Reviewed: October 22, 2008
Released: October 22, 2008
Spidey is back for another romp on the DS, and this time he’s left behind the baggage that comes with a feature film tie-in and brought a few friends with him as well as a change of clothes. That’s right; the black suit is back and better than ever and so is Venom. Apparently, rumors of his death were greatly exaggerated. While some things have changed, for the better I might add, many remain the same.
Spider-Man: Web of Shadows shares the same name, and to some degree, the same plot as the console versions, but that is where all similarities end. The DS does what it does best when it comes to Spidey, and that is side-scrolling action. You’ll navigate some impressive levels made up of dozens of screens as you exploit the powers of Spidey in both his red and black suits as you fend off an alien invasion of symbiotes and lots of icky black goo.
Web of Shadows is divided into four main sections and features a nice mix of navigation puzzles using Spidey’s wall climbing and web-zip abilities to get around as well as his combat abilities, but when you really want to lay down some smack it’s best to don the black suit and really get your brawl on.
Trying to mimic the freedom available in the console versions, you have access to most areas of the game from the start, however some areas of some levels are only accessible after you earn the ability to get you into that area. This means making a lot of mental notes and possibly more backtracking than some of you may have bargained for. Personally, I would have preferred more or larger areas rather than running back and forth across the same screens over and over.
Enemies have a tendency to respawn frequently so even when you are making your third or fourth trip through a level you’ll always have something to do, but in the end, you can finish Web of Shadows in 5-8 hours. The game offers numerous save points and even points them out on the map, and there are a few tricky (even unfair) situations where death is imminent, so save often.
Combat is pretty much a button mashing affair and lacks the style and substance of the console versions, but the levels do a great job of capturing the essence of Spider-Man’s abilities for sticking to walls and ceilings, zipping around the levels, and in some of the larger sections, even getting to swing around a bit. The levels are quite claustrophobic and lack the scale and verticality of the levels in Spider-Man 3 that spanned both screens.
Here, you get your action in the top view and a map down below. The touchscreen is put to minimal game use and serves mainly as a menu navigation tool. You can use it to summon supporting characters during the larger boss fights and there is a clever mini-game that triggers each time you die where you get to drag red orbs onto Spidey while avoiding the black ones. If you win the game you can resume where you fell with a full life bar otherwise its back to the last save point.
I was totally impressed with the control scheme that makes great use of the face buttons and D-pad for navigation and combat. It takes about ten minutes to get used to the controls and they quickly become second nature. Spidey has an impressive amount of combat moves and you can purchase more moves at the “store” located at each save point. The currency is experience orbs you will collect after defeating each enemy. This progressive level of combat means you’ll have to endure some unimpressive and repetitive basic combat until you unlock the flashier moves.
This is easily the best-looking Spider-Man game I’ve played on the DS. What it lacks in dual-screen environments it more than makes up for in character and level detail and some extremely fluid animations for both red and black suits. The Spidey model is slightly elongated giving him that Ultimate Spider-Man feel.
The level design is also quite nice and offers a surprising amount of detail despite the overly dark and dreary color pallet. The environments are populated with appropriate “stuff” and there are copious amounts of goo coating the walls and ceilings creating some interesting navigational puzzles for Spidey.
Spidey doesn’t skimp when it comes to music, and while this isn’t quite the caliber of the console, the hero themes and ambient background music rise and fall appropriately with the situation and set a nice superhero mood. Sound effects are also quite pleasing with squishy black goo, lots of combat sounds, and appropriate environmental noise.
The voice work is excellent, which is nice because there is a lot of spoken dialogue in Web of Shadows. This not only helps tell and involve you in the story, the quality acting really gives this game a shine unlike many past titles.
Perhaps the only fault for the DS version of Web of Shadows is the undeniably short length. Younger gamers might get a couple days of gameplay out of this title but older and more experienced gamers will polish it off in less than a day, and sadly there is no multiplayer and no reason to replay the game unless you simply want to mix up the balance of red and black suit gameplay and try some moves you either never bought, or bought and never really used.
Spider-Man: Web of Shadows is a great diversion masking as a great game. It contains the perfect balance of exploration, navigation, and combat, and is an extremely fun ride for as long as it lasts, but this is one ride that is probably best left as a rental. Sadly, for as great a game as Web of Shadows is on the DS, it is over far too quickly and leaves you with no immediate reason to revisit anytime soon.