Spider-Man 2 hearkens back to the bad old days of 2D gaming. This is a side-scrolling beat-em-up, and is one of the most frustratingly difficult things I have played in a good long time. Whoever thought that mazelike levels filled with extremely annoying hazards and enemies that are considerably more powerful than you are was a good idea has a serious problem. That isn't fun, it's frustrating. It isn't "oldskool" - it is crappy game design. Spider-Man 2 was a good movie and a fun console game, but Spider-Man 2 for the Nintendo DS is a disappointment that is little more than a quick cash-in on both a hot license and the coolest new gadget of the season.
The gameplay in Spider-Man 2 DS is pretty much standard side-scrolling action fare. As Spider-Man, you can crawl on walls and ceilings, swing on webs, and shoot webs to slingshot yourself in pretty much any direction you want. This is all what you expect in a Spider-Man game, and Spidey's powers are actually really well done here. You fight enemies with simple punches and kicks that you can work into more complex and interesting combos, and you can also use your webbing to pull enemies towards you, among other things. As far as superpowers are concerned, Spider-Man 2 does a pretty good job of giving you a miniature Spider-Man to play around with.
Where S-M2 fails to deliver is in the level designs. The main problem is that they are very mazelike. You don't have a map, and there isn't really any way to tell where you have already been, so the game is very frustrating. That on its own wouldn't be so bad if there weren't hazards all over the place. You'll come across fire and electrical hazards that you have to get by, but with a tiny margin for error even small tasks like jumping over a fire pit is a lot more difficult and frustrating than it should be. Missions in each level see you collecting a certain number of items, or defeating certain number of enemies, and it can be extremely frustrating to try to track down the last object in a giant maze of fire and electricity when you can't tell one room from the next. The levels actually aren't even that long - they usually take around ten minutes to beat - but the game is so annoying that most people won't make it to the end. This game feels more like work than fun.
Fighting is slightly more entertaining than the exploration part, but it still isn't very good. The enemies are surprisingly tough and Spider-Man's punches and kicks are woefully weak, so it takes three or four good combos to actually defeat an enemy. Strangely, the enemies seem to have a much longer reach than Spidey, so it's tricky to get in close enough to them to actually attack them. Boss battles are more interesting, but they are fairly easy since they move in easy to recognize patterns. Bosses will occasionally start throwing stuff at you, and at that point the game moves down to the touch screen where you have to tap the objects to destroy them. It is a nice touch, but it is somewhat disorienting to be using the d-pad and buttons for most of the game and then have to switch to the touch screen.
The most disappointing thing about Spider-Man 2 DS is that it doesn't do much to take advantage of the DS' abilities. The top screen usually shows the game while the bottom screen allows you to check mission objectives and choose special moves. Some sort of map seems like an obvious fit for the bottom screen and it would have helped the overall experience immensely, but that isn't the case. This could have just as easily been a one screen game. The game does look rather good, but the gameplay and overall design is still very much stuck in the GBA era.
Graphically, Spider-Man 2 looks very good on the Nintendo DS. The graphics are full 3D but you only play on a 2D plane. The characters look really nice and the animation is smooth and good looking. Also, the game runs at a really smooth framerate. Overall, the game looks great, and is definitely not something that the GBA could do.
The sound is also very good. Enemies will shout things at you as you fight, and people will call to you for help. The music is also well done, but it is cut into very short loops so you hear the same things over and over and over again, which gets aggravating after a while.
Spider-Man 2 for the DS is ultimately more frustrating than fun and isn't really worth a purchase unless you are absolutely desperate for a new DS game. Spider-Man's abilities are well represented here and the core gameplay isn't all that bad, but horrendous level designs sour the experience. It does look and sound pretty good, but we expect more from games than just to have a pretty face. Spider-Man 2 simply is not very fun to play, and unless you can get your hands on it for cheap, I can't recommend it for a purchase.