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by Activision

As a jaded teen I looked to Batman for comfort and solace. As a new father, Superman embodied the sense of hope and goodness that I needed to believe in for my children. But Spider-Man will always be the superhero of my childhood. The story of the ostracized Peter Parker was one I could relate to (minus the super powers). Even Todd McFarlane couldn’t ruin my love of the character. So it was with an extra potent sense of nostalgia that I approached Spider-Man for the Dreamcast. The first thing that struck me about this game was amount of attention that the makers paid to their source material. There’s nothing I hate more than the bastardization of a good comic book superhero, but the folks over at Activision went back to the comics and stayed there. There were a lot of relatively minor characters that popped up throughout the game that I just didn’t expect to see. The designers of this game obviously took a lot of time to familiarize themselves with the often complex past of Peter Parker. I was really happy with all of the details that could be found throughout this game. You can’t help but get the impression that there was a real fondness for this character and they didn’t want to compromise Spider-Man or his world in any way.

Spider-man was the first comic based video game where I actually felt like I could do everything the hero could do in the comic. Want to swing from building to building? No problem. Want to scale walls and cling to ceilings with the ease of an insect? You can do that too. You can even use your webbing in more creative ways like making spiked gloves or slowing down your enemies. This is a game that was tailor made for Spider-fans. Another great thing about the game was that I didn’t feel like it ever held back in the Super-Villains department. There seems to be an unwritten rule that you can never have more than two nemesis in a single game. Spider-Man throws that rule out the window. Not only do you get a ton of villains, but there are also some pleasant visits by other characters from the Marvel Universe.

Since this game has already appeared on two platforms in pretty much the same form, I won’t bother going over the details of the story. Suffice it to say that the narrative is adequate to keep you interested, but don’t look for the comic adaptation any time soon.

It doesn’t matter how faithful a game is if it doesn’t play well. Gameplay is surprisingly varied. I really liked not knowing what to expect from a new stage in the game. There’s your standard brawling, chases, and even stealth modes. In some ways Spider-man reminded me of playing Metal Gear Solid without so much of the gear. You definitely don’t feel like you’re doing the same thing over and over with each new level.

Spider-Man has a fairly basic punch/kick fight system, but his use of webbing makes up for any monotony that you may experience while beating up your foes. I was honestly surprised at how much he could do with his webbing. Not only can you swing from building to building, you can build a dome and fire web bullets. It seemed like the only thing you couldn’t do was stick your camera to a building ledge and take vanity shots.

Speaking of cameras, the only problem that I really had with the game was the fact that some of the camera work was a little distracting, but on the whole it was really well done. Being able to crawl on walls and ceilings can be a little disorienting, and it hurt me more than once not knowing which way was up.

While the graphics don’t approach what the Dreamcast can do, it is a cleaner version than the Playstation. We won’t see a better looking Spider-Man until he shows up on the PS2. I particularly enjoyed the attention to detail in the environments. There were times when I really felt like I was swinging through New York or chasing Venom through the sewers.

With games getting cancelled left and right for the Dreamcast it’s refreshing to keep finding a few titles that keep things interesting. However, I can’t help but feel a little bit of melancholy every time I write a review for a Dreamcast title. I just feel that with every title we come closer to that proverbial last breath. Spider-Man is one more title that shows everything I like about my Dreamcast: clean graphics, interesting gameplay, and nice controls. I felt like Spider-Man. No other comic based game has given me the impression that I was really playing as that superhero. I always felt like I was given the watered down version of a particular character. Never have I seen so much attention paid to the details of a character. Spider-Man is so intertwined with my childhood that I can’t imagine grade school without the catchy theme song. I would have been really disappointed with anything less than a great game. Fortunately, the folks at Activision did not disappoint. Comic Book Guy would sum it up best by saying simply and succinctly, "Best video game adaptation ever."

Jason Frank

Snapshot

Ups: Varied action, lots of villains, best comic book adapation ever.

Downs: Some camera problems, fighting can be monotonous

System Reqs: Dreamcast

 


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