The last time I played a Spider-Man game was when Activision released a version following the movie back in 2002. I was impressed considering it was based on the movie and we know how dicey movie based games can be. Then again, it was developed by the same people responsible for the Call of Duty series years later so I shouldn’t exactly be shocked it was a good game.
Fast-forward nine years later (time travel pun not intended) and you have Spider-Man: Edge of Time by Beenox, which is their second game in the series following Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. Considering I haven’t played the last installment, I had nothing to compare it to but as a casual Spider-Man fan, I gave it a shot.
After admittedly only playing a couple hours of the game, I wasn’t overly impressed with it either from a gaming perspective or comic book fan. In fact, other than some pretty cut scenes and some decent voice acting and sound, I felt it was lacking in substance. And here is why…
The gist of the story is that you play as both Spider-Man from the future (Spider-Man 2099) and the 1970s era Spider-Man (The Amazing Spider-Man). Spider-Man 2099 is chasing down Walker Sloan, the games main enemy, before he goes back in time to change the future into some dystopia. Spidey 2099 falls just short of nabbing Walker before he transport into the past. Spider-Man 2099 then gets The Amazing Spider-Man to help him out but apparently whatever he does in that era affects what happens in future. Without giving much else away, the two then proceed on an adventure to foil Walker Sloan’s plans and ultimately save the world.
Considering I have not played a Spider-Man game in a while, it took me a little while to get familiar with the controls. Not that they’re overly complicated; I just wished they were more convenient to use. Edge of Time for the Wii is played with both the “nunchuk” and the Wii-mote. The nunchuk is mainly used for movement and looking while the Wii-mote is for everything else including attacks (a melee and longer distance attack), jumping, slinging webs, and some “decoy style” moves. Putting it all together isn’t all that hard especially once you start attacking a bad guy. However, the attack button is on the D-pad which I am not used to. Personally, I like beating the crap out of enemies with a regular button but that’s just me. It probably would have been better to use the trigger button for attacking but eventually you get used to it.
Once you start attacking the onslaught of enemies, you continue a combination of other moves that look pretty as they connect one after another. Unfortunately, this is nothing new or innovative. Edge of Time is more of a button masher than anything else. I often found myself pressing the buttons until I threw something together and eventually watch your character take down an often idiotic enemy AI. It can be entertaining but requires little skill and can get old after a while.
Other than the slightly weird controls and repetitive nature of gameplay (swing around, beat bad guys, open door, rinse, repeat), it was mildly entertaining. Unfortunately, I did experience some glitches. In one instance my character was not able to break away from an enemy hold. The game did not tell me how to break free and as a result I had to restart the game. The camera angles were not awkward and actually seemed to do okay considering Spider-Man can swing around everywhere and crawl on just about anything.
There are some goodies throughout the game including orbs you pick up and are later used to upgrade moves. Yet I was not too concerned with the upgrades as I could probably finish the game with standard attacks. Overall, Edge of Time is not a difficult game. It also doesn’t hold a lot of replay value or diversity. Beenox may have been better served by developing the game as more of an RPG affair where Spidey’s skills are upgraded with skill and merit (and not just by exploring). Similar to that of a RPG, I would have liked to have seen some character development.
Spider-Man: Edge of Time is single player only game which was disappointing as some multi-player action would have fun especially if they used different characters against each other. A battle mode would have been nice where you can fight against another character such as Venom vs. Spider-Man or Carnage vs. “guest villain.” We have seen this with past Spidey games but sadly no such mode exists this time around.
Another gripe for me is that Beenox was not very faithful to the comic book character which I think is an important consideration for one of the most well-known superheroes of the Marvel universe. For example, some of Spider-Man’s main powers are his “Spidey sense”, his man-made web slingers (especially in the 1970s), his incredible agility and reflexes, and the strength of a giant spider. The Spidey sense in the game was used mostly to find items and after each use it required recharging. The web-slinging abilities were unlimited which did not add much to the suspense to the game. His agility is essentially reduced to a “decoy” button which made the enemies attack where you just were.
What I wanted to see from our web crawling hero was for him to lift large objects and hurl them at his enemies or use the environment to demonstrate his agility, such as swinging from bars through the air and then landing on a guy with both feet in a crushing fashion. I wanted to see him MANUALLY cartwheel and flip out of harm’s way from lasers and bullets (backwards and forwards of course), which would have required some skill. I also wanted a challenge of having limited web-slinging capabilities in order to force me to play more wisely and less recklessly which on one hand would have prevented me from swinging around as much but would have been more fun. I also would have liked to use my webs to grab enemies and objects and then fling them around for damage or string them up for bonuses.
I also wonder if the game would have been more interesting if the developers used some cel shading (especially for the limited graphic capabilities of the Wii) to provide more of a comic book look to it. Yes, it would not look as “realistic” and maybe kind of “kiddish” but it may have looked more authentic and more engaging. While it was kind of cool the game was presented as if it were a movie (especially the cut scenes and with the credits in the beginning), it just wasn’t consistent and it may have been better to just stick to a good comic book style of story.
Keeping in mind that I played this on the Nintendo Wii, I knew it wasn’t going to be crisp, pretty or blow my mind away with awe inspiring graphics. In terms of character design, Spider-Man (both the Amazing Spider-Man and the 2099 Spider-Man) looked fairly smooth in appearance as well as the various enemies in the game. The environments were not as detailed but they did the job. The biggest highlights were the cut scenes as it made it seem like you were watching a comic book movie. The rest of the game’s graphics, however, were just ok but it may look better on other consoles if high definition is available. Overall, Edge of Time is not an ugly game but not incredibly detailed or visually stunning either.
Simply put, Edge of Time’s sound package is better than the graphics. The music is appropriate for its mood and the sound effects fit well with that what’s going on (web slings, punches, explosions – it’s all there). Similar to their previous games, they used Hollywood talent for some of the characters with Val Kilmer (yes, the same guy who formerly played Batman) providing his voice to the main villain as well as Laura Vandervoort (Supergirl from the TV series Smallville) playing Mary Jane Watson. Kind of odd if you think about it considering they played DC characters but nevertheless the voice acting was done well and convincing (even though Peter Parker’s dialogue can come across as cheesy).
In any event, the sound in my view is better than the graphics but not by much. There is no Dolby Surround Sound for added effect or memorable songs to whistle to but overall better than average.
That being said, I don’t know if the developers ever really cared to be faithful to the comics or if they just wanted to put something together that they thought would look good without consideration for substance. Even though I am only a casual fan of the Spider-Man series, I know enough that something was clearly missing with Edge of Time from both a gaming and comic perspective.
Maybe it is just me, but if you are ever going to make a video game from comic book superhero then it would be a good idea to capture the same feeling in the game that you get when you read the comic book. The game should be complete with suspense, action, art and above all a good story. Even if you are not a Spider-Man fan, you are not likely going to come across anything new in this game as it has been done before and done better. Edge of Time for the Wii is not particularly pretty or unique in look or gameplay. Frankly, I did not care for the story either. All in all, you can just skip this year’s Spider-Man game for the Wii as there are much better options out there.