Spider-Man: Edge of Time
Last year's Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions wasn't a groundbreaking title, but the game did have a good hook. By offering up four Spider-Men to play with, Shattered Dimensions offered a unique take on the superhero game genre. Now developer Beenox returns to the well, but shaves off two Spider-Men in the process, leaving us with only Amazing Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2099. There are pros and cons to this approach. As fun as it was to play as four different Spider-Men, that approach led to a thin narrative, and ultimately two of the four characters simply weren't as enjoyable as the the other two. So dropping the count down to two allows for a fuller story, but you do lose some variety in the gameplay. And what's left isn't all that great.
In the last game, a broken artifact splintered across dimensions, forcing four Spider-Men to work together. This time, a villain from 2099 creates a time warp back to the present day, and both Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2099 have to work together to save the past and the future. However, the time warp is unstable, making time fluid. The upshot of this is that what Spider-Man does in the present affects Spider-Man 2099, and vice versa. If one Spider-Man accomplishes a goal, it may inadvertently block the other.
While this sounds cool in theory, in practice it's maddening. I was hoping that the time-altering mechanic would be similar to Singularity, where you could alter objects at will in order to aid your progress through a level. In Edge of Time, the alterations occur only in pre-scripted events, meaning that all you're really left with is a generic beat 'em up. Once again Amazing Spider-Man is a general balance of speed, strength, and agility. He has a few special moves, including a meter that fills up to allow for more powerful attacks. Spider-Man 2099 is faster, and has claws, and his special moves involve creating decoys that confuse enemies. In this regard 2099 is significantly more interesting than Amazing, although there really isn't enough variety in enemy types or level design to really hold the player's attention.
Even worse, the time altering is used in a very transparent attempt to pad the length of the game. I cannot tell you how many times you end up in sight of your goal, only to have a wall materialize in front of you, forcing you far out of your way just to get to the same place. It's cheap and lazy and not appreciated. Speaking of lazy, the game constantly re-uses elements, making the whole journey feel like a drag. The best example are long free-fall sections where Spider-Man 2099 will drop down long elevator shafts. Sections like these appeared in Shattered Dimensions, but as they only showed up in every fourth level, they were a nice change of pace. Here, constantly switching back and forth between two Spider-Men, the free-fall sections appear far more often, take longer, and end up feeling tedious.
On the plus side, the story (when it's not being artificially elongated) is far more developed than it was in Shattered Dimensions. This time, Amazing Spider-Man develops as a character, although the development feels out of character. At one point Peter Parker decides to stay in 2099 so that his loved ones won't be hurt by their proximity to him. It's a weird decision that feels forced and the audience knows will be reversed anyway, so it's not what I would call effective. But this game does feature Mary Jane and Venom, and the main villain is voiced by, of all people, Val Kilmer. So while the story is not a slam dunk, there are elements that a Spidey fan can savor.
Perhaps if the story had been absolutely stellar, I could have overlooked the meager gameplay and poor design. As it stands, Spider-Man: Edge of Time feels like a quick cash-in on Shattered Dimensions, and not a fully developed game in its own right. This is not the best Spider-Man has to offer.