Perhaps the game's title refers to whomever green-lit this release.
Spider-Man: Friend or Foe on Nintendo DS is a mostly unremarkable superhero brawler from Activision that is dubiously associated with the Spider-Man theatrical releases. For fans of fellow reviewer Jeff Shirley's corporate logo screen scale, Spider-Man: Friend or Foe has six splash screens you cannot skip before the title screen—not including "Licensed by Nintendo." Like so many superhero action games before it, Friend or Foe features faceless drones, nondescript level design, and shallow gameplay, making it a poor choice even for Spidey fans.
Friend or Foe is presented from a traditional fixed overhead camera perspective. Players obviously assume the role of Spider-Man, who teams up with a variety of support characters along the way (including villains such as Doctor Octopus, Venom, and Sandman) to save the world from a dark force that is somehow controlling super-villains' minds. The player can control either Spidey or his ally, swapping characters at will with R. You can punch and kick with X & Y, jump with B, and perform special attacks with A (which deplete the character's energy meter). You can also jump up against a wall and climb up to fight on rooftops. Although each character has its set of special powers, they are mostly interchangeable projectile and a melee attacks. Even Spidey's signature web swing move, performed by tapping B while jumping, is useless. That said, movement and fighting controls are responsive and would have been enjoyable had the game put them to good use.
The game's level and battle design is severely lacking. Most levels involve performing some shallow, repetitive, and often irrelevant task in order to complete a mostly linear level. For example, in the first level you must save five hostages before entering the museum; in the next one you must flip eight switches to disable a security alarm; and so on. Along the way you must fight synthetic drones within a confined area, not unlike the generic foot soldier fights from the classic Ninja Turtles arcade games. Hover, the meager cast of henchmen, which mostly look and behave the same, are not at all noteworthy. Since you have two characters, and a KO'ed hero regains consciousness fairly quickly, the game is generous with its health. Some skill is required to evade enemy attacks, but button mashing will generally suffice. Bosses require more strategy and closer attention to your characters' abilities, but damaging them also usually involves asinine timing with poor visual cues.
Scattered throughout Friend or Foe's story mode are simplistic touch screen mini-games you must complete to unlock doors. These are mostly harmless, but one level roughly a third of the way through the game features a cruel mini-game involving a set of quickly-changing digits and a strict time-limit. The idea is to tap each digit when it turns from red to green and stops for a split-second, before it reverts. The mini-game starts with four digits, with later iterations of this mini-game introducing more digits (with the same time limit). Unfortunately, the digits are not locked in any particular order (such as left-to-right) and they seem to stop/turn green randomly (not to mention that for gamers like me who are red-green color blind, this particular color choice couldn't have been any worse); in any given round a digit may only turn green once (if ever), so you need very good reflexes and a bit of luck. Throw in stubborn digit tapping detection and a time penalty for misses, and you have a brand new form of torture.
The game's presentation is somewhat commendable, at least. The story progresses through a variety of decently-voiced cut scenes. A few, such as the story intro, are presented in rendered full motion video. Others are presented in still frames with a more hand-drawn look, though most are less engaging dialog with text, not unlike Snake's CODEC from the Metal Gear Solid series. The game definitely throws the player right into Spidey's world, so the thin plot will disorient players like me who are relatively unfamiliar with the franchise's various characters and back-stories (I certainly didn't know who Black Cat was). The in-game graphics consist of bland textures and models, though the wide and zoomed-in camera angles, presented on the two screens concurrently, is a nice touch.
Spider-Man: Friend or Foe's levels can be played cooperatively in multi-card mode, but with such boring gameplay I cannot recommend one, let alone two, purchases. It's a shame, because Friend or Foe's game engine itself is respectable, with decent presentation and excellent use of both screens. Neither the time nor the money was allocated to flesh out Friend or Foe's core, resulting in this pointless phantom of a game that could have been much better.