I remember watching reruns of the original Spider-Man cartoon on weekends growing up. While the animation was pedestrian and some of the animations were looped, Spider-Man had a sarcastic tone while fighting against the bad guys and always came out on top. The Spider-Man jingle from the original series is a part of Americana. Spider-Man has gone through a few incarnations in the comics, television, and even on the big screen. Now those incarnations are colliding into as single game from developer Beenox called Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions.
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions features four different versions of Spider-Man. The Amazing universe is the original Spider-Man that most people think of. The Ultimate universe features Spider-Man in the symbiotic black suit. The 2099 Spider-Man takes place in the future and features Miguel O’Hara and not Peter Parker. The newest dimension is also the oldest, as Spider-Man Noir makes his first videogame appearance. Spider-Man Noir came out as a part of the Marvel Noir series. Spider-Man’s specific adventure started in late 2008.
The story of Shattered Dimensions starts off with the Amazing Spider-Man following Mysterio in the Empire State University Museum where the Tablet of Order and Chaos is on display. Mysterio plans on taking the tablet and selling it on the black market, but Spider-Man gets in the way. During the battle the tablet is split into pieces. Madame Web shows up and tells Spidey how the tablet has not only spread all over the world, but all over time and space as well. Madame Web not only needs to employ the services of this Spider-Man, but others as well.
When you start out Shattered Dimensions, you go through a tutorial level with Madame Web explaining how to perform moves to each of the different Spider-Mans. Here you get a general feel for all of the different abilities of all four of them. Once you get past the tutorial you fight through the first full level in the Amazing universe, but after that you are free to select which universe you want to enter.
Each of the four universes not only features a different Spider-Man, they also feature a different art style. The Amazing universe looks a bit washed out with heavy lines, as an aged comic book would. The Ultimate universe looks more like a modern cartoon with refined lines and vivid colors. You can see the suit’s liquidity as it gets more powerful. The Noir universe is very dark, featuring dark browns and a smattering of color when characters venture into the light. When Noir goes into the dark, sometimes only a white outline shows off where the bad guys are showing up. The 2099 universe has tall skyscrapers with neon lighting in a mix of Tron and Blade Runner. Even the suit has a fluorescent pulse to it.
One of features of Spider-Man is the enhanced Spider Sense. While you can see danger coming at you by the lightning bolts surrounding Spidey’s head when it goes off, there is an enhanced version. To activate this enhanced version you push down on the d-pad. This allows you to see where your objectives on the map are as well as outlines of your objectives and enemies. These outlines show how much health these enemies have. The more the outline glows, the more health they have. This helps you figure out where your objectives are.
When you first start watching the intro, the first thing you hear is Stan Lee’s voice. If that doesn’t make you reminiscent of the old Spider-Man cartoons, nothing will. The fact that all of the Spider-Man voice actors voiced Spider-Man in other series, it shows the attention to detail Beenox has taken with the voice acting. Neil Patrick Harris, the voice of the Amazing Spider-Man, was featured in the MTV Spider-Man series. Ultimate Spider-Man is voiced by Josh Keaton who was the voice of the WB series Spectacular Spider-Man. Christopher Daniel Barnes, who reprises his role as the Noir Spider-Man, was the voice of Spider-Man in the mid-90’s series. Finally, if you remember Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends from the early 1980’s with Firestar and Iceman, then Spider-Man 2099 voiced by Dan Gilvezan should be a familiar voice. It’s amazing (no pun intended) how much he still sounds like Spider-Man almost 30 years later. Other voice actors for the bosses have been featured in other Spider-Man series as well. They really went all out to make the Spider-Man connections.
Each of the levels basically follow the same plot-line. A villain has been able to get his hands on a piece of the Tablet of Order and Chaos. Spider-Man has to follow the villain to the end of the level. Once you get to the end, you have to beat the villain to retrieve the piece. While this might sound boring, the method to get to the end is unique throughout each universe.
Each Spider-Man in the four dimensions has different abilities. The Amazing Spider-Man is the traditional Spider-Man that comes to mind most often. While he is strong, he uses his webbing to grab chunks of dirt to smash at enemies or to form boxing gloves and hammers to subdue enemies. He is the most balanced and if you’ve played a Spider-Man game before, these sections will feel the most familiar.
The Ultimate Spider-Man has the strength of the symbiote suit. His attacks focus on power and not on agility. While most of the time the black suit is powerful enough to knock out enemies, he has a Rage Mode that allows the suit to attack with even greater speed and strength. More enemies seem to show up during these sections so this is helpful. It can only be used for a short time before it is used up though, so it needs to be used wisely. It cannot be activated again until it is filled up again, but it gets refilled whenever he causes damage.
The Noir Spider-Man can put up a fight, but the shadows are his friend. Sneaking around is his best way to get rid of enemies. I was wondering if I would enjoy this segment because I really don’t care for stealth-like games, but the developers have done a great job in balancing the stealth while still making it fun. When you are discovered, a red spider marks your last known location. If you get away the red spider will slowly disappear and you are able to sneak around again. This lets you sneak around, but it gives you enough forgiveness so that being detected isn’t an automatic death sentence. This universe feels the most different of all of them, and I found this a lot of fun.
The 2099 universe Spider-Man’s unique feature is the speed that Spider-Man can move. The 2099 Spider-Man is quick and agile instead of focusing on brute force. He needs this to be with the enemies he has to face. In fact he moves so quickly that he is able to move faster than the eye can see. He does have a special ability called Accelerated Vision that is basically the equivalent of bullet time. This allows this Spider-Man to get in more hits in a short amount of time. He also has areas where he free falls down skyscrapers, directing himself so he doesn’t hit objects on the way down. These sections are a major rush because of the sense of speed as he falls.
While there is a lot of combat, that doesn’t mean that you’ll spend all of your time fighting. Often there are times where you need to rescue or protect civilians. Sometimes they are locked up so Spider-Man needs to pull the door off, and other times they are being attacked with a health bar showing up on the screen. In one area a room is filling up with water, so you need to be quick and save all of the civilians so they can shut off the water. This gives you an artificial timer to get the job done. In one case, you see a tidal wave heading towards you and you have to zip onto it to get through the level. This was a very unique sequence and there are some very cool scenarios similar to this to help break up the fighting.
Another instance where you won’t be fighting is where you need to zip along areas to get to safety. This is Spider-Man after all, so you didn’t think you wouldn’t be doing some web-swinging. To get around faster you can web zip, and a handy yellow arrow shows up where you will zip to. Unfortunately, you hold the R2 to swing and tap R2 to zip. Sometimes it was difficult for the game to recognize that you wanted to zip and got you to swing instead. There may also be times when you find yourself falling down to your death. Beenox has given the players a refreshing way to save themselves. When Spider-Man has fallen far enough you go into a first-person mode where you see his feet and hands reaching up. By hitting the R2 button you can save yourself and get back into the action again.
While there are some differences in the gameplay, the controls stay almost completely the same. Hitting X jumps or does a web jump, while Circle grabs objects with your webbing or your hands. Square is used for a light attack and Triangle performs heavy attacks. How you hit these buttons, and how often you do, determines the kind of attack. The L2 button puts you in a defensive stance and locks onto an enemy, and the L1 button activates Rage Mode or Accelerated Vision. The controls are very responsive and you feel like you are controlling Spider-Man instead of having him go into some kind of automatic animation.
The bosses are a huge part of the game, and they have gone deep into the Spider-Man library to get different enemies. Some of these bosses, like Hobgoblin 2099, were created specifically for the game. While most of the action is easy, once you get to the bosses, you need to use your head more than your brawn. They are tough too, so don’t expect a cake walk. There are three difficulty levels though, and you can select the difficulty level at the beginning of each level instead of having to stick with the same one throughout the entire game.
While you start out with a limited move list and amount of health, there are two ways to increase both. Spider Essence is used to upgrade your moves, health, and other special abilities. You can collect Spider Emblems throughout the level to gain health and Spider Essence. There are also objectives in each level that give you Spider Essence. You can see these objectives in the Web of Destiny. As you complete objectives, you see new ones pop up in the Web of Destiny. You can also track up to three of these in the upper right-hand corner of the screen if you want to as well. Some of these objectives are naturally completed as you get through a level, while some are rewards for completing an objective quickly or using specific attacks. This is an area that you want to check often, as the amount of Spider Essence given to you for completing these can often come close to giving you a new move or upgrade.
When encountering the boss, you actually get to see the view from Spidey’s eyes. Sometimes you are spouting off insults towards them. Other times you are locked in on them, dodging attacks and punching them. You really feel a sense of being in the face of your enemy when locked into hand-to-hand combat. You won’t see boss battles like this all the time though.
This all sounds great, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any issues with Shattered Dimensions. Occasionally some camera issues come about because of the nature of Spider-Man being able to climb up walls and ceilings. It can become very disorienting, and that’s because the camera might have a hard time figuring out which way you are going. This doesn’t happen too often though. The bosses are fun, but there are times when they can be frustrating. Sometimes it is because you aren’t sure exactly what you need to do. Other times it is because the odds seem overwhelming, even though you know what to do. Sometimes the objectives you need to follow aren’t clear, although the Spider Sense does help significantly with this.
Shattered Dimensions is a single-player game, but don’t think that you won’t get your money’s worth with it. While the tutorial level is very short, the rest of the levels will take a while, especially if you are trying to get the Spider Tokens. It won’t be surprising to spend an hour in each level unless you are speeding through them. Each level even has hidden spiders that require the use of Spider Sense to find them that can take up your time if you so choose. You can go back into the level later (with your upgrades) to try to complete objectives you didn’t finish the first time if you want to. The levels also have several checkpoints, so if you have to quit the game or lose your life in the middle of the level, you don’t lose much progress at all.
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is truly an homage to the different Spider-Man universes throughout the years. Each Spider-Man has their similarities, but there are enough subtle differences that each level feels fresh. The bosses found within the game will all be familiar to you, but they might show up in a way you least expect them. If you are fan of the web slinger then you will definitely enjoy this title. If you just enjoy good adventure games with a heavy dose of action, then be sure to give Shattered Dimensions a look.