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Spider-Man Mysterio's Menace

Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Activision
Media: Cart/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action

Graphics & Sound:

What is it about Spider-Man that makes him so ideal for videogames? He seems to have racked up more than his fair share of hits recently, and with a movie deal on the way, no less! Spidey has been big entertainment value for a long time, on television with that cool theme, in comics with a never-ending stream of new plot twists and most recently on PlayStation with a hit game. The movie, we understand, is back in the shop for some changes in its storyline due to the WTC attack, but the new game, Mysterio's Menace is already in stores.

Mysterio's Menace is a cool production, and Spidey fans may find it exciting enough to merit buying a GBA if they haven't already. Taking Peter Parker on the road has never been this good before, and I'm glad they waited until it could be done right, instead of producing something quickly, but as is often the case, crappily. GBA has all the power to do what needs to be done here, and no punches were pulled. Mysterio's Menace follows Spider-Man through some great locations, all of which feature scrolling backgrounds and an animation-cel effect that adds lots of depth and visual interest. The character models are super-fly, if a little lacking in variety. There are unique characters in certain levels, and the Ninjas never seem to get old, but more unique enemies would would have been nice. The whole presentation is classy, but the smooth control maintained throughout transcends quality design to show off the technical acumen behind the graphics programming. And, there's some good music and sound effects to boot! Spidey's groan of defeat is a cool effect, but you'll be too busy grinding your teeth and waiting to restart from the last save-point to care.


One nice thing about making a superhero game must be that you don't have to spell out the rules for people and introduce every enemy or friend. Sure, there may be some out there who don't know Spider-Man's more recent enemies, but Mysterio's Menace doesn't rely on the continuum to build its storyline. What starts as a simple errand for Peter Parker reveals a city torn to pieces by marauding baddies, each bent on a single destructive task. Spidey tries to put out all the fires as he learns of them, but each enemy he defeats seems to be working against their will or at least better judgment, and clues begin to lead to a single, all-powerful enemy. The story plays out more in action than narrative storytelling, but each completed level plays some cartoon-style cutscenes with still images that storyboard a transition into the next level.

New York is the hub for all of Spider-Man's action, and only three levels can be played from the beginning. Unlike some games, Spidey doesn't bring any 'key' items to unlock new levels, but new areas do open up based on information from beaten enemies. You're free to skip levels or disregard leads to make the story play out as you want it to, and you'll still get to Mysterio eventually, but careful gamers will see a real progression of events. Some levels are all about fighting through to collect items and defeat a boss, with the items being mostly powerups, health and extra Spidey lives. Others have a 'treasure hunt' layout that makes you look for people, items, etc. Enemies abound no matter how you're playing or what level you're on, and they provide quite a challenge. At first they lumber around and charge you, and can be easily avoided. As things move on, you'll see enemies start carrying simple guns, firing at you on the floor and ceiling even when you hide, and even jumping up on ceilings and walls to chase you. The CPU plays hard and for keeps, even on the easiest difficulty setting.

Mysterio's Menace is definitely more about action than platforming. There are plenty of tricky jumps and moves required to navigate the last few levels, and all kind of mid-air aerobics you'll need to defeat crafty ninjas or bosses, but it really comes down to how well you use weapons or items and how well you know the layout of each level. Enemies are smart enough to jump down from a ledge if they see you, so you'll spend a lot of time fighting. There's only so much web-slinging possible, but where you need it, it works fine. Some sections feel like a fairly intense Platformer, but not so much to drive away Action game purists.


Multiple levels of difficulty settings, password save and autosave sections in each level help you help Spider-Man win. But, enemies don't fool around and often try to drive you into traps, make you fall, or just team up on you. The later levels also bring in some heavy-duty jumping that seems to come out of nowhere. There's nothing wrong with trying to leave Platforming aside and go pure Action or Adventure, but Activision doesn't want to miss out on those Platforming dollars, I guess. Mysterio's Menace feels a little unbalanced at times, like boss battles that seem impossible until you die and then come back to beat the boss easily. These things tend to feel buggy and wrong, especially before you get all the moves down, but some folks may not want to invest the time to learn all the controls. And so, completing some levels feels inordinately difficult, but others are gone before you know it. This could use some ironing...

Game Mechanics:

Spidey does more cool stuff than John Travolta on a dance floor, so learning the character and his moves (Spidey, not Travolta...) pays off bigtime. There are Spider Moves for wall crawling, Web Moves for attacking and defending, Ground Moves, Air Moves and custom Views to consider when tooling around with Spidey, so give yourself plenty of practice before charging into battle. Some of the cooler effects are being able to web-sling your way to secret locations or crawling on ceilings to avoid guards. Some guards, mostly later in the game, will see you up there and start shooting, but a nice control feature is the Web Move that let you fire off webbing while you're clinging to a wall or ceiling. Enemies on the ground better watch out, 'cause a firm layer of web is all it takes to lay some guy out until you can dispatch him with your fists. Attack and defense techniques depend somewhat on items you've gathered. Pickups can be tracked on-screen by way of a nice, simple heads-up display. Items like the extra webbing holder allow you to choose between powerful explosive shots and gooey shots, or use a combined web-shield that prevents enemy fire from reaching you. Other shield pickups protect Spidey automatically for a limited period of time. The shoulder buttons control the webworks, in the case of single shots or defense. Firing web shots to swing from ceilings is done with a front button, so it's easy enough to alternate jumping, swinging and attacking without dropping a beat.

Mysterio's Menace shows off nice use of the GBA's assets and depth with great graphics that are consistent and smooth without being simple. Characters animate with quick response and smart AI, and certainly no jerky motions. Enemy soldiers attack smartly, and defend themselves pretty well, also. The ninjas eventually get to a level where they can do all the things you can, which requires even more strategy for defense and attack. It's disconcerting to play through most of the game hiding from enemies on the ceiling or wall, only to find enemies like the Ninjas chilling out with you up on high, punching your lights out and jumping around as fast or faster than you. Spidey does have the bulk of the special moves, and when he's charged up can throw down some major smack and even drop one-hit kills on the weaker enemies.

Activision drops some knowledge on the side-scrolling Action/Arcade genre for GBA, and Spider-Man fans can find much to rejoice in this latest incarnation of the Ol' Webhead on videogame media. Great graphics, smart AI and level design, and plenty of fast-paced action result in a very playable cart. We'll apparently have to wait for Spidey to hit the big screen, but arachnophiles can get their fill of web-slinging action right now on GBA!

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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