Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Blasts From the Past: Spider-Man and Venom in Maximum Carnage

Ultimate insanity may be attained by playing this game...and not necessarily the good kind.

Original Platform- SNES, Sega Genesis
Developer- Software Creations
Release- 1994

It is arguable that out of nearly all of Marvel's superheroes that Spider-Man is their most iconic and well known superhero who has appeared outside of his own comics in several TV shows, movies, comic crossovers, and even video games. There are quite a lot of Spider-Man licensed video games which include several surprisingly good titles such as Spider Man for the N64, and Spider-Man Shattered Dimensions for the Xbox 360 and PS3, but there have been some not so great games such as the recent Spider-Man Edge of Time as well as the countless video game adaptations of the films. This particular game though is a little bit in between as it has some good points but it has slightly more bad points, however it is safe to say that fan reaction was much kinder to the game than the story arc it is based on. In fact its a wonder that this game even exists, given the terrible reception that the mini-series recieved both critically and commercially.

Based on the fourteen issue mini-series Maximum Carnage from 1993, the game centers around Spider-Man and his unlikely ally Venom's campaign to defeat Venom's spawn, Carnage and his supervillain allies in order to stop their mass killing spree. The game opens up with Cletus Kasady being transported to Ravencroft institute for study, but unknown to his escort Kasady has discovered that he can still transform into Carnage due to the symbiote bonding with his blood previously, and kills everyone around him in a gleeful bloodbath. He then finds some other super-powered allies including the psionic Shriek, Spidey's Doppleganger left over from the Infinity War, Carrion, whom can dissolve organic matter with a touch, and even the demonic Demogoblin. This new "family" then proceeds to wreak havoc upon the city thus forcing Spider-Man into action. Along the way Spidey finds himself teaming up with Venom and several other superhumans such as Iron Fist, Captain America, and Black Cat to put an end to Carnage once and for all.

To say that this game's plot is bad would be rather redundant given the hatred its source material recieved critically, and commercially (I actually kind of like the comic though), but this game makes the plot seem incredibly confusing and practically unfollowable. The story is told through comic panels pulled from the book, however there is little to no connection or continuity in these panels; also certain pages are missing key features with the WORST offender being the last comic panel before the credits (read or google it). If you haven't actually read Maximum Carnage then you'll be very lost and confused, so its better to just ignore the story and skip the cutscenes.

Art Direction
The backgrounds are decent, but rather uninspired as they consist mostly of alleyways, and rooftops with the occasionally different stage like the Baxter Building, and a nightclub, in fact the designers were too lazy to even name the stages anything other than "New York Streets" or "Rooftop 2". Some characters models look pretty good and fit in with the comic book art style, but others like Captain America, and Iron Fist look downright terrible!, not to mention almost all of your enemies are just the same five generic thug characters consisting of guy in trenchcoat, guy in hat, girls, fat guys, and guys in suits with umbrellas who are all frequently re-colored for the illusion of enemy variety.Sounds are very bland as well and just consist of somewhat satisfying punch sounds and the same cries of pain from all the characters when hit or KOed. The soundtrack is pretty memorable, having been composed by the metal band Green Jelly, but really only consists of three or four tracks.

Similar to other games such as Final Fight, Maximum Carnage is a side-scrolling beat-em-up in which you control Spider-Man, and later have the option to play as Venom. Spidey is fast and easy to control, while Venom is a slow, hulking powerhouse, but aside from this the only other differences are aesthetic. Both characters have a combination attack, a jump kick, a special invincible spinning attack that costs a fraction of health to use (not worth using, except on the final boss), and a variety of web moves that can immobolize a single enemy briefly, shield them from weak attacks, or pull an enemy towards them for either a quick combo, or to hoist said enemy up over their shoulders and throw them at other enemies (the same can be done with various items like garbage cans, and barrels). In an effort to maintain the illusion that "you are Spider-Man" web-swinging, and wall crawling are in the game, but both feel very tacked on, and serve very little purpose other than finding hidden items in the upper parts of the screen.

While its no secret that most beat-em-ups (even the good ones) can be rather repetitive, this game really takes the cake. Of course fighting wave after wave of enemies can get rather boring, but what makes this game's repetition so frustrating is the boss battles. EVERY BOSS BATTLE IS THE EXACT SAME SCHTICK! The only thing that changes is the addition of a new boss every encounter; for example, at first you will only have to fight Doppleganger, then in the next boss stage you fight Doppleganger and Shriek, then Doppleganger, Shriek, and Demogoblin, then finally Doppleganger, Shriek, Demogoblin, Carrion, AND Carnage with two villains fighting at a time and being replaced by the next when one is defeated, after that it becomes the same battle practically every other level, not only is this boring, it is incredibly frustrating when the villains team up and beat the stuffing out of you while you're powerless to do anything. Occasionally you will battle one of the villains solo like in the final showdown with Carnage, but usually there is little difference in their tactics other than having increased health and damage. Its hard, its rather unfair, and its very frustrating.

The most effective way to beat this game is rather obvious, pick up EVERY extra continue, extra life, and health pick-up you find, and in its one act of mercy, the game has a liberal amount of each, though they are usually hidden in the upper areas and can be incredibly hard to reach while under enemy pressure. Also scattered throughout the game are nine different kinds of special icons that allow you to call in the superhero depicted to assist Spider-Man or Venom in various fashions, and some even have different actions depending on which character the player is using. For example; Iron Fist will fully heal Spider-Man, but will attack most on-screen enemies when Venom calls him, while Cloak will eliminate all regular enemies and heavily damage all on-screen bosses no matter who called him, but unlike other pick-ups these icons are rather rare and should be saved for emergencies (though they cannot be used in the final showdown with Carnage) There are also several secret rooms containing caches of lives and superhero summons hidden throughout the game, but good luck finding them without a guide since their positions are not obvious, and require precise actions to enter.

To be honest, this game really doesn't feel all that much like a Spider-Man game. Being Spider-Man would bring to mind images of web-slinging through New York City, performing acrobactic stunts, and infiltrating villain hide-outs; not walking around New York pummeling various rioters. It has good elements such as the ability to call in other superheroes, and rather tight controls, but the repetition and difficulty in both regular stages and boss battles just makes this game really frustrating. Perhaps if this game wasn't based on a particular mini-series it would have been a much better game as it wouldn't have been as limited in its potential villain roster for boss battles. In short this is one of the bad aspects of having a game or movie follow its source material too closely. I can really only recommend this game to Marvel and heavy beat-em-up fans, as most inexperienced gamers will have their head unfairly handed to them by the game many times.

This one is for fans of the character and genre only, others will be put off by its difficulty and repetition.

Wanna play it? Look below for information on how to get it.

Which Version?
They are essentially the same game, but the SNES has better sound quality and visuals, ultimately it boils down to preference and if you have an SNES or Genesis.

Where to get it?
Amazon- Its kind of expensive online, but do not pay more than 13$ at most for the game

Sega Genesis-

Game X Change- It was a fairly common game so you can probably find it for under 9$ at a used game store.

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