Whatever two Spider-Men can't.
When we last left our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, he was busy saving the universe from some kind of dimensional rift caused by Mysterio, and four different Spider-Men from four different dimensions (Amazing, Ultimate, Noir, and 2099) all had to pitch in. That game was pretty enjoyable, though kind of disconnected and contrived. Still, inhabiting the boots of four different versions of the character was a fun romp. This year's Spider-Man game is not penned by Gryptonite—masters of the Spider-troidvania handheld platformer—but instead Other Ocean, whom you might remember from Dark Void Zero. Trepidation loomed as I turned on my DSi and booted up this latest Spider-Game.
Well, the game isn't terrible, but it's certainly not fun. In this game we're down to two web-swingers, Amazing Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2099. In the latter's time period, some mad scientist creates a time portal and jumps back into Peter Parker's time to start his company in the past. This company, Alchemix, pervades every aspect of Parker's world to the point where the Daily Bugle—where he works—is owned by Alchemix. After thirty years, the mad scientist makes a second portal that (in theory) links back to 2099. It's not clear why he's doing this, but obviously, Miguel O'Hara (Spider-Man 2099) has to stop this madness, so he creates some kind of time-based radio signal with which to call Peter Parker to his aid. The characters chat it up throughout the game, which is stupid, but whatever—it's a comic book.
The game’s key component is switching between web-swingers to progress with both. You swap between Peter Parker and Miguel O'Hara with the X button. Both characters explore the same map, with different visual skins reflecting the passage of time. In a few key instances, one map will differ slightly from the other, but in no large measure. For example, a small tunnel leading to a health upgrade in Parker’s time will be blocked off in O’Hara’s time. The game has several frustrating aspects, but the worst is that Parker and O'Hara will be faced with so many different kinds of contrived barriers blocking your progress that you'll want to tear your hair out. Each barrier can only be destroyed by a specific power that you have to wander around to find. Happily, the different powers are coordinated with the barriers' colors. Up against a yellow barrier? Try using Peter Parker's enhanced webbing, which is yellow. Need to destroy that purple barrier? Miguel just found this handy purple upgrade to his claws that shatters such barriers. Unfortunately, these powers don't stack, so upon finding a wealth of different barriers, you must manually switch amongst them. This is irritating, especially because there are SO MANY BARRIERS…for both Spider-Men!
You can tell Other Ocean was going for a sort of Gryptonite-esque design, but they don't do it justice at all. There are some instances where you'll find a 2099-specific barrier in Peter's time period, which means—yep—at certain points in the game, the characters swap time periods, seemingly for the sole purpose of breaking each other's barriers so that, upon getting back to their own times, they can both proceed uninterrupted. In fact, the game's biggest barrier (HA!) is that it's very easy to get lost in either map because, despite their similarity, they look so different aesthetically that it's tough to tell where you are in relation to your temporal colleague. And while one Spider-Man's actions—like turning on a computer panel in one time—can activate doors or barriers in the other—these instances feel forced and can be frustrating because you're not sure WHERE that just happened in the other time.
The combat is shallow and repetitious, asking you to mash the Y button (and A button for web-grappling) along with a few token special attacks which actually aren't that helpful. Ironically, the fiercer-looking enemies go down very quickly while the normal, run-of-the-mill security guards take a dog's age to kill. You can combo, uppercut, throw, and hammer these well-armored stallions until Doomsday and they somehow never die. The best part is that everybody respawns when you come back into an area. Thankfully, Open Ocean did get the web-swinging right: pressing B to swing to your heart's content is satisfying and quickly moves you around. Web-zipping to a wall or ceiling by pressing A (and a direction) is also nice. Boss fights are also interesting, but almost none of the bosses are recognizable (Remember Aracade? No? How about Menace?) and a few were actually invented for this game. Bosses do require a little bit of strategy to defeat—usually it comes in the form of waiting for an opening to attack or stunning first and punching later. They all go down pretty easily, too, once you figure out the pattern.
One more thing: the game is loaded with interesting bugs. I was reaching a point of frustration trying to get past one barrier as O'Hara because I knew I had to do something as Parker but didn't know what to do or where to do it. Out of desperation I wall-zipped onto the barrier and—poof—ended up on the other side of it. I'm pretty sure that wasn't supposed to happen, because later on I destroyed a random barrier as Parker and, in 2099, the barrier that was giving me so much trouble disappeared. I don't even think the two were correlated in space, but whatever. It was a funny glitch. There are also a number of graphical hiccups. While the world you inhabit is 3D, all of the characters are 2D sprites, and I encountered several instances where Spider-Man (either one) would assume a hilarious pose when getting hit, falling off a wall, or crawling on a wall he's not really supposed to fit on, such as doing a handstand sideways. And while there was never any slowdown, there were bizarre times where the screen would kind of flicker as a series of black bars shot up and down the playfield.
Spider-Man: Edge of Time is a frustrating game that I can't recommend. It's a shame, too, since I like the Gryptonite games and, based on Dark Void Zero, I had a lot of hope for Other Ocean's take on the formula. The game looks okay and there's voicework in the narration, but the game itself is pretty weak. There are good ideas here, but they're just not well implemented.