Spider-Man's second Metroid-inspired adventure stands to learn more from its progenitors.
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions for DS is a completely different experience that complements the home console versions. Instead of being a level-based action game, it is a Metroidvania-styled game focused on exploration, a concept introduced to portable Spider-Man games in 2008's Web of Shadows. Unfortunately, the exploration is uninspired and there is too much of a focus on combat. It is still a fun, short romp, but it's hampered from being a great game.
The plot of Shattered Dimensions isn't enthralling, but it sets up the framework for the game nicely. The Tablet of Order and Chaos has been stolen by Mysterio and broken into pieces. It's up to three different Spider-Men (the prototypical Amazing, the shadow-focused Noir, and the futuristic 2099) to team up, collect the tablets, and save the day. Throughout the game, you have to find portals to switch between each character, each with their own unique map to explore.
The maps are fun to explore, courtesy of how great it is to swing as Spidey. These areas are open, but the game is very linear as you go from point A to point B. Along the way, you can go off the beaten path and collect numerous power-ups that give you new abilities or upgrade your health or damage. The power-ups are usually sealed off by a lock of some sort, and you need to find the 'key,' which usually comes in the form of stronger webbing or a new ability. This wouldn't be so bad, if the way to each power-up wasn't so bland.
The combat system starts off being very ordinary and only picks up near the very end of the game when you get cooler combos and abilities. It's based around using a combination of melee attacks, disarming, and dodging to defeat endless onslaughts of generic enemies that range from robots to gangsters. It's rewarding in short bursts, but since it makes up the majority of the gameplay, it falls apart over time. I don't care if Spider-Man might spend most of his time swinging between enemies to avoid being beaten to death in the world of the comics; it isn't fun to do this in a side-scrolling video game.
The game's greatest offense is the brief segments that you have to complete to go between dimensions. Using the stylus, you have to spin a tablet while tapping and/or holding on attacking enemies. The touch screen detection for these segments is inconsistent, and they just aren't fun. It's all right in the beginning when they're easy to defeat, but it's very frustrating once they get more difficult.
Overall, the game is very short. It's feasible to finish the game with close to 100 percent on your first playthrough in five hours or less. You unlock various difficult challenges, alternate costumes, and other modes, but there isn't much reason to drudge yourself through everything after you beat the game the first time.
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions has its faults, but it's still an all right game for fans of Spider-Man and the genre. If you like the wall-crawler and want to run through a mediocre Metroidvania game, then buy this one without hesitation.