Backlog Project: Spider-Man – Shattered Dimensions

Thanks to superhero games traditionally being garbage (and Spider-Man being a prime example in most cases), I don’t think I ever really even noticed the existence of Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. Thanks to numerous fellow gamers online recommending it, however, I went back to play it. I might have had a different experience due to how late I was and how much I heard about it in advance, but I feel I managed to form an authentic opinion on it in the end.

smsd-cov

  • Name: Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions
  • Genre: Action-adventure | 3D Platformer | Stealth
  • Released: 2010
  • Developer: Beenox
  • Publisher: Activision
  • Platforms: PlayStation 3 | Xbox 360 | Wii | Microsoft Windows | Nintendo DS

I can think of two things that would give developer Beenox a few freebie points when judging this game: firstly, they were a rather inexperienced studio that were charged with a relatively high-profile IP to work with; and secondly, as I stated above, superhero games have a track record of being atrocious. With that in mind, Shattered Dimensions was one of the more uneven gaming experiences I’ve had in quite a while.

The game looks fine, with its simplified, cartoony graphics. It reminds you of comics or animated TV shows, and makes it look somehow familiar right from the bat. But the thing they really nail with this game is the characters themselves – each one is at least satisfyingly accurate to the source material, recognizable both in outward appearance and in concept, and voice acting is excellent. The characters were mostly quite superficial, but in a game like this, that could be expected. The game is well written as well right down to the dialogue – more than once I actually laughed out loud at one of the Spideys’ lame jokes.

There’s very little actual story to speak of, but that’s fine – I wouldn’t have wanted a complex narrative in a game like this anyway. Instead, it’s more like a “highlight reel” of various villains in the webhead’s rogue’s gallery, picking a few from each Spidey variation’s universe and adding some original ones as well, whose design exhibits such understanding of the IP that you might not even notice those characters don’t exist in the comics.

One of the more enjoyable gameplay features is the stealth takedowns in the Noir universe. Screenshot credit: http://www.gamepur.com

One of the more enjoyable gameplay features is the stealth takedowns in the Noir universe.
Screenshot credit: http://www.gamepur.com

Each Spider-Man has somewhat different gameplay, particularly the Noir variation, whose levels are mainly stealth-oriented. Each Spidey has different combat abilities, and it doesn’t take long to notice that it actually feels quite different to play as each one; I found out I hated playing as the Amazing Spider-Man, while Spider-Man 2099 felt much more satisfying. A kind of an experience system and unlockable abilities brings a feeling of progression to the game, which makes it feel less shallow and tedious.

The level design is where we get to the “uneven” quality of the game I was talking about earlier. Every aspect of the actual gameplay – whether it’s the level design, enemy encounters or bossfights – ranges from fun and well-executed to frustrating and unbalanced. Some situations do a good job with forcing you to utilize different abilities and tactics to proceed, while sometimes you’re pummeled with challenges that are tedious or just not fun.

The game controls in a way that you mostly get used to after a while, but things like wall-crawling or quick web-jumping are far too inaccurate to be enjoyable when the game expects you to do them in most situations. Targeting is often a chore, and it feels like the character won’t do exactly what you intended more often than can be just shrugged off. This results in the experience being much more frustrating and irritating than I’d like.

Bossfights, just like everything else in this game, vary from great to awful. Screenshot credit: http://www.gamerinvestments.com

Bossfights, just like everything else in this game, vary from great to awful.
Screenshot credit: http://www.gamerinvestments.com

When things like web-swinging work well, however, it’s a lot of fun, and it sort of makes you wish the game was a bit more open-ended. That’s not necessarily a knock on the game though; the more linear level-based design is just as fine, even with the ridiculous scale on which the levels themselves are scattered in quality; the Sandman level, for example, made me sick to my stomach because it just wasn’t fun to play, but most Noir or 2099 levels were very enjoyable.

I was left with a mostly positive feeling of the game, but not so much so that I’d like to revisit it anytime soon. I feel like this is one of those games where a lot of the ideas were spot-on, but the moment-to-moment gameplay just wasn’t good enough, and nearly half of the game itself was subpar in design. I did have fun with it though.

Trophy Hunt

I unlocked the Platinum Trophy on July 27th, 2016, and it took me a bit over a month to achieve. A rough estimate of time spent in-game would be around 30 hours or so.

The game requires you to get the best Spider Rank in every level on Hard difficulty, so I started by completing most of the levels on that difficulty, collecting as many Spider Emblems on the way as I could; this way I’d get one third of the best Rank right away. I had to go back to a couple levels in which I missed too many, though. I had trouble beating the final boss, so instead of finishing the game, I went back for the Spider Ranks first, to buy more upgrades and to make progress on the Platinum Trophy as well.

By the time I defeated the final boss, I already had the top rank in 8 out of 12 levels, earning the Amazing! and Sensational!! Trophies, as well as miscellaeous Trophies such as No Harm Done for beating a level without dying, Close Call! for recovering from a pitfall 10 times, The Spider’s Grace for clearing a 2099 freefall segment without taking damage, The Spider’s Bite for keeping Rage Mode active for one minute, The Spider’s Web for defeating 50 enemies with the Amazing Charge Attack, Ain’t no stoppin! for defeating 1000 enemies, Fanatic for collecting 500 Spider Emblems, Uncle Benjamin and Two Hundo for a 100-hit and 200-hit combo respectively, and Missed me! for beating a boss without taking damage, which I did by accident in the first Scorpion bossfight while going for the Spider Rank.

After beating the final boss, I finished Spectacular!!! for 12 top Spider Ranks (I substituted the Carnage level with the final bossfight, which turned out to be easier to perfect), and then went on to clean up the Challenges for the Manifest Destiny and Bug Collector Trophies, as well as The Spider’s Shadow for completing a Noir level without being detected.

The Trophy list was decent in challenge and satisfaction. Finding all of the hidden spiders was probably the biggest hitch in the Trophy hunt, and even that was your standard collectible search, even if it was a fairly difficult one.

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