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Spider-Man: Edge of Time (Games)
E10+ (Everyone 10 and older)
October 04, 2011
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- Price: $29.99
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Reviewed by High-Def Digest Staff
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Close to a year ago, Quebec-based developer Beenox, teamed up with Activision to hit a home run in video game form. They released Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions – a game which did a great job of creating a linear yet creative inter-dimensional experience for the well-know web-crawler and three other creative variations based around his core assets. Although the game wasn’t perfect, it was one of the best superhero games released in a while. Polished, interesting and unique, it was something different from what we’d previously seen. Every level had its own boss-based theme and enemies, which was incredibly neat.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
Fast-forward to the present, where we’ve seen the release of Spider-Man: Edge of Time; a spiritual follow-up to Shattered Dimensions from the same combination of studio and publisher. A game which a lot of people had high hopes for, upon hearing of its development. To be frank, it’s a bit of a step backward, especially in comparison to what was released a year ago. A mixed bag if you will, it’s merely decent, being devoid of a lot of the creativity, which made its predecessor such a fun game.
Spider-Man: Edge of Time continues along with the idea of inter-dimensional gameplay, taking things a bit further this time around. Having eliminated Spider-Man Noir and Ultimate Spider-Man from the equation for this outing, the team at Beenox decided to add in heavy elements of time travelling. It’s an interesting idea, which is used quite a bit, though its existence is admittedly a bit tough to believe, leading the storyline to occasionally become convoluted.
Our web-filled adventure begins in a troubling manner, as the red and blue Spider-Man we all know and love is on his last legs. The cause of it all is Anti-Venom, who is able to eliminate our hero’s powers with just a touch, drastically weakening him. That ugly white and black beast finishes the job just before a futuristic human arachnid makes his way through a time-travelling portal.
Those familiar with Marvel’s crafted and complex Spider-Man lore will know this hero by both his personal name and his assumed, costumed moniker. For the uninitiated, those identifiers are Miguel O’Hara and, as he’s better know, Spider-Man 2099. He’s the futuristic take on Stan Lee’s radioactive reporter, though he’s not as much of a people person as we’re used to. That’s fine though, because his heart is in the right place.
With this dangerous opening, full of near-death circumstance, Spider-Man: Edge of Time takes a page out of Hollywood’s book. Instead of starting from the beginning, it decides to jump in partway, to get the blood pumping early. This approach does do a pretty good job of creating intrigue and interest, before the game quickly swings back in time to show the events that led to this angry confrontation.
After having the rewind button pushed down heavily, players are treated to a pretty well crafted opening credit sequence as Spider-Man 2099 crawls through a vent in his workplace. The building in question is home to Alchemax, a very powerful, high-tech company, with some cooks leading its front office. Running the show from the ground level is Walker Sloan (voiced by Val Kilmer,) who has placed himself on his superhero employee’s spider sense, due to strange activities. Crawling through the vents above him, players must watch and listen as his devious intent is unveiled through a discussion with a trusted ally.
During this spy mission, players learn that Alchemax is feeling pressured by its rival: The Stark/Fujikawa Company. Their heated rivalry becoming a nuisance, Walker Sloan decides to go on the offensive, with the help of a time travel portal that is conveniently set-up inside of the company’s futuristic and technological headquarters. His plan is to go back quite a few years, in order to create his company much earlier than it was originally crafted. Using hindsight, advanced knowledge and improved technology, the aim is to snuff out the competition before they can even become a player.
Based on the rules of just about every piece of time-travelling fiction on the market, it becomes obvious that nothing good can come out of this plan. It’s not just a terribly evil business venture; it’s also an action, which will have a terrible effect on the world at large. Those warnings prove to be true here, as the early emergence of Alchemax creates a terrible, dystopian version of New York City, in which the company takes the place of the Daily Bugle as Peter Parker’s employer.
Hopefully you’re following along well thus far, because things get a bit weird at this point. Then again, it’s not like time-travelling and inter-dimensional conflict is exactly normal. You see; Spider-Man 2099 somehow managed to grab a piece of Mr. Parker’s DNA, tracing back a little while before his demise at the hands of Anti-Venom. Through some strange sort of genetic communication, the futuristic arachnid makes contact, warning an unbelieving pal of his imminent demise. This begins the pair’s dimension-maneuvering quest to stop Walker Sloan and his allies from altering what the world should have been.
While Shattered Dimensions featured four different Spider-Man characters in their own separate universes, Edge of Time occasionally decides to mix things up by swapping the two characters’ worlds. It does so using the aforementioned time portal, which plays an understandably large role in how the story unfolds. This would be more interesting if every second of the game didn’t take place in one office building.
What is a surprising design idea becomes dull after a while, as you’re forced to stare at four walls and a ceiling for approximately six to eight hours. There are some themed areas, but the game world still feels much too confined and devoid of personality, to take proper advantage of its heroes’ abilities. It eventually becomes a boring piece of architectural confinement. Perhaps challenge missions or some sort of flashback episode could have broken up this tedium, by introducing a varied landscape to swing and battle through.
Showcased throughout your time in each dimension is the idea of quantum causality. A mouthful to pronounce, it’s the idea that the actions in one timeframe can have an effect on another. Thinking about this design element brings up some interesting ways to make it a way to draw fans into Edge of Time and its premise. However, Beenox made the decision to go with a very standard interpretation of this mechanic. It ends up boiling down to infrequent, scripted events, which tend to usually involve flipping a switch or the creation of a new route by a boss’ large smashing ability. This is a huge missed opportunity.
Where the development team did improve things is in the combat department. Both of our playable heroes have quite a few tricks up their skin-tight sleeves. Most of these abilities are unlocked through progression, requiring the player to purchase their aid from a menu-based upgrades list. It was impressive to see the amount of different options available, though there are two new abilities unlocked from the start. Those two tend to have the largest impact on the game. The nice thing is that they don’t need collectible golden spiders or blue and purple orbs to become active.
Playing through Spider-Man: Edge of Time, it became obvious that Beenox crafted this outing around those two new abilities – each one a variation on the other, with both Spider-Men receiving a customized version. This game-changing move allows players to become invisible for a set amount of time, which can be handy both in combat and during laser avoidance. A hologram appears where the ability was instigated, making enemies attack that as you wait for your health to replenish or go on an unexpected offensive front. It’s pretty fun to use and becomes integral if you wish to survive, required to dupe some turrets’ rockets into exploding locked doorways.
Where Spider-Man: Edge of Time excels is in its use of polished combat, combined with some interesting set pieces. However, it doesn’t live up to the lofty expectations, which fans are sure to have after playing through its predecessor. Although it’s not a bad game, this web-filled outing lacks most of the creativity which fans loved last time, replacing it with sterile environments and a convoluted storyline. The end result is decent, but nothing special. It delivers pretty good gameplay mechanics, which aren’t taken full advantage of inside of a convoluted, confined and sterile premise.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
While its predecessor went with a very colorful, creative and visually stimulating design, Spider-Man: Edge of Time is much more generic. A lot of this has to do with the fact that its entire run takes place in one office building, though there are noticeable differences in the texture work and environmental design found in each generation. Gone is the partially cell-shaded look, which crafted these things in Shattered Dimensions; replaced by more traditional, three-dimensional models.
Although its look may not be incredibly unique, Spider-Man: Edge of Time does feature polished visuals. Its creations are shiny, with some impressive detail work. It was great to see Peter Parker’s suit continually diminish based on damage, revealing tufts of hair, an ear and some scratched skin. That was a nice touch, which made the experience feel organic, despite its out-of-this-world premise.
Overall, this outing looks quite good. It’s certainly no slouch when it comes to high-definition visual output, though its art design is certainly lacking and repetitive. A wonky camera does factor in however, making it hard to control the heroes while crawling on walls or a ceiling. This issue can be classified as a control and/or perception problem. The utilized viewing angles poorly reflect which direction the player should push, leading to frustration.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Being that Spider-Man: Edge of Time is heavily rooted in the beat ‘em-up sub-genre, players can expect to hear a lot of grunting enemies, smashing sound effects and “thwop” punching noises. The effects are pretty good, without any noticeable deficiencies. In fact, Edge of Time is pretty impressive from any auditory standpoint. It sounds quite good. This is partially to do with those aforementioned effects and music which fits in so well that it’s easy to overlook.
Where are a lot of praise should be directed is towards the game’s voice cast. The intelligently assembled cast does a great job in bringing some of Marvel’s more iconic creations to life, including both heroes, Black Cat and Mary Jane Watson. As mentioned previously, Val Kilmer stars as the pipes of Walker Sloan – a role in which he does a pretty good job. Though, the rest of the main cast outshines him. It’s an especially true statement when considering the work of Josh Keaton and Christopher Daniel Barnes, who voice our playable heroes. Both men worked on Shattered Dimensions as well.
A disappointing facet of Spider-Man: Edge of Time is its artificially created replay value. Taking cues from other developers, Beenox unfortunately locked the game’s hard difficulty mode from the get-go. It’s only available after your first play-through, meaning that a second one is mandatory for those who would like to play the game with added challenge. Those who like to start every interactive experience on hard may be a bit dismayed by this news.
Some gamers will feel inclined to dive back in using Edge of Time’s new game plus option. It can be helpful in order to look for the collectible golden spiders you may have missed, which end up becoming a valuable asset when upgrading your character’s health or shield. There are many challenges, which also gift these glowing arachnids, with many of them being quite difficult to earn gold medals on. That is another reason to dive back in, which will interest achievement and trophy fans the most.
Due to its repetition and rather standard design, Spider-Man: Edge of Time will probably conclude its run with most gamers, after just one play-through. Some may want to return for the aforementioned collectibles and challenges, though only a specific portion of the gaming community will feel inclined to do so. It all comes down to the game’s unfortunate lack of variety and confined environments, which do nothing to spark extended appeal. It’s really too bad that those design choices were made, because this game has polished enough mechanics to warrant showcasing through extra creativity.
With Spider-Man: Edge of Time, Beenox has unfortunately taken a step back in many ways. This webbed outing is not nearly as innovative or unique as its predecessor was, ending up as a relatively average game with fluid and polished attack maneuvers. Due to its entire existence being confined in cramped hallways and closed-in rooms, the experience becomes repetitive faster than it should. Fans of Marvel’s superhero fiction should check this one out for its great voice acting and relatively detailed visuals. However, it’s important to note that the entire ride could have been much better with added variety and a less convoluted premise.