Unlike Batman, Spider Man has had an overwhelmingly poor showing in the video game world. Whether it’s a collaboration with the X-Men, or a game loosely based on one of its movies, that poor web head seems like he’s been left hung out to dry. Fortunately, Spider Man has appeared in a good game. Actually, I take that back – Spider Man on the Sony PlayStation is one of the premiere superhero video games on the 32 bit platform.
For those of you that may not be aware of this, Spider Man is loosely based off the Fox Kids animated series from the mid 90’s, and has that cartoon like storyline. Some of the voice actors are borrowed from the animated series to reprise their roles, such as Efrem Zimbalist Jr., who voices over Dr. Octopus. Some of the voice actors, like Rino Romano, who performs the voice of Spider Man, went on to voice over the same character in a new cartoon series. The end result is a vocal performance that feels authentic to the series, in both delivery and occasional over emphasizing the current mood, especially Spider Man. Recent Spidey games have had some poorly delivered dialog, with an equally appalling voice acting by Spidey himself, but not in this case. It’s especially thrilling to hear Stan Lee give narratives at the beginning of each stage as his delivery and tone of voice really engrosses you further into the game. This spearheads the overall audio quality to a one of the best on the Sony PlayStation, as the music is fitting and again, gives the feeling of the animated series, and the other sound effects compliment the voice and music in a fine tuned manner.
While the cut scenes occasionally look laughable, retaining little or no feel to the animated series, the in game style actually looks rather impressive. Character models look good, aside from the mutant faced thugs you see early on in the game. You’ll easily distinguish Daredevil from Spider Man and can tell who each of the major characters are from a visual standpoint. The environments look good as well, with interior designs not only looking well detailed for its era, but its dissimilar enough to not draw much, if any repetition. Exteriors though. have minor draw distance issues, and a lack of detail in terms of the skies. For the most part, it seems like there’s always an orange tint from the sun setting, but no clouds, no sun, no nothing. I guess all the details that went into the buildings you swing to and from, they spent the polygons designated to making the skies look normal.
After meeting certain requirements throughout the game, you can unlock cool little bonuses. Some of them are simple, filler bonuses (viewing the story boards), and other are pretty kick ass (different costumes you can wear from different points in the Spider Man time line, some with certain perks, like double the damage to your attacks). These bonuses really help push you to complete the game more than once, and reaching certain goals, just so you can play once again and see how cool that new costume looks on you. For the most part, you really wouldn’t need such an incentive to play through the game again, as it is a game worth playing more than once, thanks in large part to the diversity between each stage. While one stage has you hopping from rooftop to rooftop, another will have you inside of a building trying to rescue hostages, while another stage has you trying to outrun a chopper flying at you, shooting missiles and bullets towards you. It changes the pace so much, that you’ll enjoy wondering what the next stage is going to throw at you.
There are a couple of faults to the game, however, with the most significant coming in form of the controls. For the most part, moving Spider Man around and attacking enemies is simple and painless. The camera, however, can lead to a few points of aggravation. Keeping the camera behind you is a matter of pressing the L1 button. But if you hold it down too long, you initiate Spidey’s web targeting, that allows him to aim at where he wants to web zip himself to. It’s not too hard to get the hang of, but within crowded areas, like trying to go into vents, between the camera changes, repositioning and change of controls depending on which way you’re climbing, you’ll feel the controls get on your nerves. You only have one life as well, and on later difficulties, you will get hit a lot, and subsequently die a lot. It wouldn’t such a big problem if you had checkpoints at key areas, but you don’t. So in most scenarios, you’ll be playing chunks of each stage more than once, which isn’t too bad, unless you died near the very end of a particular run (the “race” with Venom later on in the game can get brutal, and falling too far behind equals a fail, which means a total do over, load times, cut scenes, etc).
Lastly, web swinging isn’t fluent and graceful, like recent Spider Man titles. You swing forward, and that’s it, No mid air steering no shifting around while swinging. If you want to change directions, you have to jump out of a swing, and shoot out your web again. Although interior levels are too cramped to swing around, you’ll only face this dilemma on the rooftop portions, in which the direction you go is linear enough to not warrant the full, fluid web swinging of most recent Spider Man titles.
There’s a lot to love with Spider Man on the Sony PlayStation. It feels like a mini series from the animated show, in a fully playable format. There’s loads of cameos, a decent portion of Spider Man’s rogue gallery making an appearance to fight him, and some fun, yet simple gameplay to go along with it all. There’s enough change of pace between how each level is played, that you’ll never feel like the game is at all repetitive. Spider Man is one of the more well rounded games in the 32 bit generation, one of the best superhero video games, and the best Spider Man game I have ever played.