Taking the formula found in previous Spider-Man games into an entirely different direction, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is probably the most intriguing game in the web slinger’s series of games so far. A lot of the latest games involving him have featured a very prominent sandbox formula and plenty of side quests, but developer Beenox has decided to try something new. It doesn’t work all of the time, but when it does, it’s great stuff.
As expected, the story of Shattered Dimensions is not a compelling one. It follows the original Amazing Spider-Man as he is trying to stop the villain Mysterio from stealing an ancient tablet full of mysterious powers. The tablet gets shattered and somehow spread across multiple dimensions, with each one featuring its own version of Spider-Man. Soon enough, you find yourself playing as four different Spider-Men as you face a cavalcade of villains from the superhero’s past.
The game has a unique style to it, with each of the four dimensions looking slightly different. It’s a good looking game, although there are some problems in the sound department. The voice acting itself is fine, but you often hear many of the same lines from both the different Spider-Men and from the villains you face repeated ad nauseum. It can get very old very fast. Aside from that, the presentation is great.
The overall structure of the game involves you selecting from one of four levels, each from one of the different Spider-Men and each one featuring a different villain. The four dimensions are: Amazing Spider-Man, Noir Spider-Man, 2099 Spider-Man, and Ultimate Spider-Man. Each would appear very different, but it isn’t long before you realize that they all are fairly similar in structure despite some differences.
The combat for all for is generally the same, with a few specific moves and abilities that are unique to each Spider-Man. Ultimate Spider-Man can enter rage mode, 2099 Spider-Man can slow down time, etc. The controls are solid for combat and for web swinging, and the combat is fast paced and enjoyable. The camera can be pretty problematic during certain sections, but it is much better than expected.
Amazing Spider-Man and Ultimate Spider-Man are the two that are the closest in terms of general structure. They both play generally the same, despite a few small differences, and they are pretty solid overall. There are a few annoying quirks in each, but both feature strong gameplay and fun boss fights (for the most part).
2099 Spider-Man is where the game falls apart. The combat is the same, aside from the time slowing ability (which is generally pointless and never worth using), but the structure of these levels is poor. None of the levels are fun, the bosses are always a pain to fight, and the free falling sections are awfully executed. This is where the game’s biggest flaws are exposed and they could have done better without this dimension at all. It looks cool, but it plays poorly.
On the other hand, the game truly shines during the Noir Spider-Man levels. These levels are unique because they focus heavily on stealth gameplay. And this is good stealth gameplay I’m talking about, with levels that are reminiscent of last year’s excellent Batman: Arkham Asylum. Sure, they offer less freedom, but they prove that Spider-Man and stealth is an excellent combination. These levels also feature the best boss battles, each one better than the last.
Speaking of boss battles, they are generally good in three of the four dimensions. You do end up fighting the bosses two (or sometimes three) times during the course of a level, but they never overstay their welcome. Aside from the 2099 bosses, each boss is pretty unique and usually the highlight of the game. There is one small drawback though: some bosses feature a first person fighting section in which you use the two analog sticks to control your punches. It feels poorly implemented and just plain pointless. It never offers any challenge or reward, and these sections could have been taken out of the game entirely.
As a whole, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is a pretty fun game, but it really could have used some major improvements. 1/4th of the experience is tampered down by poor mechanics and terrible level design, so that alone really brings the entire game from “great” to “pretty decent.” This is a fun rental if you’re a huge Spider-Man fan, but everyone else should just pick up 2008’s Spider-Man: Web of Shadows instead for a much more enjoyable experience.
Final thoughts? Noir Spider-Man needs his own game.
Pros: Noir Spider-Man levels are amazing; solid controls and fighting mechanics; some really fun boss battles; plenty of ways to upgrade the different Spider-Man
Cons: Problematic camera; 2099 Spider-Man levels are underwhelming at best, convoluted at worst; first person fights are lame; voice clips tend to repeat way too often