While the next generation consoles and the PC carried nearly identical
renditions of Spider-Man: The Movie, GBA fans have been singled out for
special treatment since Digital Eclipse has created a different platform
game for the tiny handheld. Web-slinging in a 3D New York metropolis
was considered by many publications as a 'platform' game. True, the
style resembled a platform game but I thought the 3D Spider-Man was more
like a third person action game. Digital Eclipse's version of
Spider-Man is more of what I would consider a platform game, taking
place in a 2D setting and using some tried and true mechanics.
One thing the GBA version eschews is the spotty camera system that was
noted on just about every platform. That's not to say things look bad
on the GBA version. Things look really good indeed, with attention paid
towards making the whole game more comic-book like. When you web-sling
around the levels, the game moves quickly, making Spider-man's agility
all that more convincing. While its larger sibling featured cinematic
style storytelling, the GBA edition turns back to its comic book roots.
Here, the story, which still involves Spider-Man coming up against Green
Goblin and a host of other ancillary characters, is written up with
speech and thought bubbles. There's no voiceover work from Tobey
Maguire but the text is faithful to the Spider-Man franchise and
features the same penmanship that dotted the other games. It follows
that with this restriction, the character growth that was found in the
movie is notably missing.
With the simple platform look, the GBA version also comes with a simpler
control interface. You use the left and right buttons to initiate some
web attacks. Taking a page out of the other Spider-Man games, you can
concoct a few unique attacks as well as parries to beat Spider-man's
adversaries. Spider-man never was an outright slugger who could go toe
to toe with many enemies. He certainly can't stop bullets; that's a
comic character from another company we're talking about. So much of
the time, you'll be slinging around and pouncing on your enemies, rather
than beating them one by one.
The GBA Spider-Man also comes with a slightly different storyline. It
doesn't start out like the movie with Spider-man emerging from his rite
of passage match against Bonesaw. Spider-man gets right down to
business in the beginning. This involves tasks like saving civilians
and many of the levels in the GBA Spider-Man are timed, whether it is
some catastrophe waiting to go off or a building collapsing. However,
the timing is very lenient, in that you won't find yourself too pressed.
While the game's progression is fairly linear, the approach to the
levels is not necessarily so. You still move generally from the left
side of the screen to the finishing area on the right. Your objectives,
on the other hand, are scattered across the level itself and you can
usually approach them in whatever way you want. For example, the very
first level tasks you to save four civilians and you can do so in
whichever order you find convenient. This has its pros and cons though.
The defect of this design is the fact that you could very well miss an
objective and have to double-back to find it. It also doesn't help that
you can't bring up a mini-map of the level so finding things may
actually turn out to be a trial and error process.
The aural effects here are pretty decent, although it's hard to expect
the GBA version to be on par with its Dolby Surround peers. The absence
of voiceovers, as I noted before, fails to flesh out the story
experience, although in truth, this story is markedly different. In
lieu of any flashy, lens-flare inducing combat, the handheld Spider-man
emits the clichéd comic book pow and thwaks that we have all come to
know from old Batman television episodes. I liked this approach a lot
and at the very least, Digital Eclipse was consistent with the comic
book style layout.
When I said earlier this was a 2D platform game exclusively, perhaps I
should have corrected myself and mentioned there are some bonus stages
included by the developers here. Maybe they took a look at Treyarch's
work on the 3D version and thought to include this; this being a
3D-third person-behind the back web slinging level to defuse the Green
Goblin's bombs. It's not unlike one of the levels you embark on in the
3D games, except the GBA's graphical quality is much lower but it's nice
to see that such a thing is actually possible. Moreover, it suggests
that perhaps later on, the GBA will be seeing the same types of games
released on other platforms soon enough. By far, this bonus portion was
one of the most entertaining parts of the game. I only wish I could
have seen more of it.
Overall, Digital Eclipse's game is consistently comic book like. It
manages to make a true 'platform' Spider-Man game that holds its own
against its peers. I really enjoyed the game a lot, from the visuals to
the audio. Sadly, the story development of the other games is missing
from here but I had the added benefit that I wasn't fighting the camera
or studying intensely to learn the controls. With a flexible saving
system, it's a highly recommended platform action game. Hopefully, the
next Spider-Man game on the GBA won't be as conservative.