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Reviewed by Jason Zingale
pparently, one Spider-Man just isn’t enough these days, so Activision has upped the ante considerably for Spidey's latest adventure by giving you control of four different versions of the web-slinger from alternate dimensions in the Marvel Universe. It's just too bad that it doesn’t result in four times the fun, because while each iteration has its own unique look and special abilities, they’re not different enough to disguise the monotonous, button-mashing gameplay. In that respect, “Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions” is a bit of a failure, but that won’t stop fans of the popular Marvel superhero from embracing the chance to go toe-to-toe with some of his greatest villains.
The game opens with the Amazing Spider-Man from Earth-616 chasing down Mysterio as he attempts to steal the Tablet of Order and Chaos in order to tap into its magical powers. But when the tablet is shattered and sent hurtling across parallel universes, Madame Web enlists the web-head and three of his dimensional counterparts (the black symbiote Ultimate Spider-Man, the 1930s-influenced Spider-Man Noir, and the futuristic Spider-Man 2099) to retrieve the missing pieces before Mysterio takes over the world. And as it just so happens, every piece of the tablet is in possession of an arch-enemy from Spidey’s all-star rogue's gallery.
Divided into three acts, with each act broken up into four levels, you’ll spend equal time with each version of Spider-Man. Though you have to finish one act before moving on to the next, you can choose the order in which each level is completed. It doesn't affect the outcome of the story, however, so it really just comes down to preference. Amazing Spider-Man probably has the weakest trio of bosses, but the cel-shaded graphics are easily the most stunning visuals in the game. Ultimate Spider-Man, on the other hand, has some of the best bosses in Deadpool and Carnage, but his combat style isn’t very different apart from an ability called Rage Mode, which is sort of a Wolverine berserker move that is great for taking out large groups of enemies. The sleek 2099 edition also has a unique ability called Accelerated Vision that helps in dodging missiles, while the noir-inspired steampunk Spidey relies on stealth and shadows to take out his foes.
Each one is just different enough to hold your interest through the first act, but by the time you begin Act Two, it’s hard not to notice how formulaic the gameplay has become. The levels all follow a similar pattern: beat up some goons, fight the boss only to let him get away, beat up some more goons, and then fight a more powerful version of that boss. A few of the levels are more inspired than others, but they still generally adhere to that formula. In some cases, you’re also thrust you into first-person, “Punch Out”-styled fisticuffs that are so lame and unnecessary that it almost single-handedly ruins the experience. Thankfully, this only happens in a handful of boss battles, so it’s something you’ll just have to learn to tolerate in order to enjoy the finer components of the game.
So what is good about “Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions”? Well, with the exception of the aforementioned first-person bits, most of the boss battles are pretty solid, with the one featuring Sandman standing out as my personal favorite. There’s also a lot of replay value between the ability to unlock additional costumes and other goodies, as well as complete Web of Destiny challenges that reward you with Spider Essence, the score-based currency that you can use to purchase character and combat upgrades.
The story by comic book writer Dan Slott is also top-notch, as is the voice acting, with the various versions of Spider-Man played by animated series alum Neil Patrick Harris (“Spider-Man: The New Animated Series”), Josh Keaton (“The Spectacular Spider-Man”), Dan Gilvezan (“Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends”), and Christopher Daniel Barnes (“Spider-Man: The Animated Series”). And though it may be lacking in some areas (particularly its repetitive beat-em-up combat), sometimes you just need to make a game for the fans, and "Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions" is nothing if not that.