SPIDER-MAN & VENOM: MAXIMUM CARNAGE /LJN / SNES
Maximum Carnage is a standard beat-em-up of the variety that was popular in the early 90's, but it's a very robust one with a lot of extras as compared to its peers of the time. The game tells the story of what I guess was the Carnage story arc in the Spider-Man comic series ... I'm gonna be generous to the game's writers and presume that they expected players coming in to be familiar with the happenings of the comic's plot, because the levels skip around quite a bit and often don't explain fully how characters got to where they were or what they are doing there. Like, when you first get the option to play as Venom, he's in San Francisco clobbering his way through punks ... OK, but then all of the sudden he's inexplicably a boss battle with the game's main villains in New York. Despite sometimes making little sense, the game's story is presented in comic/cinematic cutscene style and those are actually done pretty well.
The game's music was composed by the band Green Jelly (who are an interesting story unto themselves - check their Wikipedia entry for more information), a sort of joke-band-grown-out-of-control when one of their songs went from regular airplay on a Seattle radio station to being a #1 video on MTV for a few months in 1993. They rode the wave of that one-hit wonder to a deal doing the music for this game. While some of it is lost in translation to 16-bit format (the SNES's sound chip was strong but still not enough to handle electric guitars), the music is actually pretty well done and enhances the grim mood of the comic cut-scenes.
The game's engine makes use of the 6-button SNES pad to give you a wide array of moves. Aside from the standard punch combos, jump kicks and jump+punch special move that drains a bit of life, the protagonists can also swing on their webbing and deliver a kick, as well as climb up into the background and sit on the wall making faces at the hapless foes below. You can also dash by tapping forward twice to deliver a shoulder check, create a web shield to block attacks, throw webbing out like Scorpion in Mortal Kombat to hook foes in, and when two foes are positioned just right on either side of you you can clunk them together with webbing for an instant kill. The game also keeps track of your accuracy, and after rattling off a string of consecutive hits you're granted a Power Move to use.
There's a few sizeable drawbacks to the game that keep it from greatness, however. The character sprites are kind of lackluster and MS Paint-y lookin'. Though you'd think it would be a given, there is no two player mode, as it has a very rigid story progression and forces you to play as one specific character at certain points. It is also punishingly difficult. There are a lot of secret rooms and 1-ups scattered about, but you'll be forced to find every one of them to survive as the game kicks your ass over and over. You get only three lives and one continue to start out with, and have to find more along the way. While some secret rooms are easy to stumble into, like the one in the Climb level at the game's outset, others are much more obtuse forcing you to do some random move in some very particular spot. Without Game Genie cheating or something along those lines, most players will have no hope of seeing the end of this game.
* Gameplay Video