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Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions
Score: 97%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Beenox
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action

Graphics & Sound:
Spider-Man Shattered Dimensions is beautiful on the PS3. The cel-shading gives it an appropriate cartoon feel, while the dialogue of our web-headed friend is dead on, with lines such as my favorite, "This neighborhood isn't going to friendly itself."

The dialogue is well done, from classic Spidey banter to the voices of various baddies and Madame Web. The one place that the dialogue can get a bit old is from the run-of-the-mill grunts who will say the same things over and over. They have several things they'll say, but sometimes they get really chatty and overwork their list of sayings. Also, the sayings don't seem to be very contextual; I have had Spidey on the wall, just out of the goons' reach and had them say several times that they don't believe in Spider-Man... "He's just a myth." Still, I'm a bit of a camper, so if you're more of an get-up-in-their-face sort of player, your enemies might not be around long enough to repeat themselves much.

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions has an excellent presentation, great voicework throughout - which takes a lot, what with four different versions of Spider-Man and Deadpool all in the same game; that's a lot of witticism for one game.

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is a game that is designed as fan-service, and could only have been made by developers who were big fans of the web-head. Thanks to the multideminsional plot and intervention of the mystical Madame Web, you get to play as different versions of Spider-Man in various dimensions. There's the Amazing Spider-Man (from the Amazing Universe) with the most cartoon-y look, Ultimate Spider-Man (from the Ultimate Universe) armed with the black-suit symbiont, Spider-Man 2099 (from the future - the year 2099, to be exact) and Noir Spider-Man (from Chicago... um, I mean the Noir Universe, an alternate universe in the past). Each of these versions of Spider-Man has its own unique feel, but in the interests of lowering the learning curve, Madame Web "enhances" each Spidey's abilities at the beginning of the game, putting them pretty much on an even keel and keeping the controls from being an utter nightmare.

While I'm partial to every variety of Spider-Man, I find that Noir Spider-Man works exceptionally well in terms of gameplay. The Noir sections of Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions play much like Batman: Arkham Asylum, and it works to the point that it seems like the Batman game somehow stole it from Spider-Man. Sidestepping the Marvel vs. DC argument and the Batman vs. Spider-Man argument, I'll just say that while the Noir Spider-Man had a similar feeling to Arkham Asylum, it worked - very well - for Spider-Man and it felt... right.

This Spidey game does a good job of doing it all. There are stealthy parts, courtesy of Noir Spider-Man, lots of web-slinging, fighting... even some hand-to-face combat, with a "boxing" mechanic that is used at certain times in the boss fights. This mechanic is a nice touch and, coupled with the web attack evade (where Spidey twips himself in for an attack, but then jumps over his enemy to attack from behind) conjured up old memories of some of Spider-Man's most colossal conflicts, where he bounces around an enemy, punching again and again, refusing to lose, refusing to give up and then, suddenly, he's done and Firelord is unconscious in front of him. That's the Spider-Man I grew up reading.

There aren't really any "puzzles" that I can remember, but there are definitely some ways of going about things that are better than others. Watch the environment around you for things that you can use to your advantage. There are ways to play "smart" if you watch out for them.

In addition to the main goal directly ahead of you, there are also lots of little challenges to try to complete. These challenges are displayed in the Web of Destiny, a challenge map, of sorts. This map describes the secret bonus challenges that are available and as you complete challenges, others are revealed. The points you earn from these challenges can be spent on combat upgrades and character upgrades, gaining new attacks, stat enhancements and alternate costumes. In addition, you'll want to collect the floating Spider emblems, which give you points and replenish your health, as well as hidden golden spiders, which also replenish your health and are part of collection challenges in each level.

I found the controls took a little getting used to at first, but as I progressed, I purchased new moves that fit with my personal play-style (which, primarily, involved hitting (Square) a lot of times). Increasing my arsenal of (Square)-based attacks let me increase my attack effectiveness without bothering with the more complex button-combination moves... at least so far.

There are three difficulty levels to choose from in Spider-Man Shattered Dimensions: Easy, Normal and Hard. The default is Normal, and I found that was where I felt most comfortable. Being a Spidey fan from a long way back and having played most of the Spider-Man videogames ever made (if you don't count handheld games), I figured I could at least scrape by on Hard. Kraven had different thoughts about that. However, when I restarted the level on Normal, I got through Kraven's level without much resistance. I played through one level on Easy, all the way through, just to see what the differences were, and it seemed that I was taking less damage when I got hit, making the game quite a bit more forgiving. I whipped through this level pretty easily, all the way to the final boss fight, but that fight was a bit more challenging. I could see that there were typical "boss fight" patterns that I needed to follow, but I was able to do some damage to the boss without doing the "expected" thing. To actually beat him, however, I had to actually get the pattern right. When playing through on Easy, I died once, in the final boss fight, and made it through on my second attempt.

So, why select a higher difficulty? Well, in addition to the extra challenge, there are greater rewards, in the form of what's unlocked when you complete the level. Completing levels on Easy unlocks character biographies, Normal gets you that and concept art and Hard gets you all of the above and 3D models of the characters.

If you find Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions to be a bit difficult, bear in mind that, regardless of what the storyline may say, most events aren't timed. Sure, there are certain challenges that require that you accomplish something in a certain amount of time, and there are bonus points awarded for completing levels quickly, but most of the "save the civilians" missions don't have a timer. You can still save the universe (multiverse?) without continually web-zipping headlong into danger. You actually can take time to plan your strategies - especially if you're hanging around on walls, a trick very few of your enemies can do, leaving you somewhat lonely and contemplative of your next attack (hint, hint).

Finally, if you find yourself getting stuck on a given level, you may want to spend some points on upgrades that apply to your current predicament or, if that doesn't work for you, simply take a break from the current mission and try one of the other available dimension's missions... at any given time, you will have as many as four new missions available, and if you absolutely have to, you can go back to previous levels to complete missed challenges, so you can gain the needed points to upgrade.

Game Mechanics:
"Can he swing from a thread..."

...No, he can't... not at the moment.

Sound strange? I thought so, too. In the beginning of the game, Madame Web bestows the power of "web-swinging" on Noir Spider-Man, so that all four incarnations would have that ability. So you can swing around on webs. Except when you can't. Certain parts of certain levels (usually for no given reason at all) restrict your ability to swing around on your webs. When you try and you're not currently allowed to, an icon of a web with a you-can't-do-that symbol over it shows up to indicate that you won't be able to do that, here. Furthermore, as you approach certain pivotal plot points (and an impending cut-scene), you will find that Spidey hunches over and refuses to do anything other than walk slowly in the direction you point him. These points are especially annoying to me; if I can't choose what to do, why not simply make his entrance part of the cut-scene?

The boxing bit isn't overused, in my opinion, and it adds a nice bit of variety; it's a nice extra mechanic... almost a mini-game, in some cases. To contrast, I could have done completely without the inclusion of the 2D wall-crawling stealth "platformer" mechanic in one of Noir Spider-Man's missions.

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions compares quite favorably with Batman: Arkham Asylum, but falls short on the game's length. I'm a Spidey fan all the way, but Shattered Dimensions - as it comes in the box - is not quite as staggering as Arkham Asylum, partially because as groundbreaking as Shattered Dimensions may be, Arkham Asylum broke that ground already... and partially because it's just not as long... or as epic a game as Batman: Arkham Asylum; while Arkham Asylum is free-roaming open world, Shattered Dimensions is level-based and a lot more linear.

Yes, yes, I know I'm griping, but only because I'm supposed to find things to gripe about. Truth told, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions and Batman: Arkham Asylum are nearly tied for "best superhero comic-licensed game." While that might not have meant much only a few years back, superhero license games aren't at all what they used to be. They seem to be aspiring to greatness. I sincerely hope this trend continues and I heavily recommend Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions to anyone who likes comic-book videogames. It's an awesome ride.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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