|While not nearly the knockout Arkham Asylum was its still pretty good|
Of all the characters in Marvel's roster it barely arguable that Spider-Man is the most well-known and popular next to maybe the X-Men. Due to this popularity it is only natural that there would be a flurry of video games with the wall-crawlers license pasted over them. While some games were pretty good like Spider-Man for the PS1 most of them have been pretty "meh" and even downright awful. This can mostly be blamed on Acclaim and currently Activision, the main holders of the Spider-Man video game license whom are both infamous for not knowing exactly how to use their licenses properly and for rushing games to the market to achieve a quick profit. However Activision has finally produced a gem amidst the recent horrible movie tie-ins known as Spider-Man Shattered Dimensions.
Shattered Dimensions opens with the iconic voice of former writer and president of Marvel Comics Stan Lee (which provoked a cheerful response from me) narrating the story. A valuable artifact known as the Tablet of Order and Chaos is on display at Empire State University which naturally here the Marvel universe means some villain is going to attempt to steal it; the said villain is none other than Mysterio: the master of illusion whom is fortunately one of Spidey's easier to defeat villains, until however in the ensuing fight Mysterio discovers that the tablet can grant power and thus gains true magical powers in place of his hologram based weaponry. But before he can use there new abilities Spider-Man shatters the tablet when Mysterio holds it up in defense, possessing one shard of the tablet Mysterio teleports away.
Spider-Man is then confronted by the blind psychic Madame Web who reveals to him the nature of the tablet and that the tablet shards have fallen into the hand of many different villains. She then informs him that it is up to him to retrieve the pieces.......all four of him to be exact. As it turns out the tablet shards have been scattered throughout the main dimension as well as the Ultimate, Noir, and 2099 dimensions, each of which having a different incarnation of the web-head. Together the four Spider-Men must put the tablet back together and fix reality before the villains destroy it with their newly enhanced powers.
I can't really say much else about the story without spoilers, but that is assuming that you won't predict what will happen next anyway due to the lack of twists or surprises in the plot. It does the basic job of a story for an action game in that it sets up the conflict into a coherent but linear chain of events and does nothing more.
With four different dimensions come three different art styles, while all of them have a cel-shaded comic-book feel to them each dimension differs in terms of overall visuals. The Amazing (main) and Ultimate dimensions have a greater comic-book look to them in that they are traditionally colored and structured like their comic-book counterparts, the Noir dimension is a gritty black and white world set in the 1930s and based on the Marvel Noir universe, and the 2099 dimension is a bright techno-city with flashing lights and a sleek metallic look.
While the overall graphics are rather dated (what did you expect from Activision on a non-FPS title?) this game's visual appeal comes from the differentiation between each dimension as each dimension is made unique by its individual look while the only ones that share the same visuals are the Amazing and Ultimate dimensions.
On the other hand this games voice acting and writing is incredible! Next to his powers and his complicated love-life the trait that we remember most about the web-slinger is his tendency to make wisecracks about about everything. Spidey sounds as great as ever in this game with his characteristic smart mouth and smack-talk as well written as ever. However instead of one voice actor we get four different ones including Neil Patrick Harris as the main dimension Spider-Man as well as Christopher Daniel Barnes as Spider-Man Noir. While Spidey is the star of the show other character such as Madame Web and the various villains are also perfectly cast.
Departing from the open ended nature of the previous games such as Ultimate Spider-Man, this game uses a linear string of selectable levels to advance the plot similar to Spider-Man for the PS1. While this seems more like a step backward this works out surprisingly well as it would be rather time consuming to have four completely open dimensions to move through. Each chapter is divided into four levels for each of the different Spider-Men with a different cutscene event opening and ending each chapter.
While controls for each web-slinger are similar each one plays way differently from each other. The main Spider-Man uses a combination of melee and web attacks allowing him to fight both up close and at range, making him the most balanced out of all the characters. Ultimate Spider-Man however is clad in the black symbiote suit and can use it's tendrils to lash out and strike from a distance, he also has a special rage mode that greatly increases his attack power but consumes rage from the meter which can be built up by fighting. Noir Spider-Man has very low health and must sneak around in the dark and silence his armed enemies from behind with stealth attacks, And finally Spider-Man 2099 has talons that make him deadly up close and has a special speed mode which allows him to dodge even homing missiles.
While there are several differences between the characters the combat format is the same for each dimension except for Noir. You have a mixture of light and heavy attacks that can be strung together into devastating combos. You also have a dodge button that can be held to automatically dodge weaker enemies' punches, however for bigger enemies you have to move the stick while holding the button to leap out of the way and sometimes you will have to tap the dodge-button at the right moment to dodge blade-wielding enemies. Spidey also has a Spider-Sense mode which allows him to see enemies and objects through walls and across distances (hmmm sounds a little like detective mode from Arkham Asylum).
In the Noir dimension you have to sneak around and quietly take down enemies and rescue hostages. In order to do this Spidey must sneak up behind his target and perform a stealth takedown which can be performed from basically any position as long as it is close enough to the enemy and not in the vicinity of another enemy. To be blunt the Noir dimension is a very blatant rip-off of Batman Arkham Asylum as it is similar to it in every way except for the ways to take bad guys down as you can only isolate them and pull them to you in Shattered Dimensions as opposed to the many ways to do so in Arkham Asylum.
As you fight enemies you will gain XP which can be spent on upgrading Spider-Man's abilities and health, some upgrades as specific to one Spider-Man while others affect all three of them. In order to unlock these upgrades for purchase though you must complete several tasks from the Web of Destiny which can be simply playing through the stage and defeating the boss or can be side-missions such as defeating a group of enemies in a certain amount of time.
Each stage has a different villain that must be chased and fought at the middle and end of the stage which sadly leads to the game feeling like an extended chase sequence as you pursue villains such as Kraven The Hunter, Hobgoblin, and even Deadpool (you know, that one anti-hero people pretend that they know) through the stage fighting their minions (or in Deadpool's case fanboys), and eventually catching and engaging them.
Perhaps the high point of the game are its boss fights which are very fun and diverse. Each villain has to be taken down in a certain fashion forcing you to actually think during the fights with occasional help from Madame Web who will drop a hint on how to hurt them. Some boss have to be struck in certain areas, some have to be dizzied or have force fields broken; its pretty safe to say that no two boss fights are the same in this game. Perhaps the coolest and most satisfying part of boss fights are the up-close first person fights in which you use the analogue sticks to deliver a flurry of punches to different parts of the boss's body, you also counter and dodge in this mode by holding both sticks back when the boss attacks.
Sadly we all knew that one little bad aspect was for sure going to show up in this game.....thats right, the camera. The camera is incredibly difficult to control and will be flying all over the place especially while web slinging, fighting, and well-crawling. This can provide a bit of frustration and will take some getting used to. There are also a few glitches throughout the game that are mostly audio-related such as voice repeating and music vanishing or looping on certain sections, which can grow quite irritating.
Like Arkham Asylum replay is rather limited as the only thing that constitutes a replay is a higher difficulty level. There is enough to satisfy completionists seeking a 100% but there is no motivation to start another playthrough anytime soon after completing the game.
Shattered Dimensions is proof that Activision is capable of much better than their recent dreck like X-Men Destiny provided that they do not rush the developers and released half-baked games in an attempt to make a quick buck off of fans of the respective super-humans. Is it as good as Spider-Man for the PS1? No. Is it on par with the recent Batman games? Heck no. But its still a pretty darn good game and is certainly worth a purchase now that you can get it for a reduced price.
Buy it used or rent it.