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Spider-Man: Edge of Time

Score: 72%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Beenox
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action

Graphics & Sound:

Few will argue Batman: Arkham Asylum's place at the top of the superhero game hierarchy, though hanging from a web just below the Dark Knight is Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. Building on that success, Beenox is back with Spider-Man: Edge of Time, which takes the Spiders on another time-hopping adventure. Although it doesn't completely live up to Shattered Dimensions' legacy, Edge of Time is still a decent Spider-Man experience.

It is easy to point out the game's big picture visuals - which Edge of Time excels at - yet the game's smaller visual touches help to sell the experience. Sadly, some of these elements may be overlooked, or go completely unnoticed.

Peter takes a beating during his adventure, doing a number to his costume. Usually, details like this are either ignored on the in-game character model, or are explained away with some oddball plot device. Here, Spidey's costume damage is modeled and remains throughout the rest of the game. Another cool special effect happens during a "Time Paradox" move. The screen is filled with purple webs, yet if you look hard enough, you'll see glimpses of Mary-Jane, adding an extra something to the concept of messing around with time.

Edge of Time returns two voice members from Shattered Dimensions. Josh Keaton trades in his Ultimate Spider-Man gear to voice Spider-Men, while Christopher Daniel Barnes goes from Noir to Spider-Man 2099. Both turn in solid performances. Despite sharing a moniker, they don't like each other all that much, leading to some great banter between the two.


Gameplay:

Spider-Man: Edge of Time shows that more is not always better, though it also shows sometimes you need a little something extra to go over the top.

The game's setup finds Spider-Man 2099 chasing down the Alchemex Corporation's Walker Sloan (voice by Val Kilmer) as he attempts to disrupt the timeline by bringing his knowledge of future technology to the past, allowing him to essentially take over the world. Part of that plan involves the death of Peter Parker, which Spider-Man 2099 sets out to stop. His job isn't easy, especially since Peter decides to take the fight to Sloan, and his Spider-power dampening "pet," Anti-Venom, himself.

The big hook for Edge of Time has always been the idea of "cause and effect" gameplay. What one Spider-Man does could alter the other's timeline. A giant robot in the future could become a smaller one if Peter disrupts its production in the past. Although Edge of Time delivers on the premise, all of the time-altering events are scripted. The game is saved by its story, which is great by comic book standards, though it is hard to walk away from your six hour adventure and not feel a bit disappointed.

Restricting how time is altered is understandable; planning out multiple time-altering paths would be a design nightmare. Still, there aren't enough moments where the race against time actually feels important. A couple put you in a race against time; though most follow a linear structure. It would be great if there were actual gameplay consequences for actions. For instance, failing to beat a specific goal would make things harder for your future counterpart. Instead, you either complete a goal or die, forcing a restart of that section.


Difficulty:

Start to finish, Spider-Man: Edge of Time runs between 6 - 8 hours. It's not a bad time, though it isn't a huge challenge either. I made it through most of the game just by button-mashing through scripted combos, only dying during boss fights and vertical shaft sections. These deaths, however, were usually due to a couple of unnecessary camera shifts. Though usually no more than a slight budge, the perspective change is usually enough to throw off your steering.

Some of the special effects can get in the way of gameplay. As time begins to go haywire, you're inundated with flashing lights and other time distortions. They look great, but can obscure important gameplay elements, such as a certain boss's key attack (you know, the one you're supposed to watch for to start a scripted sequence).

Gameplay sections are usually augmented by Challenges connected to the game's unlock system. The system is a great idea in concept, though some of the actual Challenges will have you screaming, "Shock!" A couple of Challenges are easy, though a good chunk are incredibly hard. Worse, some are a result of poor planning and don't snap into gameplay they way they should. I started the game hell bent on completing Challenges as they came up (even restarting entire sections), but when I realized the rewards (new costumes), I gave up out of sheer frustration.


Game Mechanics:

One of Shattered Dimensions's better elements was each Spider-Man felt distinctly different from the other. Noir was about stealth while Amazing was about quick, acrobatic play. Although Spider-Man: Edge of Time's wall crawlers have their own unique abilities, each plays the same. The biggest difference between the two is Peter can use his spider-reflexes to move fast, while 2099 can create clones. Other than that, each has the same basic attacks, but with a different candy coating. Peter's web spin the same as 2099's spin-kick mechanically; the only difference is how each is delivered.

You can upgrade moves by spending the time particles scattered throughout each level. Upgrades add new functionality, but never in a super meaningful way. There's the requisite attack power upgrade or ways to use moves on multiple targets, though you'll likely spend most of your time hammering away at the attack buttons, occasionally tapping the web-line to gain a little ground (or reach an airborne enemy).

Character upgrades, like increased health, are purchased using Golden Spiders. Compared to collecting thousands of purple orbs, finding the glowing arachnids is kind of fun. When you're close to one, a spider-tracer will begin blinking. The faster the blink, the closer you are. Considering how much of a difference Character upgrades can make, I wanted to spend as much time possible ferreting them out. You'll also snag a few during combat, though you'll only get enough to buy the bare essentials.

Spider-Man fans will enjoy Spider-Man: Edge of Time for its story and the chance to play as Spider-Man. Even if you're not a fan of the wall-crawler, there's enough here to at least warrant a weekend rental. However, the short story mode coupled with the off-balance, not-that-rewarding Challenge system, keeps Edge of Time from knocking Shattered Dimensions off its perch.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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