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Spider-Man 2 DS

by Jonathan Metts - November 23, 2004, 9:02 pm PST


He does whatever a spider can, which apparently involves beating up the same thugs over and over.

Spider-Man 2 for Nintendo DS is a game that seems so promising the first time you play it. The controls are pretty good (which is saying a lot for any Spider-Man game), the graphics are fantastic, and the game moves along at a brisk pace. From a few minutes of playing, it seems like a great action game for the DS launch. Unfortunately, the game never develops into a solid experience, thanks to a host of design flaws that clash directly with the impressive technology.

Much of the blame can be placed on the game’s level designs. Spider-Man has several cool moves, like wall-crawling, web-swinging, and web zip lines. None of these abilities are of much use in the cramped, maze-like stages. The fact that the game scrolls very quickly (and looks great while doing so) is offset by the obstacle-laden architecture of the levels. Walls and ceilings are lined with fire to keep you from crawling by. Platforms are too dense for web-swinging to be useful. Buildings lack overhangs for you to quickly web zip upwards; instead, you have to very slowly crawl up, sometimes for twenty seconds or more to get to the top. This is the first Spider-Man game I’ve played that could be called boring, and that’s due in large part to the frustrating level designs. There is no flow as you move through the level. No sense of freedom.

It doesn’t help at all that the missions are bland and repetitive, not to mention absurdly difficult and unrewarding. Most missions require you to clear out the entire level of enemies, every single one, then make it to a certain location, and sometimes find several hostages, all within a strict time limit. It’s basically a scavenger hunt on every level, but instead of searching for coins or keys, you’re looking for enemies, which are all defeated with the same jump kick and/or three-button combo. If you miss a single enemy before you get to the end, you’ll have to go back and try to find him before time runs out. Of course, the levels are repetitive themselves, so it’s very difficult to tell where you’ve been and where you might have overlooked. This forces you to play each level in a methodical fashion, moving forward slowly and clearing out space as you go like a SWAT team, in order to have any chance of weeding out every thug and finishing in time. It’s not in the spirit of Spider-Man at all, and worse, it’s not very much fun. The combat is decent but should not be serving as the core gameplay element. This game never builds momentum because it treats Spider-Man like Mike Haggar from Final Fight and not like the carefree, fast-talking, fast-swinging hero he is.

The issue of difficulty really must be addressed with this game. I’m not afraid of hard games, and in fact, most of my friends would say that I’m a pretty skilled player. So, I was a bit surprised to find myself stuck on only the second level of Spider-Man 2. If I needed to learn the controls better or use different attacks, I’d be happy to oblige, and in fact, I would commend the game for making me learn how to play through challenges. However, the solution to getting past that level and many subsequent ones turns out to be the methodical flushing-out strategy outlined above. When the game is so hard that you have to adopt a less than entertaining approach just to advance, there is a problem. But at least you learn new special moves as you go, right? No, not unless you can achieve near-perfection in each level to unlock those moves. Unless you’re completely obsessed with the game and willing to spend hours working on Goldeneye-esque speed runs through each level, expect to finish with the same three special moves you started with. At least the touch screen interface for selecting those special moves is easy to use and occasionally handy.

Spider-Man 2 DS isn’t a worthless game, and it is certainly a technical feat, but Vicarious Visions can do much better…in fact, they already have, with the same franchise. Spider-Man: Mysterio’s Menace on Game Boy Advance is much more fun than this dud. My advice is to go pick that up and plug it into your shiny new DS.


Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
9 6.5 7 5 4 6

3D graphics complement the 2D gameplay nicely…like Viewtiful Joe, though less stylized. Spider-Man is fluidly animated, which is so important. Levels are internally repetitive, making it hard to tell where you’ve been, and some levels are reused over multiple missions.


Vaguely techno music marks the game as being related to the other versions of Spider-Man 2. For as much trash talking as Spidey does in text, it would be nice to hear some voice-acting.


The basics work very well, and there’s never any doubt about how to stick to walls or web-swing. Using the touch screen for special move selection is a simple but elegant solution. Nagging issues begin to surface after a couple hours of playing, like how slow Spidey crawls, and how you have to manually stand up from a crouch. Considering how much you crawl and crouch in this game, these things can be pretty annoying.


Blah. Find 20 enemies in this huge level within six minutes. If you miss one, you might as well give up, because you’ll never find him - and even if you do, you won’t make it back to the end of the level in time. When I read a Spider-Man comic or watch one of the movies, this is not what I imagine doing in a video game adaptation. Most of Spidey’s trademark moves are rendered cumbersome or useless by the level designs. If you’re patient and methodical, you can get through the game, but it won’t be much fun.


The game is not especially long, but it’s so dull and frustrating, it seems to take forever. There are hidden upgrades and special moves locked away on most levels. You’ll probably try for one or two of them and then give up completely, because it would take Spidey’s own speed and dexterity to get an “A” grade on even the first stage.


Spider-Man 2 turns in a lackluster showing for the Nintendo DS launch. There’s a fun game in here somewhere, buried under a pile of crappy missions and positively slow gameplay. Only the most devout Spider-Man fans could overlook this game’s problems.


  • 2D gameplay – good idea
  • Excellent graphics
  • Museum level
  • Boring, yet insanely difficult missions
  • Crawling is way too slow
  • Level designs bog down the gameplay
  • Unattainable special moves mock you from the touch screen
Review Page 2: Conclusion

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Genre Action
Developer Vicarious Visions

Worldwide Releases

na: Spider-Man 2 DS
Release Nov 21, 2004

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