DS

North America

Spider-Man: Web of Shadows

by Jonathan Metts - November 12, 2008, 12:32 pm PST
Total comments: 11

9

Spidey goes the way of Metroid (and all the people rejoiced).

What happens when you combine the exploration-based game design of Metroid with Spider-Man's agility and a great combat system? You get the DS version of Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, an excellent portable action game that does justice to its source material but is fun even if you've never heard of Peter Parker.

The premise is that an alien symbiote (presumably from Spidey's nemesis, Venom) has taken over New York City, covering buildings in black "ichor" goo and turning innocent civilians into mind-controlled monsters. Spider-Man sets out to find Venom and restore the city, and for some untold reason, our hero has his own symbiotic black suit that can be activated at any time. I haven't read the comics in years, but I don't understand how both Spidey and Venom can have the black suit.

Anyway, the dual-suit mechanic serves the game well. The red suit is best for travel, as it has a useful zip-line. In combat, the red suit is quick and agile. The black suit is more powerful and knocks away enemies, and it can eventually charge up attacks for even more damage. However, its web-based moves are more limited. You can switch suits at will, and there is no penalty for using one or the other. The differences seem minor at first, but they become more pronounced as you unlock more abilities by spending bonus points.

There is a lot of combat in the game, and it works extremely well thanks to perfect controls, fantastic animation, and challenging enemies. There are many different enemy types, and as the game throws them at you in various combinations, you have little choice but to try new tactics and use abilities (especially the dodge) that you may have ignored before. There's enough variety to keep battles interesting for a long time, but sometimes the fighting does go on for too long. The game frequently shuts off the exits to a room until you defeat enough enemies, and the quota seems excessive sometimes. I can enjoy beating up a dozen symbiotes, but three dozen? That starts to get tiresome.

Thankfully, the game isn't all about combat. Web of Shadows takes place in a continuous, non-linear world full of alternate paths and hidden secrets. Many routes are blocked off at first, and you can only access them after gaining a new ability, like stronger webbing or the power to crawl on ichor walls. Back-tracking is optional, as the game always tells you where to go for the next main objective. Most of the game takes place indoors, but the environments range from cramped to very large, with tons of opportunities for Spidey to use his unique abilities. Web-swinging is simple and joyous, yet also more cerebral than in past games. Your web line has to attach to a surface, and it will even wrap around an overhang as you swing underneath. Wall-crawling is easy to use, and you can use any web-based move from a wall or ceiling. You can even hang down from the ceiling like a real spider, and start swinging from there to gain momentum. All of these abilities are easy to control; the trick is learning how best to use them. Sometimes they are even useful within combat scenarios.

With such a great combination of smooth combat and engaging exploration, this is easily one of the best DS games of the year. Unfortunately, it's over too soon – I finished with 96% completion in less than five hours. There are a few reasons to play again (branching paths, different ability tiers), but the game is indisputably short. You could say the same of the 2D Metroid titles, but those all have tons of secret items that take much longer to discover. The hidden upgrades in Spider-Man are relatively easy to find, even on your first play-through.

Web of Shadows is the sixth Spider-Man game for DS. Did we really need another one? Apparently yes, as this is by far the best one yet and is probably the best Spider-Man game, period, of the last few years. Even though it's a short-lived experience, it is a must-play for any fan of Spider-Man, Metroid, or the modern Castlevanias. I look forward to seeing more games like this, and hopefully the console Spider-Man developers will take this approach at some point.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
8 7 10 9 6 9
Graphics
8

Characters and environments are modeled well, and the animation is excellent. Spidey moves like Spidey should move. Everything runs at a smooth pace that complements the quick action and movements. One minor complaint: the colors seem faded or just dull. Spider-Man should be red and blue, not pink and teal.

Sound
7

The music and sound effects are perfectly competent and totally forgettable. It sounds like every other Spider-Man game I've played. A highlight is the surprisingly good voice-acting.

Control
10

I've been playing 2D Spider-Man games since Revenge of the Sinister Six on NES, and this is the first one that gets it totally right. Spidey is quick, agile, and formidable, and you have perfect control over him in any situation.

Gameplay
9

Smart combat and open exploration prove to be a powerful combination. The game is just plain fun, even if you're aimlessly wandering across the map. Otherwise great pacing is sometimes interrupted by lengthy forced battles, but that's a minor gripe. Challenging bosses will encourage you to try new moves in combat.

Lastability
6

Though ridiculously fun while it lasts, Web of Shadows doesn't last long enough. Few games can satisfy my appetite for Metroid-style exploration, including most Metroid games, but this one is a bit too easy to clear with 100%. I can see myself playing through it again next year, though.

Final
9

Spider-Man has had a rough few years in gaming on every platform, but this DS installment finally gets it right.

Summary

Pros
  • Excellent controls
  • Non-linear, exploration-friendly levels
  • Smooth, satisfying combat
Cons
  • Ends too soon
  • Too much forced combat
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

I'm glad this didn't disappoint. There's hope for great Spider-man games yet!

AVNovember 12, 2008

WOW. I never would of expected this. I sort got my brain set on "spiderman game = teh suck".

I find it so odd that the console / portable versions can be so different in quality.

Well, it's a totally different design and a totally different developer.  They have very little in common except the red/black suit thing.

Venom, at least his modern form, can "infect" others with the symbiote. In fact, if you want to see New York at its most infested, I recommend the excellent graphic novel "Spider-Man: Reign," which is basically "The Dark Knight Returns" with Spider-Man. It's very good. Different, but good.

IceColdNovember 13, 2008

Wait, it's not Vicarious Visions?

After what Vicarious did with Spider-Man 3 Wii I'd rather see them stay away from the webbed wonder.

MaleficentOgreNovember 13, 2008

I've been playing this for a few weeks. It's not bad. I do really wish they didn't have random battles though. Too many section where you can't progress unless you fight five hundred baddies who hit you at random and there's no way to dodge their stuff. If you're in mid combo and someone shoots you or dives in from above or if you're in the air and someone from the ground jobs or flies you're screwed. Then if you get hit once there's fifteen badguys who will pummel you

Those battles aren't random, they are scripted.  Once you complete them, you don't have to do them again, but they do go on for too long as you say.  The real random battles are enemies who just come out of the walls when you're exploring, and those are totally optional.

It's true that enemies will break your combos.  You have to avoid being surrounded and watch their animations to predict their actions.  It's rare that you can get trapped by a gang of enemies, because Spidey has so many ways of escaping.

MaleficentOgreNovember 14, 2008

I suck at games though.

familycircusJanuary 08, 2009

Interesting, I think I might pick this game up.

I got this via Goozex the other day an about 80 minutes into it, I can say that so far I wholeheartedly agree with Jonny's review.  I initially picked it up thanks to him mentioning it on the podcast, and I'm glad I did.  Great game.  Makes me REALLY want a DS Metroid game.

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Spider-Man: Web of Shadows Box Art

Genre Action
Developer Griptonite Games
Players1
Controllers

Worldwide Releases

na: Spider-Man: Web of Shadows
Release Oct 21, 2008
PublisherActivision
RatingEveryone 10+
eu: Spider-Man: Web of Shadows
Release Oct 24, 2008
PublisherActivision
Rating12+
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