From the makers of Tony Hawk 2 on GBA...hell, that’s all I need to say.
Vicarious Visions is quickly becoming my favorite GBA developer. First they grace us with the handheld port of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, a tiny little cartridge held in esteem by practically everyone who’s ever played it. Now they’ve teamed up with Activision once more, this time for Spider-Man: Mysterio’s Menace, and while a few nit-picks shy of perfection, it is probably the best original action game yet released on the system.
Neversoft’s Spider-Man title for PSX (and later, N64) was noted primarily for its great control, one of the most vital aspects of any game based around such a versatile and lithe character as our ol’ webhead. VV’s new game for GBA is equally successful for the exact same reason: the play control is fantastic. You can shoot net or impact webbing in eight directions, stick to any wall or ceiling, swing whenever you damn well please, and beat down thugs with any number of combat moves. Everything is intuitive and responsive, and within a few minutes of playing, you’ll be pulling off some sweet acrobatics with no trouble at all.
The game’s other best attribute is the level design. Although there are only seven stages in all, each one is duly unique and incredibly large. Most are of the “get to the end” variety, and a couple mix things up by putting you on a scavenger hunt for hostages or valuable museum artifacts. Without exception, the levels are well-designed and a blast to explore. It’s usually pretty easy to blow straight through and get to the boss, but that would require knowing which way to go; without any sort of auto-map function, exploring becomes one of the main gameplay elements out of sheer necessity. Being thorough will earn you web and armor upgrades as well as plenty of power-ups; the upgrades also offer a great incentive to play through the stages again after you’re already beaten them, and they tend to be hidden very well.
Presentation is important for any licensed game, and Mysterio’s Menace does a pretty good job of showing off the Spidey mythos. The story is told through hi-color comic-style snapshots and Mr. Parker’s beautifully snappy dialogue; my only gripe here is that the villain roster will have fans scratching their heads and saying “Who?” Electro and Mysterio aren’t exactly the most exciting Spider-Man villains, and when they’re backed up by the likes of Hammerhead and The Big Wheel...come on. I like fresh faces, but it wouldn’t have killed them to toss in Venom or Doc Ock. Oh yeah, and there’s no battery save, but the passwords are only five characters long, and you only need a new one when you beat a stage or earn a new upgrade.
Spider-Man: Mysterio’s Menace is wickedly fun and manages to be a graphic and aural beauty on the side. It’s over a tad too quickly on the Easy setting...but quit being a pansy and play it on Normal or Hard. This is easily one of the best Spider-Man games ever made, and it’s the perfect purchase for fans of the radioactive arachnid or just action-heavy platformers in general.