Review: Spider-Man: Edge of Time (X360)
As the name suggests, Spidey’s latest is all about time. If anything, in fact, the theme runs a little too deep. On the surface, there’s all the fun stuff – the plot stuff – as two different Spider-Men, one from the present, one from the future, are thrown together to avert all manner of trans-dimensional catastrophes. Underneath, meanwhile, there’s a more depressing story: the tale of another decent development team forced, by the looks of it, to turn a serviceable game around in the space of a year. Last September Beenox proved it could bring life and energy and even a touch of invention to Marvel’s chirpy web-slinger, but the follow up to the very likeable Shattered Dimensions is a game that bears all the hallmarks of having been thrown together in a hurry.
And so, while Shattered Dimensions offered four different Spider-Men, we’re down to just two this time around – and they aren’t the interesting ones either. With the Noir and Ultimate incarnations chopped, monochrome stealth and cel-shaded super-violence both take a walk too, leaving us with The Amazing Spider-Man, and Spider-Man 2099. Combat animations aside, there isn’t much between them, except for their special moves. (Amazing’s hyper-sense allows him to move dead fast, throwing out jabs and kicks as he goes, while 2099 can move, um, dead fast, leaving enemies attacking a shimmering decoy.) You spend Edge of Time switching back and forth from one to the other hand, for a lot of the game, the only way you can tell which one’s which is by the fact that the Spider-Man from the future likes to put you through interminable free-fall sequences in which you dodge pipes or, most likely, eagerly plough right into them. The Amazing Spider-Man doesn’t. That’s one reason why he’s amazing, at least.
Much worse than a pipe in the face, though, is the fact that Shattered Dimensions’ excellent structure also appears to have been a victim of cost-cutting. Rather than enjoying a series of globe-trotting self-contained episodes, each with a big name boss slung through the middle, you’re now left to settle for a shapeless adventure set within a single building, with the extended super-star cast all but limited to a quick Black Cat cameo and a horribly deformed take on Doctor Octopus. Even here you can tell Beenox has tried to inject the formula with a little life, focusing on an almost antiphonal set-up in which the two Spider-Men bicker and help each other out, despite being separated by an entire century. A lot of the game hinges on quantum causality, in which one Spidey changes the world in their own time, sending out ripples of consequence that will affect the other Spidey in theirs. It sounds potentially fascinating, but it generally comes down to little more than the odd warping wall or a toxic cloud of radioactive gas in the one era that can only be cleared by destroying some canisters of radioactive gas in another. Meanwhile, as far as the player’s concerned, you’ve no say over which character you get to control from one moment to the next, and there’s no nuance or intrigue to the game’s witless puzzles, the majority of which involve hunting for keys to security doors, or luring rockets into bulky padlocks. It’s all a miserable disappointment coming from a team that, if nothing else, once had a real flair for set-pieces.
Combat is pleasant but unrefined, and although each hero has a decent suite of attacks including juggles, ranged moves, and a shield-breaker, there’s little incentive to fling them together with any elegance. Traversal, meanwhile, could often be a cheery shambles in Shattered Dimensions and is even worse here, with environments that are, save for a few notable exceptions, too claustrophobic to encourage any web-swinging, and controls that struggle to distinguish between zipping towards a specific anchor point and swinging unblinkingly into a wall. Precision movement’s bad enough when you’re platforming, but the final boss turns it into a combat mechanic too. Big mistake.
If Edge of Time struggles to escape from the shadow of Shattered Dimensions, the game that really looms over it is Batman: Arkham City. Rocksteady’s masterful take on the Dark Knight offers, amongst other pleasures, a near-perfect synthesis of comic book inspiration and video game form. That game’s not just a testament to raw talent, though – it’s a testament to publisher support and development resources. Batman got enough time, in other words. Despite all manner of quantum entanglement, Spidey hasn’t been quite so lucky.
Lasting Appeal: 4