Relive Spider-Man's greatest battles against switch-flipping, monotony, and robots!
Spider-Man has a checkered video game history. However, since he's been under the care of Activision, games featuring the web-slinger have generally been okay, with Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man: Web of Shadows being highlights. After solid contributions from Neversoft, Vicarious Visions, and the late, great Shaba Games, Activision has placed the franchise in the hands of Beenox, who unexpectedly made a great game in last year's Shattered Dimensions.
Beenox's second game, Spider-Man: Edge of Time (3DS version reviewed, which is a port of the Wii version, which is a port of the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 version), takes all of the good things about the developer's web-slinging debut and throws them out the window. Instead of iterating on the fun combo-and-dodge-based combat and the varied locales and art styles of the first game, Edge of Time simplifies everything down to the level of boredom and monotony, while stripping away the majority of what makes controlling Spider-Man unique.
Edge of Time, a 3D platformer akin to last year's home console Spider-Man game, stars present-day Spider-Man and the futuristic Spider-Man 2099, involving a time-warping premise in which the villainous Walker Sloane (voiced by former Batman Val Kilmer) goes back in time to kill Spider-Man and take over the world. Sloane's time-meddling transforms present-day Spider-Man into an Alchemax employee, which is the company Spider-Man 2099's alter-ego works for in the future. The entire game takes place in this drab, faux-futuristic backdrop.
The two characters bicker a lot, and the Peter David-written dialog is a highlight of the game. The pair of Spider-Men use the fictional "quantum causality" theory to alter each other's time period, though the mechanic is used as nothing more than a narrative device. To execute quantum causality, apparently all you have to do is beat up things and flip switches.
Oddly, beating up things and flipping switches is more or less all you do in the game. You walk or web swing through one soulless corridor after another while fighting enemies. The combat, which was entertaining in last year's Shattered Dimensions, is downright boring in this scaled-down form. You have a few attacks at your disposal, none of which feel fluid. Button mashing becomes a regular activity as you try to wipe out a seemingly endless array of robots and other dull foes.
An upgrade system makes the two characters somewhat unique, but it never adds much beyond increased strength and a new move to flounder around with. A challenge system gives you more upgrade points and unlockable costumes, but it feels so removed from normal gameplay that challenges are more of an interruption than anything else. Challenges don't take you out of the game entirely, though; they simply give you an in-game goal such as "Complete the area without taking damage" or "Defeat the enemies in a limited amount of time." The game shouldn't have needed to be paused to inform you of the challenge parameters, however.
The 3D effect is rather muted. It doesn't hurt anything, but the sense of depth is barely noticeable except for text, which seems very close in the foreground. Spider-Man 2099's freefall segments, one of the only instances of gameplay variety, offer a decent 3D effect, but that is very fleeting. The game does make use of the dual screens, showing off both Spider-Men at the same time in a decently cinematic fashion.
Spider-Man: Edge of Time is quite likely the worst Spider-Man game Activision has published, falling short of even the lackluster Spider-Man 3 and Friend or Foe games. It's boring, repetitive, and indistinct. Spider-Man isn't at his best when he's walled up in a building; he's better off slinging webs in large environments, and that's something that Activision and Beenox need to remember for the next edition of this series.