Spider-Man: Edge of Time
The wall-crawler returns this year in the spiritual, if indirect sequel to last year’s Shattered Dimensions. This time, Peter Parker is in grave peril from the machinations of a twisted scientist with a passion for time-bending. The only hero who can change the present is a hero from the future – Miguel O’Hara, the Spider-Man from 2099. Like the previous outing, Edge of Time focuses heavily on melee combat and much less on web-slinging, but does it weave a web of intrigue or is it destined to be flushed down the drain?
The original Spider-Man is dead (this is not a spoiler as the game beats you with it from the title screen) and the future has been altered in a big way. In an attempt to realign reality and prevent Parker’s premature death, O’Hara warns the iconic hero of his impending doom. What follows is a tale centred around the implausible idea of time paradoxes and quantum… thingies. The game does its best to sound intelligent at times, and presents excuses for the ridiculous events that occur, with objects and enemies in one time being directly affected from the other; think Marty Mcfly’s disappearing hand in Back to the Future and you’re halfway there.
Typical comic antics are to be expected and should wholeheartedly be welcomed, but not when used as an excuse for issues in the game itself. In this case, we’re referring to the abundance of respawning enemies – loosely explained here by the idea of causality. What this boils down to is an army of cut and paste foes that only serve to irritate and slow the pacing at exactly the wrong times. Spider-Man himself can often be heard uttering the words ‘this is getting ridiculous’, echoing your own thoughts as you laboriously hammer the attack buttons. There’s just no finesse to the combat at all; you can upgrade your characters through collectible orbs and golden spiders, but there’s very little reason to do so as they add nothing to the experience overall. Amazing Spider-Man seems to be the most proficient in battle, with heavy attacks laying waste to almost anything in his path.
As previously stated, the web-slinging takes a back seat as the entire game is set inside the towering Alchemax building (approximately the height of Mount Everest, which would explain Miguel’s extended downward plummets). History shows that a level-based approach can work well for Spidey, but some open areas would have done wonders to alleviate the constant fisticuffs. The aforementioned plummets that were first seen in Shattered Dimensions are more frantic than ever, and do make for some genuinely challenging moments where quick reflexes are a necessity. Through most of the game, you’ll have to beat down on bad guys to obtain three keys to open a locked door, or have to hammer the circle button enough to make even Kratos blush – hardly inspiring stuff and anything but inventive.
Spider-Man Edge of Time does have one outstanding feature, namely the dialogue. Josh Keaton and Christopher Daniel Barnes – two voice artists who have played the webbed wonder in animated shows –are the reason this game has any kind of magic to it. Without these two and their wonderful script, the game would fall way below the level of mediocrity. Parker and O’Hara bounce lines off each other with reckless abandon, keeping the entertainment rolling – though it might actually make you more frustrated that everything else fails to even strive for this high standard. O’Hara’s ‘ends justifies the means’ attitude is initially at odds with Parker’s ‘live in the moment’ mentality, but as the friendship develops they each come to appreciate and understand what motivates the other. It’s this alone that will keep you from shelving the disc after the opening hours.
Beyond switching between present day and the future, there really isn’t much to look at. Combat tries to inject some razzle-dazzle with comic book styled light effects, but it tends to look a little out of place. It’s far from an ugly game and high-production values do make themselves apparent on occasion, but the environments are so one-note and the art direction so forgettable that any graphical prowess tends to be lost. The world of Amazing Spider-Man is full of offices given an orange tint by the setting sun, while in 2099 you can expect a whole lot of blues and futuristic neon. This isn’t an ugly game by any stretch, but it also never strives to make its locations anything close to memorable.
Edge of Time really doesn’t offer much in the way of replayability either. There are unlockable costumes (with old favourites such as Ben Reilly’s spider-duds and a few very new creations) and challenges to complete, but the odds are even the most enthusiastic of fans will have grown tired by the end credits. Not even the villains stand out in any meaningful way, with a lack of major players being rather questionable after the boss-centric approach of Shattered Dimensions. That’s not to say that the formula here is bad, as we actually prefer the flowing story to the episodic format from the last game. That said it’s likely that you’ll end up wondering what’s going on and why certain characters (including Parker’s ex and the future CEO of Alchemax) do the things they do.
As a game that’s meant to be played, Spider-Man Edge of Time fails on some surprisingly basic levels. The simple combat and respawning enemies do little for the pacing and become a nuisance very quickly, the twitch-based falling of 2099 are high-speed but suffer from control issues, while the story itself is best described as a tangled web of confusion. All things considered, the game should by rights be considered a write-off, yet it’s redeemed somewhat by the tight dialogue that prevails from beginning to end. This should probably have been a CG movie, as it’s the action itself that disappoints the most. Both Spider-Men deserved better than this, but avid fans might want to consider a weekend rental if only to hear the performances. Everyone else should flush this particular spider away.
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