Reviewed: November 17, 2004
Released: November 16, 2004
Based on this summer’s blockbuster feature film from Columbia Pictures and Marvel, Spider-Man 2 for the Nintendo DS leverages the new system’s processing power and dual-screens to deliver an entirely new gameplay experience.
Players assume the role of the most celebrated super-hero of all time and re-live the movie experience through all new missions featuring unique enemies, objectives and combat maneuvers. Utilizing the touch screen and new controller layout, players can quickly swing, run, jump, solve puzzles, engage in combat and switch to an arsenal of moves on the fly, while patrolling and protecting the city of Manhattan from the nefarious Doc Ock.
Earlier this month I declared that Spider-Man 2 was the single best reason to buy a Nintendo DS when it launches next week, and that was only after playing the first few levels. Now that the final game has swung into stores, I am only more convinced that this is the case. You’ll probably not want to wait until next week to get your copy or you might just miss out.
Those who have played Spidey on the bigger consoles will probably be a bit skeptical about just how good Spidey transitions to the small screen. Well, the screen might be small but the scope of this game design is just as big as any full-size console with gameplay to match. Spidey is smooth and fast, undeniable requirements for any Spidey game.
Spidey is all about the moves, both in navigation and combat, and the control scheme for the DS version makes excellent use of both the D-pad and buttons and the touch screen to execute one-touch strikes, combined into flawlessly animated combos. The buttons allow you to jump, punch, kick, and shoot your web while the left trigger toggles Spidey Sense (bullet time), and the right trigger executes any selected special move.
Using a masterful combination of web shoot and D-pad combinations you can swing, or zip line vertically or horizontally across rooms. Everything feels so natural, just like a full-size console. Some of this can be attributed to the DS design but there is no denying that the design team put a lot of effort into the gameplay mechanics.
Spider-Man 2 is loosely based on the events of the recent film sequel. The game takes place over 14 missions that vary in length and difficulty. You’ll start off by rescuing people trapped in a burning building while fighting off the various thugs who stand in your way. You’ll then move out to the cityscape for some action along the skyline as you make your way to Dr. Octavius’ lab.
While the touch screen allows for direct input of game commands, the designers have also implemented several ingenious gameplay sequences that use the touch screen more effectively. The first such occurrence is the maze in level four where you must tap the screen to “punch” key locations and interact with the panel. You then use the touch screen to move a ball through a narrow maze without hitting the electricity. This is interactivity with a level of physicality you normally don’t associate with video games. It was almost like playing that old game, Operation, where you remove objects with the tweezers and try not to hit the sides of the hole.
There is also a level in the game that puts you on a train fighting Doc Ock in a 3D first-person perspective. The doc is firing projectiles at you and you must destroy the incoming fire by pointing at the screen, almost like a light gun game. Most important, these touch screen elements are designed so well you don’t even need to break out the DS stylus. You can easily play the game with your fingertip.
There is a ton of gameplay buried in this title. The game has multiple objectives for each level and your success is rewarded with new moves and abilities. Since you are graded for each level perfectionists will be compelled to keep going back until they get a perfect score for each of the 14 chapters.
Game levels are presented in a side-scrolling two-dimensional style despite their 3D construction. This allows the camera to do some exciting things like pivoting around corners. Those of you who have played Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project will know exactly what I’m talking about. The depth of the city is truly 3D in nature rather than some parallax scrolling technique. There are also true 3D sections like the fight with Doc Ock on the top of the train as well as some anime-influenced boss battles.
The camera tracks Spidey as he swings around town, sticks to walls, and does battle with a variety of enemies on the street, on the rooftops, and inside buildings. Control is really slick once you get a feel for the various commands. Using a combination of D-pad and web shooter you can zip-line vertically, horizontally, or just swing in a normal arc. You can web your opponent or hit them with a ball of webbing. You also have a full complement of authentic Spidey combat moves.
The animation for Spider-Man is unbelievably smooth. I’d stack it right up there with the animation from the Xbox or any other console version of Spidey, even if you only see it from a primarily 2D perspective. Spidey’s moves flow naturally, even when you start executing complex combos, and transitions like swinging to sticking to climbing are seamlessly executed.
Spider-Man 2 has some impressive sound effects that include all of the standard kicking, punching, and web-zipping we’ve come to expect from the franchise. Environmental effects are nicely done – the sound of crackling fire in the burning building is very real and the calls for help will alert you to the presence of hostages.
What little music there is was fairly impressive for a portable game. The DS is capable of a lot better sound than the GBA and Vicarious Visions is milking this system for everything it’s worth. The tunes are upbeat and really add to some of the action sequences and boss battles.
Spider-Man 2 has a minimal learning curve. You can pick-up and play the game almost immediately and the more advanced moves and combos will become second nature as you acquire and perfect their use. The 14 levels vary in length and difficulty but you can expect a solid 12 hours of gaming just to finish the game.
Naturally, perfectionists will want to strive for the highest scores and level rankings, which in turn will grant them new and more powerful moves and unlock bonus goodies.
I said it before and I’ll say it again. If you buy a Nintendo DS next week then you had better not leave the store without a copy of Spider-Man 2, and if you were debating on whether or not to get a DS, you have your first really good reason to buy one. Spidey has the best graphics of any DS launch title and the gameplay to match.