Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Spider-Man vs. NYC

I grew up playing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin for the Genesis, and it is one of the earliest games for the system that my family owned. Maybe it was because of that, or because it was at the height of the comics boom, when everyone loved Spider-Man, but my brother and I loved this game. It's really not a very good game, but all that mattered was that it is a game that a kid can play as Spider-Man. It was the first game developed by Technopop, a company that only lasted through the nineties, whose only other notable game was the early console FPS Zero Tolerance, also for the Genesis.

Though it was later updated for the Sega CD, with added hilarious CD-i-quality cutscenes that I believe were entirely voiced by Cam Clarke, the story of Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin is pretty bad. The Kingpin puts a bomb in the city, then goes on television, not even giving his name, blaming Spider-Man for this hypothetically devastating bomb and offering a $10,000 award for his capture. I understand this causing vigilantes to try and stop him for the reward money, but for some reason the police also think that an uncorroborated rumor spread by a crime lord is enough reason to start attacking someone in the street. Also, since Kingpin's entire goal seems to be to troll the shit out Spider-Man, he has Mary Jane kidnapped.

This guy seems legit.
So, the premise is that Kingpin has a bomb that will go off in twenty-four hours unless Spider-Man finds all of the keys and disarm it before it blows up all of New York City. This causes one of the most annoying aspects of the game, a timer counting down at much faster than real time throughout most of the game, which will cause an instant game over. Another annoying feature is a limited supply of web fluid, requiring the player to take pictures of bosses in order to get money for more web fluid, even though being able to shoot web is essential to completing the game.

The worst problem with this game is that it feels awkward. It does okay with standard stuff like jumping, shooting web as an attack, and punching/kicking people. The problems are with the Spider-Man-specific techniques, specifically climbing on walls. It's not so bad in outdoor areas with building, where he can cling to walls in the background by holding down the jump button and climb higher by repeatedly jumping off of them, but once he gets indoors and needs climb walls in the foreground it can get annoying. The player needs to hold down the jump button, then press the direction of the wall or ceiling that he or she wants to cling to. Letting go of the jump button while pressing no direction causes Spider-Man to fall, but holding up while letting go causes him to leap up at a forty-five degree angle from the wall. It is just really weird and makes it difficult to navigate the platforming sometimes, especially in the enclosed vents.

He will keep trying to stab the air above Spidey's head forever.
On the positive side, web swinging around feels really good and gives the player a real sense of speed and momentum, as well as just he general sense of fun from the feeling of swinging around like Spider-Man. This is my favorite aspect of the game, though some levels are cramped inhibit the ability to freely use it. I also like that there are times when Spider-Man has to kick rats to death. It doesn't seem like something he would do, but it is quite comical. Another good thing is the way the game uses a great deal of Spider-Man's villains as bosses, and it will definitely please fans of the franchise from the time of the comic collectors boom of the 90's. There are even occasionally creative ways to deal with them, like spraying Sandman with a fire hydrant.

Sadly, combat in the game is also pretty damn awkward. The AI for many of the regular enemies is downright retarded, and some of the bosses and mid-bosses aren't much better. Bosses often follow a very strict pattern, going about their business no matter what Spider-Man is doing. The worst fight, though, is the final fight with Kingpin after the bomb is defused. Not only does the player need to continually hit him in his surprisingly small head, but also continually shoot web at Mary Jane to keep her from being lowered into a vat of boiling acid. It is really frustrating, but what makes it even worse is that the player can get a terrible ending in which Mary Jane is killed even if the Kingpin is defeated. On top of that, there is also an ending where Kingpin defeats Spider-Man and lowers him into acid with his wife, causing a game over and requiring the player to start the whole game over.

What the fuck?  There are so many things wrong with this.
I'm just glad I didn't grow up with the Sega CD version, which has a theme song by Mr. Big. I'm all for giving Cam Clarke work, but that version is just horrifying. Also, for some reason it is dedicated to the memory of Brandon Lee, of The Crow and being Bruce Lee's son fame, and Patrick Lippert, the activist that organized the Rock the Vote campaign, I guess because it was made in 1993 and that seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Maybe the developers knew them and I'm just being a dick. I dunno.

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