Spider-Man: Edge of Time Review
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions was a really good game. It was a lot of fun, the four different Spider-Man incarnations offered plenty of variety and diversity, the environments differed on a routine basis, the upgrading was surprisingly deep and satisfying, and the story wasn’t too terrible. And while I do applaud Beenox for trying to implement game-changing alterations in this year’s Edge of Time, I find the new production to be distinctly less appealing. It’s prettier and sleeker, and the time-shifting mechanics can be entertaining, but it feels more…claustrophobic.
Before I explain, let me tackle that “prettier and sleeker” statement. Spider-Man: Edge of Time isn’t exactly technically superior, nor is it meticulously detailed and defined. There’s this futuristic sheen to everything, which is pleasant to the eye but still somewhat lacking in richness and voluptuousness. There just isn’t as much life infused into this presentation, and it doesn’t help that we spend the entire adventure running around one environment (Alchemax). The special effects are definitely worth noting, though, and the character design is good.
Sound-wise, you really have to like the two Spider-Man voices; if not, this one is going to get really tiring, really fast. Thankfully, the voice performances aren’t bad and during some entertaining banter, they become the highlight of the game. It’s just that Spidey 1 and Spidey 2 never really say anything all that important, so you’re left with a decent soundtrack that is nowhere near prominent enough, and some crisp audio effects that serve to bolster the ceaseless combat. It’s not a bad-sounding game at all; it just feels a little bland overall.
So it’s the year 2099, and an evil scientist named Walker Sloan discovers the mystery of mysteries: he has found a way to change history. Of course, the first thing he does with this Godlike power is to alter the past so his company, Alchemax, can become a corporate superpower. The 2099 Spider-Man – Miguel O’Hara – doesn’t like how things have turned out. With me so far? In the past, Peter Parker works for Alchemax, and he has to give his DNA to the company. Later, back in the future, Miguel uses this DNA to create a chronal device that lets him communicate with Peter.
Yeah, it’s convoluted. But they really don’t spend a heck of a lot of time with storyline development, so maybe it doesn’t matter much. You’ll catch strange terms and phrases that probably don’t belong in a superhero game (“Einstein-Rosen Bridge,” “Chronal Energy Polarity,” etc.) but again, they’re not exactly crucial elements. The cool part about Peter and Miguel (the Amazing Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2099 respectively) is that they work together through time; i.e., if Miguel can’t advance in the future, Peter can help from the past.
Trading off between the two Spidey personas works and flows well. The only problem is that their goals and objectives are about as ho-hum as humanly possible. Most of the time, you’re just trying to get a key to unlock another door; a real exotic mission might have you destroying a generator or something. Eventually, you just get bored with the same set of trivial objectives, so you try to focus on the combat. Obviously, this is the crux of the gameplay and at first, it seems to be a big plus.
The time-altering powers are very entertaining. Peter gets a boost of supreme speed while Miguel actually phases through time, leaving behind an outline of himself that foes stupidly attack. It’s a little difficult to keep track of things during frantic fighting sequences, especially because the effects are plenty flashy and both Spider-Mans are silly fast. It’s great during the first hour or so but in subsequent hours, the game begins to get very repetitive and you realize that those sweet time-based abilities make combo skills almost irrelevant.
It isn’t hard to mash away at the gamepad and pile up hundreds of hits in a row. The combat isn’t all that challenging, which I don’t really mind, but it never really feels like we’re progressing or learning much of anything new. Skills and combos are fine to have – and they do exist – but the time stuff just overshadows everything. When you factor in the repetitiveness of your surroundings, you end up with a game that feels a lot less various and engaging than Shattered Dimensions. How many different rooms can Alchemax possibly have, anyway?
It limits the web-slinging, putting the emphasis squarely on the fighting, which in turn focuses too much on the simple-to-execute, overpowered time-based abilities. The Web of Challenges has returned, which adds to the longevity again, the control and camera are both functional (if not completely stable), the fighting is fun to some extent, and being super powerful is a heady experience. But I miss Spider-Man Noir, and the blandness of the missions in this game finally got to me. I never really felt as if I was doing anything.
Spider-Man: Edge of Time is a competent action game with lots of flash and some interesting and contrasting art styles across two time periods. But the repetition of the environment hinders that art style, the triviality of our objectives gets tiring, and the overemphasis on time-shifting stuff in combat gives us an excuse to ignore combos. Those combos still exist, though, so the dedicated can try to master them, but they’ll soon find that time-altering ability to be superior. This one is fan and stable, but it lacks the inspiration of Shattered Dimensions.
The Good: Slick presentation. Some decent voices, including Val Kilmer as Walker Sloan. Combat can be tons of fun. Control and camera are decent. The time shift is a cool concept.
The Bad: Repetitive environments. Boring, trivial goals and objectives. Time-based abilities almost nullify the need for difficult combos. Little exploration, less web-slinging. Convoluted storyline.
The Ugly: “Oh look, another key. …oh joy.”
10/10/2011 Ben Dutka