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Spider-Man: Battle For New York

For: DS   Also on: GameBoy

More woodlouse than tarantula

Product: Spider-Man: Battle for New York | Developer: Torus Games | Publisher: Activision Blizzard | Format: DS | Genre: Action, Film/ TV tie- in | Players: 1-2 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
 
Spider-Man: Battle for New York DS, thumbnail 1
'Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a Spider can,' goes the lyric from the TV series. As most spiders we've ever observed either sit motionless in a web or are in a whirl as they're flushed down the plughole, we're assuming there's some poetic licence involved. Still, when it comes to Spider-Man: Battle For New York, either of those situations might be preferable.

Certainly this Spider-Man appears to be an imposter compared to the hero who's starred in various games since the franchise was revitalised by the Tobey Maguire films. He may wear the classic red and blue costume, make the occasional wisecrack and confront mean hoodlums, but the very ability that makes him super – web-slinging – is woefully redundant here. It seems a huge missed opportunity, particularly considering how it could have been used in conjunction with the DS' dual screen.

Imagine a game where you arc majestically through the skyscrapers of New York using the stylus to flick from from building to building. Now forget that game. Instead, Spider-Man: Battle For New York is a rudimentary side-scrolling platformer (2D characters on a 2.5D background), with the play area so tight and narrow that any attempt to fire a web tends to dump you into a brick wall or a health-sapping hazard.

There's even a feeling that the gamemakers don't have much confidence in their spidery hero, as you start off playing as his nemesis, the Green Goblin (the game is set in the revamped Ultimate Spider-Man comic universe).

Larger and more unwieldy than Spider-Man, maybe the developer thought employing the Green Goblin would provide an easier introduction to the controls, but frankly he moves like a constipated rhino.

At least Spider-Man's nimbleness enables you to reach checkpoints quickly once the level is memorised. Your only consolation playing as the Green Goblin is that you can clobber things and batter enemies, although his destructive power isn't really used to its full potential. With limited attacks – bash, grab and unleashing anaemic fireballs – there's little enjoyment to be had.

The same lack of imagination also drags down the missions, which have you bashing things (as the Green Goblin) or fixing things and saving people (as Spider-Man).

In the case of Spidey, your pace is controlled by a ticking threat meter, which limits the amount of time you have for each action. Not only is such linearity a harsh taskmaster, but sticky controls also lead to constant frustration; wall-jumping from narrow spaces such as ventilator shafts is particularly grating. And failure to deal with any threat within the time limit sends you back to the start of the level, which is enough to have you closing your DS and walking away.

Things aren't really much better when you get the opportunity to perform some offensive web slinging. You can ensnare enemies in a web and then pummel them, but it's simply not as effective as a standard punch/kick combo. And so, instinctively, you stop using the web early in the game. In fact, combat is so rudimentary and enemies so basic that monotonously hitting the 'A' button will get you through most situations.

Even the use made of the DS' unique features feels like a lame afterthought. Occasionally you'll have to lift a car by stroking upwards with the stylus (yes, it's that exciting) or disable an alarm by tapping a sequence of coloured lights. As with every aspect of this title, it feels rudimentary.

In fact the only positive we can point to is the lovely comic-book interludes, which are supported by great voice acting. These at least frame the game beautifully.

Otherwise there's very little to recommend in Spider-Man: Battle For New York. Playing it doesn't make you feel like a superhero or a supervillian, and the game makes unsatisfying use of the DS' technology. Lack of variety and an insistence on turgid fetch-and-carry missions seals this as one to avoid.

'Look out! Here comes the Spider-Man.' Run away quick, we say.
 
Spider-Man: Battle For New York
Reviewer photo
Mark Walbank | 13 December 2006
Despite the potential of the licence, Spider-Man: Battle For New York is a pedestrian game. Avoid.
 
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