Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Spider-Man video game a swing and a miss

Movie tie-in repetitive, but web-slinging almost saves the day

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 video game

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 video game

The spark of creativity that led to the creation of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was most likely a pen being dragged down a sheet of paper labelled "merchandising options" and putting an X in the "video game tie-in" box sandwiched between Slurpee cups and plastic masks. Some games are born out bursts of imagination, some are born out of a need to help ensure a $200-million movie isn't a flop.

Tie-in games aren't made to be good, they're made to be releasable before a certain date. By those very minimal requirements placed upon games of this ilk, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 manages to scrape by the skin of its teeth. It earns a title many of its tie-in brethren cannot even claim: it is releasable. It's not a completely despicable act that people are actually being charged money to own it. That is the most apt review quote that could appear on its cover: "This is a product that doesn't need to be reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre."

Credit goes to the game's creators, who were given some very rotten lemons -- as anyone who has seen the film can attest -- and managed to make drinkable, buffet-level lemonade with them. They wisely decide not to follow the events of the film and instead just pit Spider-Man against a rotating cast of villains with little rhyme or reason to any of it. The entire structure of the game boils down to "swing here, fight some baddies, swing there, fight more baddies" with the monotony occasionally broken up with a need to save citizens from a fire or stop a car chase.

To be honest, little of it is that much fun: combat is sloppy and repetitive, fire-rescue missions are sloppy and repetitive, car chases are sloppy and repetitive. What binds it all together is that need to swing from mission to mission -- and when you're swinging through the streets of New York, the game is astonishing.

It's genuine physics-based swinging. There's no single button to press for auto-swinging, your right and left hands are separately mapped to their respective triggers on the controller and each strand of web fired from your wrists is a tangible thing that needs to connect to the side of an object. If you need to bank right around a skyscraper, you fire a web from your right wrist into the corner of the building and use it to hoist yourself around. If you need to cut through Central Park, you have to dip low enough so your webbing will be able to connect to the top of trees.

It's a mechanic so good that it keeps drawing you back to the game long after the frustration and boredom of actually playing it sets in. There's much artistic bankruptcy on display here, but the appearance of such a creative and innovative idea inches what is essentially a marketing tool towards respectability. There are much worse ways to sell out.

 

Mel Stefaniuk is a freelance writer whose love of both video games and writing have been intertwined since growing up with the text adventures of the '80s. He can be found on Twitter as @DisgracedCop.

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 15, 2014 C17

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