into mush after he spent the last thirty minutes tormenting you! It's wall to wall excitement, even when you're fumbling with the overburdened control scheme and swearing profusely at the stealth-focused Noir stages. (Sure, Spidey's more nimble than Batman was in Arkham Asylum, but it's still stealth. Yeech.)

So there you have it, true believers. Barring cameos in the Marvel vs. Capcom series, this is Spider-Man's best video game since... well, since video games existed. Now if you'll excuse me, my fists have a hot date with Deadpool's face.

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