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September 9, 2010

The Comics Console: Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions

Spider-Man has a pretty decent record with video games, but his recent next-gen outings have been very disappointing. Now that Batman: Arkham Asylum has set the bar for what a superhero video game should be, it’s no surprise that developers are beginning to take their comic book properties more seriously. Spider-Man left a bad taste in fans’ mouths with 2008’s Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, but can a new developer and more Spider-Men be the key for giving Spidy fans their “Spider-Man: Arkham Asylum?”

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions

Publisher: Activision
Developer: Beenox
Release Date: Sept. 7, 2010
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii
ESRB: Teen

First of all, I’m so happy that Stan Lee is back narrating Spider-Man games. He really brings that extra comic book feel, like he’s narrating an old issue of Amazing Spider-Man. The story begins like so many other Spider-Man adventures with an evil arch villain out to feed his own greed for power. Spider-Man drops in on Mysterio, who is stealing an ancient tablet from a museum. When Web Head accidentally breaks the darn thing and shards of it disappear into other dimensions, Madam Web arrives to explain to Spidy, as well as three other alternate reality Spider-Men (Ultimate Spidy, Noir Spidy, and 2099 Spidy), the graveness of the situation. Now the Spider-Men of four worlds must find the shards of the tablet before they fall into the wrong hands.

The story and dialog are penned by Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott, and even though the plot sounds cliché, it works for the game, and it’s actually not bad. Better yet, each dimension has its own subplots, so even tough you’re just chasing a bum tablet the whole game, it feels like more. The main story is backed up with tons of great dialog and one-liners. All throughout the game, each Spider-Man has new and funny quips and taunts for their formidable foes, although often you’ll hear the same line repeated constantly, but it remains funny none the less. And that’s just Spider-Man. Wait till you get to the Deadpool level. The voice actors really help make the dialog that much better since, well, they actually are Spider-Men. Neil Patrick Harris from the 2003 Spider-Man: The New Animated Series voices Amazing Spider-Man , Christopher Daniel Barnes of the 1990s Spider-Man: The Animated Series voices Spider-Man Noir, Dan Gilvezan of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends is Spider-Man 2099, and Josh Keaton of the recent Spectacular Spider-Man is Ultimate Spider-Man.

The game at its core is a platforming beat-em-up. Beenox has moved Spidy away from the giant sandbox New York City he’s been trapped in since 2004, and put him on a more linear path filled with henchmen to kick the crap out of. While a welcome change to the series, the freedom of simply webslinging all across the city will be missed. Your environment now is a pretty straight and forward one. Each level is large and beautiful, and filled with damageable goodies to help bash in your enemies’ skulls. In the first level, you’re taken to a jungle death trap by Kraven, where he tests your abilities against his. In store for you are tons of enemies to pound, a few traps and obstacles to over come, every now and then a few civilians to save, then a climactic boss battle. It’s great for a first level. The only problem, and my one giant complaint about this game, is that these same challenges are 99% of what you’ll be doing for the next 13 levels.

Even though the basic formula of Shattered Dimensions is pretty repetitive, the game does a decent job of masking it with the four different Spider-Men and their unique styles of gameplay. All the wall-crawlers have some similarities, like basic melee attacks and a few web maneuvers. Every Spider-Man has the ability to Web-Zip to perching points very similar to the grapple points in Batman: Arkham Asylum. Also like Arkham Asylum, Spidy has an enhanced Spider Sense that acts like a Detective Mode, allowing you to see through walls to reveal enemies and objects. A really weird and pretty out of place gameplay aspect, is a strange first-person perspective that comes up during boss battle where, using the thumb sticks as your fists, you punch your enemy and evade head strikes like a boxing match. All of these will remain a constant in each dimension, but the fun is the variety of styles and looks for each reality.

Amazing Spider-Man: The standard Marvel Universe Spider-Man who we’ve all come to love over the decades. You’ll notice immediately how the cel-shaded Spider-Man represents the classic comic book style with its bright colors and thick character outlines. This Spider-Man doesn’t have any special bells and whistles attached to him; he’s just your base model for the rest who uses more web based attacks than the others. Though he may be the Spider-Man with the most trash to talk.

Noir Spider-Man: Straight out of the recent Spider-Man Noir series, this Spidy is all about stealth. Stick to the shadows and sneak up on your enemies to silently take them down, ala Arkham Asylum. The Noir levels were my personal favorite. Not only do I appreciate the great contrast in gameplay to the other levels, the presentation is wonderful. The cutscenes are like classic pulp comic books and play like a classic 1930s crime drama, while the gameplay has a soft grain over it like an old film, and even the level music has a jazzy 30s beat.

2099 Spider-Man: The only non-Peter Parker of the quartet, Spidy 2099 is definitely the prettiest of the four. The graphics are again unlike the previous two dimensions. Everything shines and glows with hard metallic textures, and even though the fundamental attacks are the same for every Spidy, each Wall-Crawler has its own unique combat style, and 2099’s is beautiful to watch. It’s a really well built futuristic environment. A special advantage exclusive to Spidy 2099 is the use of “Accelerated Vision,” which is like a bullet time mode that slows everything down around you.

Ultimate Spider-Man: From the Brian Michael Bendis reboot, Black Suit Spidy’s advantage comes in a Rage Mode that increases his attack power. While wearing the Black Suit, Spidy tends to lose his temper, and it’s satisfying clearing out a hall full of monsters with a few angry swings of rage.

Of course, the game is packed with super villains and offers different and fun, if not very challenging, boss battles. Actually, the game as a whole isn’t very difficult. Rounding out Spidy’s rogues gallery for this game are Mysterio, Sandman, Kraven, and Juggernaut for Amazing Spidy; Hammerhead, Vulture, and Norman Osborn/Green Goblin for Noir Spidy; Hobgoblin, Scorpion, and a future female Doc Oc for 2099 Spidy; and Electro, Deadpool, and Carnage for Ultimate Spidy.

Along the way, you pick up tokens and experience points called “Spider Essence” that can be used to purchase new moves and character upgrades, and every level has its own list of specific challenges for even more Spider Essence. This, along with the game’s many potential unlockable costumes, is where all your replayability will come from. In addition to the confirmed unlockable costumes and pre-order exclusive costumes, Shattered Dimensions has even more outfits for Spidy to discover. Unlockable for purchase are 1602 Spidy, Flipside 2099 Spidy, Regular Ultimate Spidy, the Amazing Bag-Head Man, and more. All of this, along with the regular character bios and concept art, and a bunch of comic book references that the huge fans will appreciate. And keep an eye on the ending credits for a special surprise.

Even though Shattered Dimensions is flawed, it’s still really fun. I would have liked to have seen a few puzzles to mix things up from the usual tasks, and the addition of a second player would have really kept a lot more interest for me in the game.

The game’s old school design keeps it from matching up to Batman: Arkham Asylum, but it also makes it feel more Spider-Man, which is great. If you’re a hardcore gamer and not a huge Spidy fan, you’ll appreciate the classic throwback, though interest may fade after the first act; but for hardcore Spider-Man marks like me, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is a must play.

Checkout The Comics Console next week when we play Batman: The Brave and the Bold!

Andrew Hurst



  1. Whew I’m so glad this one seems to be worth the hype and is meeting expectations. I’m just tired of crappy comic video games and this shows that much like Batman: AA that if enough time is put into it that a great product can come out of it!

  2. Kristin

    I love that they put the effort in to make each of the dimensions have a unique feel. That will probably end up as one of the biggest highlights in the game.
    But it doesn’t sound like it will be anywhere near as big as Arkham Asylum.

  3. Billy

    Wow, great screen shots! I’m definitely gonna pick this one up for my son.

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