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Spider-Man 3

For: DS   Also on: GameBoy, Mobile

He's gone all touchscreeny-feely

Product: Spider-Man 3 | Developer: Vicarious Visions | Publisher: Activision Blizzard | Format: DS | Genre: Action, Film/ TV tie- in | Players: 1-2 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
Spider-Man 3 DS, thumbnail 1
When it comes to Hollywood fashion, the colour scheme's gone full circle – black is the new black. At least that's the story in Spider-Man 3, in which the mild-mannered Peter Parker discovers his darker side thanks to the alien symbiote that attaches to his traditional all-American red-and-blue get-up.

As a result, Spider-Man 3's DS incarnation – a side-scrolling beat-'em-up – has a rage meter. It's just the thing to power-up our web-slinging superhero with extra, faster moves, as well as herald a switch to the new cooler costume, after you've triggered the meter by beating up enough bad guys to fill it up, of course.

Thankfully though, it's not the game's most significant feature: that honour goes to the touchscreen-only combat system. Yes, with your left thumb solely in charge of Spidey's movements via the D-pad, the right is free to make stylus gestures on the touchscreen to take out assailants (there is a reversed control method for lefties). And while it might sound a little awkward, it's actually a beautifully-implemented system.

The combat moves themselves consist of basic kicks, flips and punches, all generated with a quick flick of the stylus. Draw a horizontal swipe to punch, a diagonal up to launch your target into the air or a downwards angle to sweep out his legs.

More elaborate moves can be combined – there's a combo meter to keep count – and as well as being unlocked by earning hero points (collected by defeating enemies and completing missions), these include acrobatic moves such as roundhouse kicks and web retrieves.

Combat is further enhanced by a double tap facility that sees Spider-Man shooting out a sticky web to ensnare enemies. Once incapacitated, you can pull them in and then unleash speedy combos, air kicks and finishing moves, which generally reduce opponents to squealing submission, literally. All-in-all, it's a tremendously empowering experience, and due to enemies who cleverly block repeated attacks, the game constantly encourages you to experiment with combos and fresh attack patterns, too.

It's the fluidity of the robust combat system as well as the joy of moving around New York using your web-slinging power that gives Spider-Man 3 its energy. By simply manipulating the D-pad with your thumb, you can link web-swings together, gain or lose altitude by pressing diagonally, or drop onto ledges to pick a fight or collect bonuses. And the 2D movement within a 3D environment – you can call this a 2.5D game – makes navigating around the city fun and liberating, something also enhanced by the high graphical quality of the game world.

As for the game's mirroring of the film, it's not too slavish. Bosses such as the Sandman, new Green Goblin, and Venom feature, but you also get a slightly hokey story involving police captain Jean DeWolfe, who sends Spidey off on errands to defeat three major gangs in New York City, including a group of giant lizards. That's a bit lame but the thinking behind the decision is clear – a new stylus-controlled combat system needs plenty of enemies.

But it's not all about bashing. Many missions see you infiltrating buildings to save bystanders from hazards (as well as take out bad guys). Collecting citizens up in your arms and dropping them at safe locations is carried out with a flick of the stylus, and it's all implemented deftly, without the need for you to switch hands or succumb to cramp.

Indeed, superhero games should be all about empowerment and Spider-Man 3 definitely makes you feel vigorous and in control.

This atmosphere feeds into the game's structure, which offers over 20 missions, as well as providing sub-quests such as entering a new area and performing a 'crimewatch'. Essentially this means you have to find random perps and beat them up until the crime level comes down. It's not particularly inspired but enables you to build up your points. There are also plenty of hidden collectibles, some of which can only been discovered when you're in black Spider-Man mode.

Other replay options include the Ultimate Challenges, which are missions you need to complete as fast as possible, and webswinging races where you have to grab spheres as you go.

For all that, the main core of the game isn't the longest you'll ever play, coming it at somewhere between six to ten hours. There are some adhoc head-to-head multiplayer modes as well, but both you and your mate will need a copy of the game to play such delights as Brawler, Hot Potato, Target Practice and Combo Challenge.

Yet, despite its relative brevity, Spider-Man 3 is definitely the best DS Spider-Man game to date (don't confuse it with its terrible forerunner), and demonstrates thoughtful use of the licence and some technical innovation on the part of developer Vicarious Visions. Like the movie itself, it has the odd dark moment but it also has more than enough energy and action to emerge triumphant.
Spider-Man 3
Reviewer photo
Mark Walbank | 14 May 2007
The superbly implemented web-slinging and touchscreen combat of Spider-Man 3 more than makes up for the lack of mission variety
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