Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever my stylus can!
Spider-Man 3 DS has officially been released. The game had a simultaneous release with the movie and is now available for virtually every console one's little heart could desire. But because it is a game based off of a movie, and often that is a terrible sign, it begs the question of , "how good can it really be?"; the answer friends, lies just ahead.
Spider-Man 3 for the DS is an ambitious title. It tries to place the player into "a massive open city world," but is constrained by the DS's hardware. While players do get to explore a city, it is certainly not as open as say Ultimate Spider-Man was. Players navigate a 3D city, but are forced to move within a 2D plane. Since you are always side scrolling it takes away from the awesomeness of being able to web swing about. You can also move vertically, wall crawling on various surfaces in order to gain or lose elevation (but still in a 2D plane). This isn't to say that swinging around the city won't be fun, it just will wear out as soon as the player realizes that they are just swinging about in a straight line; one that they have no way to break free from. Again, while this is a little heartbreaking it has to be taken into consideration that it is a handheld game. Vicarious Visions made an ambitious move to make it appear like an open city, but what ultimately makes this element of the game fairly disappointing is that you can only really "explore" forward or backward.
While players can roam about in the city, there really did not seem to be much point to doing so. Free roaming will result in the players stumbling into areas with gang activity, which will then trigger a "Crime Watch," where players fight bad guys to bring down the area's threat meter. While completing a Crime Watch will give the player Hero Points, which are spent towards unlocking upgrades and new moves for Spidey, these fights become tiresome rather quickly. It is much easier and entertaining to just fast travel to the next story line objective instead of roaming about fighting endless bad guys.
The action of Spider-Man 3 is where the game has a lot of potential to shine. To control Spidey, players use only the D-pad and the stylus. The D pad controls Spider-Man's movement while the DS does every other function (left handed players can use the XYAB buttons instead of the D-pad). Players fight by sliding the stylus on the touchscreen in the direction of their enemies and shoot web by tapping on the touchscreen. Swinging sideways with the stylus does a punch while tapping to a particular side of Spider-Man makes him shoot web. The cool thing about this is that players can link together a string of moves with just intuitive swipes and touches of the stylus, allowing players to really get into the idea that they are a super hero.
The negative aspect of the touchscreen control was that it can also be a liability at times. Sometimes you will try to punch, but in your haste to make a fast combo you will tap the screen, making Spider-Man shoot web. This might do a little harm as breaking your combo or could make you pull yourself away from the combat. Furthermore, while there were a lot of cool combinations that the player could do, it became easier to get high amounts of hits by just finding one fast attack and repeating it. The enemies are supposed to eventually start blocking if you keep repeating the same attack, but this did not seem to work that well when Spider-Man used his sweep kick.
Ultimately Spider-Man 3's biggest pit fall is in its repetition. There really is not that much going on as far as the game's pacing. Players wander towards the next story line objective and fight bad guys along the way. Once they get to the objective they fight more bad guys and rescue people. This is broken up with occasional boss fights. The lack of different aspects to gameplay and constant action wears on the player and is what drives you to just mash...or er...slash away at the screen with one repetitious move. You'll find yourself more concerned with just killing the next guy because you want to progress the game's plot rather than because you really care about how cool of a combo you use to defeat each enemy.
Spider-Man 3 DS could have been great with some different pacing. It looks good and has nailed a lot of the Spider-Man universe (complete with Spidey one liners!). The stylus controls are certainly a step in a new direction for DS action games, showing the potential that the touchscreen can offer in its ability to use more than just buttons. The game can be fun and rewarding and does a pretty decent job at not massacring a movie franchise, but can grow tiresome rather fast if the fighting bores you. With so many other great games out, and even more coming soon, Spider-Man 3 DS might be a game you hold off on until the price drops; unless you're a huge fan of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
What's Hot: Good interpretation of the license; Combo strings and techniques
What's Not: Awkward 2D "Open World" setting; The occasional touchscreen issue