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Spider-Man: Edge of Time

Score: 60%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Beenox
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action

Graphics & Sound:

Some Wii games are able to rise past the technical limitations naturally imposed by the weaker hardware. Spider-Man: Edge of Time is not one of those games. It's not one of the console's most unattractive offerings, but it's no looker. Jagged edges are pervasive, even going so far as to affect the in-game text. The words themselves look like they are being slowly eaten away by some unseen parasite. I'm not sure what Walker Sloan was thinking when he designed his new Alchemax building. According to the freefall sections, this building is several miles tall. However, it's mostly made up of useless corridors and empty spaces. Sometimes, the level design leads you to believe that it's simply part of an attempt to pad out what was initially an extremely short experience. At worst, the game is glitchy; occasionally, enemies will become stuck in the air and floor textures flicker in and out with alarming frequency. The camera is completely broken, and it will often show you what you don't need to be seeing, especially while wall-crawling. The action looks decent, but it moves a bit too quickly, even considering the fact that this is a Spider-Man game. Most of it is too manic and willy-nilly to make sense of. There are some neat effects, though: most notably in how the bottom-right corner shows you what the other Spider-Man is doing in his time.

Spider-Man: Edge of Time sounds much better than it looks. Gerard Marino's score might get old more quickly than it should, but it's a good soundtrack for a deserving superhero. The voice acting is also quite good, even though the big name celebrity they've brought on board (Val Kilmer) is given almost nothing to do. The back-and-forth between the glib Peter Parker and the comparatively dry Miguel O'Hara is the most enjoyable part of the game, even though the subject matter they speak of is absolutely ridiculous. The sound effects aren't bad, but like the visuals, they can be buggy at times.


Gameplay:

Spider-Man: Edge of Time takes the world's favorite wall-crawler and takes him through a journey that seems heavily inspired by Toby Emmerich's 2000 science fiction thriller Frequency. In the year 2099, a mad corporate executive officer named Walker Sloan jumps back in time to found his corporation Alchemax long before it was supposed to be founded. Miguel O'Hara (aka Spider-Man 2099) witnesses all of this and is horrified to see that his entire world is immediately changed into a dystopian nightmare as a result. Furthermore, he is assaulted with visions of Peter Parker (vanilla Spider-Man, of course) being killed by Anti-Venom. Through a plot device I will waste no time (and sanity) attempting to explain, O'Hara finds a way to establish a communication line with his past-time counterpart, and the two set out to reverse the damage that Sloan has caused.

One would think that the concepts introduced by the story might lend themselves well to a game. And some of them do. However, the potential is greater than what Edge of Time settles for. Personally, I was hoping for some sort of "choice-and-consequence" system to appear, but it never did. Instead, both Spider-Men must travel strictly linear paths to solve whatever conundrum they find their counterparts in at any given time. For example, one scenario pits 2099 against a legion of mutants, so Peter Parker must travel to and destroy the genetics lab. It's a novel idea, but it's underdeveloped to say the least. It's neat to see the world change around you with almost no reason, but I would have like to have seen this concept taken further.


Difficulty:

Spider-Man: Edge of Time's first act is easy as pie, but once things really start snowballing towards the inevitable final confrontation, the game gets extremely frustrating. Some combat situations are fun, but towards the end, the game doesn't shift its difficulty level by asking that you switch up your tactics. Instead, it simply drowns you in powerful enemies. Neither the Amazing Spider-Man nor Spider-Man 2099 is particularly adept at defense; both are relentlessly offensive in nature. So, you'll find yourself skipping encounters whenever possible (forgoing the promise of portal energy) and kiting enemies towards you one at a time when you're forced into a fight. That's not fun. That's tedious.

Some of the game's relatively few boss fights are enjoyable, but one gets my nomination for Worst Boss Fight of 2011. And that's Peter Parker's last tangle with Black Cat. This boss fight is not only completely devoid of fun, but it's drawn out and frankly, broken. The game never makes it clear when you can or cannot attack Black Cat, but she's always allowed to hit you. You must whittle her health bar down three times and play a short and annoying game of hide-and-seek before each phase. And if Black Cat takes you down, you get to do the whole thing over again.


Game Mechanics:

If you consider yourself a fan of hardcore action games like Ninja Gaiden, Spider-Man: Edge of Time will make you hate the Wii Remote; that is, if you don't already. It's unwieldy for a beat-em-up, and it allows for almost no camera control at all, save for centering behind Spider-Man.

Combat is mapped to the D-pad, and while it works, it's not a very comfortable setup. Simple attacks are mapped to (Down), the best choice since it's the closest to your right thumb. Ranged attacks are mapped to (Left) and Web Shots are mapped to (Right). Web swinging is mapped to (B), though the environments presented in the game don't encourage it as much as you'd expect (or hope for) from a Spider-Man game. To top it all off, each Spider-Man has his own evasive maneuver that is triggered by (C). I get the feeling that Beenox did the best they could with what they were given, but it still doesn't stack up to action experiences with standard controllers.

By pressing (+), you can activate spider-sense, which is essentially a hint system that shows the location of guards with keys and consoles you need to activate. This is a good system; without it, navigation would have been much more of a pain.

I hope one of these days videogames move past the need for context sensitive quick time events that require button-mashing and mindless motion control waggling, because Edge of Time had me gritting my teeth each time I had to pull open a door.

Spider-Man: Edge of Time is a short game that still manages to wear out its welcome long before it ends. The ideas are there, but the execution is deeply flawed. It's decent for a weekend rental, but even that's pushing it.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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