An article I wrote for the website www.square-go.com
Alright, fair point, video game adaptions of movies aren’t that great. Some are, but the majority are a bit rubs. I come to you today with one that isn’t that great but it is. Come with me bro!
Spider-Man video games were never amazing. The first one I played was on the Amiga. It was a flick-screen platformer that usually ended up with Spidey being killed by a rat.
There was one on the MegaDrive that was alright, then one on the first PlayStation that captured the tone of Spidey better than any that had come before. But you never felt like Spidey: you could swap him out of the game and you wouldn’t really notice the difference. It took a movie licence to really nail this.
Spider-Man 2 was and is a really good film. This and the first film had turned Spider-Man into a truly global movie franchise which, naturally required a licensed video game. So they did. But this was in the era of the PS2 and the X-Box so things were different. GTA was the game all the kids were playing. So, why not cross Spidey with that?
This turned out to be actual genius.
The game follows the plot of the movie and takes place in an open world version of Manhattan Island. The whole thing. This is what sets the game apart. It’s not a series of levels, you have to travel around the city in order to get to the next mission. How do you get around? You’re Spidey! With webs of course! And luckily, the game gets this completely right.
Web swinging isn’t a case of holding down the button and that’s it, you have to take into account Spidey’s momentum in order to get around quickly. The webs fire off screen and attach to something (like in the cartoon) so you don’t have to worry about that, just timing your release from one web into the next.
It’s perfect. The system was perfect and made just swinging around the city a total joy. Seriously, I could spend hours just swinging from one end of the city to the other and back again.
Yeah, alright, the rest of the game itself was a bit crappy. Combat was fun, especially when you unlocked the move to hang criminals from lamposts but everything else was a bit…buggy. The story missions were samey, the bosses annoying. As you swung around the city there were little crimes you could stop but these could all essentially be boiled down to “land next to bad guy, punch, defeat, repeat”. And the less said about catching balloons the better.
But that didn’t matter. Because the true pleasure from this game came from being Spider-Man and swinging from a web through New York. And it that respect, it nailed it. Quite why all the games since have got this wrong is one of the great mysteries of the world.