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It’s really hard to find a decent superhero game nowadays. Developers seem to have a hard time getting the formula just right for telling a superhero’s story; whether it’s game breaking glitches, terrible story, or controls that make you want to dropkick your console, something always goes wrong in the presentation. Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions defies the conventions that a superhero game is going to end up like Superman 64, and instead delivers a multi-dimensional gaming experience that is very enjoyable.
Shattered Dimensions is pure fan service. Basically you don’t get a whole lot of backstory, (unless you read the character bios) but the game is interesting enough to stand alone without prior knowledge of the different Spider-Men. The game features 4 different incarnations of our favorite wall crawler; you have the original Amazing Spider-Man, Spider-Man Noir, Ultimate Spider-Man, and Spider-Man 2099. During the game you switch between them on a mission by mission basis, and each Spider-Man brings something different to the table. The original Spider-Man doesn’t have anything special other than his attacks are web based and his combos are very easy to pull off. Spider-Man Noir has the ability to hide in the shadows and execute stealth takedowns, Splinter Cell style. Ultimate Spider-Man has the black symbiote suit, which allows him to activate a rage mode that allows him to take half damage while dealing double damage. Spider-Man 2099 can activate “accelerated vision” which slows down the action while letting him move at close to normal speeds.
The story is something straight out of a Spider-Man comic; Mysterio breaks into the Museum of Natural History to steal a valuable stone tablet. Spider-Man attempts to stop him and accidentally shatters the tablet, and it scatters over several dimensions. Madam Web, a very powerful psychic, enlists the 4 heroes to recover the pieces of tablets that have landed in their dimension. Along the way you’ll fight different incarnations of classic Spider-Man enemies such as Doctor Octopus, Hobgoblin, and Vulture. Each Spidey has different playing styles that help to break of the “go here, fight this” formula of superhero games. For instance, Noir Spider-Man’s levels consist mainly of stealth missions while Spider-Man 2099 has free fall sections in which you try to avoid objects while chasing the villain or escaping certain death.
Everything in this game looks like its straight from a comic book. The original Spider-Man has bold outline and vivid colors, Noir Spider-Man is completely in black and white, Ultimate Spider-Man has a glossy, sharp look, and Spiderman 2099 is a sensory overload on every level. It’s very apparent that a lot of time was spent on the character models, as each Spider-Man walks, moves, and swings slightly different. These differences really help each character to really stand on their own. It feels like 4 separate universes instead of the same characters copied and pasted from world to world. The voice acting puts the games presentation to a whole other level, as each Spider-Man has his own voice, jokes, and sense of humor. Each one, minus Spider-Man 2099, is a reincarnation of Peter Parker so they have similar voices, but the voice actors give each one a different tone depending on which character you are currently playing. Amazing Spider-Man makes clean wise cracking jokes, Noir Spidey has a dry, dark sense of humor, and Ultimate Spider-Man is edgy and sarcastic. Spider-Man 2099 isn’t Peter Parker, but rather Miguel O’Hara and has a different voice to correspond with the different identity, but it is just as well voiced and funny as the others. There are even a few cutscenes in the game that feature the voice of Spider-Man creator Stan Lee, which really ties the sound design together quite nicely.
The controls in Shattered Dimensions hold up well for the most part, except for some minor targeting problems. The game employs an auto-lock on feature that can be overruled by entering defensive stance, (triggered by holding down LT) and using the right stick to target your adversary. The only problem with this is that it causes you to strafe around your enemy, leaving you wide open to attacks. This is a minor inconvenience but can get more annoying when you are trying to throw an object at a specific enemy or attempting to focus on a boss rather than his minions. Combo attacks are divided between quick and strong attacks, mapped to X and Y respectively. You can alternate these along with grabs (B button) to dispatch your foes. The game also employs the webhead’s trademark “Spidersense,” which is indicated by radiating lines that come out Spider-Man’s head allowing him to evade or counter attacks. Pressing up on the directional pad will activate a “spidersense vision” that allows you to see collectibles, enemies, throwable items, and numerous other interactive objects.
As you complete levels you will also undoubtedly complete challenges that unlock “Spider Essence.” This is the game’s way of character development; as you complete levels or challenges you are awarded with this Essence, which is then used to buy costumes, move upgrades, or health/ability upgrades. When you complete a challenge on the “Web of Destiny” for a level, it unlocks the challenges around it so that you know which ones to take one. The challenges range from level progression to finding collectibles and are always optional. However; I recommend completing as many of the challenges as you can because the game can get frustrating if you don’t have enough Essence to upgrade your character.
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is certainly a good game. I have had some minor gitches which have rendered the game unplayable and I’ve had to restart at the last checkpoint; things like getting stuck on an object or having a character die while grabbing Spider-Man and he is forever stuck in a very strange pose that make him look like he is being branded right in the small of his back. I don’t consider these glitches to be game breaking, but they are disappointing in an otherwise stellar game. The game’s story, atmosphere, and humor are all amazing, but I feel like with just a little more bug testing and a little bit of backstory this could have been a near perfect title. Despite that, this is still the best Spider-Man game available, and one of the best superhero games as well. If you need a Spider-Man fix or you are just looking for a fun action-packed title, then this game is for you.