Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can - Is he strong? Listen, bud, he's got radioactive blood, LOOK OUT! Here comes... a cheap disappointment.
People who make videogames surely must play them. They must know at least vaguely what is and what is not fun in all that concerns the interactive medium, and gain some enjoyment from it. And presumably, the people making a Spider-Man game would have some degree of appreciation for the subject matter. After all, is there anyone on this green Earth who doesn't love Toby Magui- I mean, Spidey?
Assuming all of the above to be true, it mystifies me that Vicarious Visions could have let this game come into being. Considering that a Spider-Man videogame is, in concept, a mixture of two of the most awesome things in existence, this is something of a travesty. Why, I ask myself, inbetween swinging through this game's second level for the fourth time searching for a missed hostage and jabbing impotently at the A button to avoid instantaneous death when I find him, can nobody get it right?
This DS launch title is not, sadly, based on the quite reasonable Xbox, PS2 and GameCube iterations of the Spider-Man 2 franchise. This, instead, is based upon the Game Boy Advance's Mysterio's Menace Spider-Man game, essentially a side-scrolling 2D beat-em-up. The game features huge, over-complicated levels with objectives scattered sparsely around them in a way that's both confusing and highly frustrating for those of us without a hugely developed sense of direction. We are faced with challenges as diverse as rescuing hostages, defeating enemies and rescuing hostages while defeating enemies. This, I am afraid to say, is conclusively not fun.
It's only fair to mention, before I bemoan Spider-Man 2's failure to meet my personal standards of adequacy, that there appears to be some degree of effort put into the game. The graphics are certainly reasonable; our polygonal Spider-Man swings around the levels in a nicely animated fashion, and though the backgrounds are mostly brown and grey and generally uninteresting, they're never offensive to the eye. Spider-Man also makes good use of his abilities, sticking to walls, zipping across gaps with streaks of web and swinging speedily through the air. Messing about and swinging left and right for a bit is quite entertaining, there's no denying it. But when one starts actually trying to play through the game, frustration quickly sets in.
Most unfortunately, the opening level happens to be one of the game's worst, not that they vary all that tremendously. Immediately, you are thrown into a burning building and told to rescue the people trapped within. Sadly, the burning building's layout is so complicated that even finding the willpower to continue with the level once you've been through the same room for the eighth time in search of something you've missed is an enormous feat. Perseverance, in fact, is the main quality required for those who wish to gain even the tiniest speck of enjoyment from playing Spider-Man 2 for the DS - such things as skill and inventiveness go entirely unrewarded.
Take the combat system, for instance. Now, Spidey isn't a wimp. You wouldn't expect him to fall over after being kicked three times in the shins by a single bad guy. This, though, is what inevitably happens time and time again as the game goes on. The collision detection is so out-of-synch that Spider-Man can't even seem to aim a punch properly, and attempting to tackle enemies often results in his being caught between the enemy's attacks and a wall, or so caught up in his 'owch' animation that he is left unable either to retaliate or run away from continued attacks. Spider-Man seems to die ridiculously easily, and though health pick-ups help to alleviate this problem somewhat as the game goes on, the frustrations of the battle system still remain.
Even the Spider-Sense ability, which featured in the home-console iterations of the game and allows the player to slow down time in order to defeat enemies more effectively, is so badly implemented as to be entirely useless. The game only gives the opportunity to use it when Spider-Man is already on his way to a slow, crippling death, and all that is achieves is to let the player watch Spider-Man fail to land a punch and crumple to the ground in slow-motion, giving them even more time to groan at the prospect of having to go back and do the entire level again.
Having to do one of the levels more than once has good reason to provoke annoyance. Spider-Man's levels, though simple 2D left-and-right affairs, manage to be big enough to cause immense confusion. Enemies and hostages, which inevitably have to be dealt with whatever the mission, seem to hide in the most obscure, easy-to-miss nooks and crannies, leaving the player swinging distractedly left and right in vain search of them. If you do find them, of course, there's an enormous chance you'll just be killed without even being given a proper chance to fight.
The web-slinging special moves do something to save the game, though they're the most arbitrary touchscreen-feature that I have yet seen on the DS. You can unlock them as you progress, select which to use on the touchscreen, and execute it with a simple press of a shoulder button. In the context of the rest of the game, the feeling of glee when an enemy is thrown off a building by a web shot is blissful.
I'm not criticising Spider-Man 2 just because it's not the Spider-Man game we all want; that would be unfair. I'm not criticising it for being too uncomplicated; games of this sort, when well made, can have immense charm, as demonstrated by the GBA's all-swinging, all-action, ninja-rope-centric title Ninja Cop, which in many ways is what this game could have been. I'm criticising it because it's frustrating, unvaried, uninventive and crippled by design faults. I can only advise you to steer well clear of it.