SPIDER-MAN / Activision / Nintendo 64
 
 
This first polygonal 3D Spidey game is actually a re-purposing of the engine from the original Tony Hawk game! The original version of this was developed for the Playstation, with ports for the other 64-bit systems (and the humble GBC) each farmed out to a different team to do. Edge of Reality (never again really known for anything special except for the PS3 port of the first Mass Effect, though they appear to still be active and most recently developed the critically panned Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark) handled the N64 duties. So I'm honestly not sure if it's just this port or the base game (since this is my first exposure to any of them), but what seems to be happening here is a case of trying to do way more than the hardware was ready for. What results is a game concept that is cool on paper but a frustrating mess in execution.

The game is actually almost like an early beta of Arkham Asylum, just with linear and distinct levels instead of Metroidvania exploration. Spidey is very squishy, and you're also often tasked with rescuing hostages being held at gunpoint and other special circumstances, so you'll have to employ his full suite of wall-crawling and web-shooting abilities to use a stealth-heavy approach. Unfortunately, this is a case of stealth being cobbled into an engine that wasn't optimized for it, so it all doesn't work out very well even though the concept is ambitious and promising.
 


There's a few major problems, but the camera is front and center. It's non-adjustable, and though it does make a valiant effort to stay centered behind you, it isn't enough. When you are outdoors, it isn't bad. Of course, they make these levels work by having everything but the buildings you are swinging between exist as a featureless void, but strictly from a gameplay perspective things are actually pretty good here. You'll want to swing to the sides of buildings and crawl up, using things like billboards and vents as cover to stealthily close in on the gun-toting guards. You can wrap enemies up from a distance with your webs, of course, but you also can shoot a damaging webbing ball or encase yourself in a web igloo temporarily. This is one of the Spidey worlds where webbing is finite, however, so you'll need to find capsules around the levels to replenish it.

The camera is much more of an issue in the indoor levels. You get a real rough introduction to the game where you have to save a bunch of hostages who are being held at gunpoint by terries who have taken over a bank building. It's hard to see where said terries actually are without moving near them, however, which can get a hostage killed and send you all the way back to the start of the level. Crawling on ceilings and in vents to get the drop on enemies is a cool touch ... except that the camera usually gives you a very unhelpful view of either the top side of the ceiling or the outside of the vent!
 


Boss battles aren't great either. Spidey's squishiness wasn't really re-balanced in the all-out brawls, so you're doing tedious chip damage to the boss while they can mash you in three or four hits in most cases, and the responsiveness of your different attack buttons really isn't great. Either that or it's some sort of chase sequence where you have to have crackerjack precision or you get insta-killed and have to start over. They're not the most fun experiences in the world.

I'll definitely take a look at the PlayStation original at some point to see if this wasn't just a case of bad porting, as there's definitely a lot of potential here. But this version at least is too much of a clunky PITA to play.
 
 
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