Spider-Man: Friend or Foe
Come on Spidey - give us a decent game?
Xbox 360, DS, PC, PS2, PSP, Wii
Next Level Games
Spider-Man: Friend or Foe is a game that was on the receiving end of so much stick during its preview stage you'd think it was a game glorifying a war criminal paedophile. Everything I read about it mercilessly slagged the poor thing, ripping on it for its bland action, dull looks and the fact that Spidey fights alongside his arch-nemesi (plural of nemesis, yo), thus going against the Spider-Man canon. And, well - they were being a bit harsh, but I do have to agree with them after sinking a few hours of my life into this uninspired tosh.
SpiderFoF is a game for the kids, first and foremost, and I haven't forgotten this point. The fact of the matter is, though, that kids are more intelligent and capable than a lot of people tend to give them credit for - even as a sprightly eight-year-old I would have found SpiderFoF insultingly easy. The punishment for death is the loss of a few 'tech tokens' - around ten of the hundreds you will collect per level - and sometimes, though this seems completely arbitrary, you will lose your combo meter (meaning you will not earn as many 'tech tokens' for defeating foes). On dying, you immediately re-appear, almost exactly where you just died. The enemies have the same health, you have the same power ups - it makes death in the game utterly pointless and it makes the game itself insultingly easy.
But I've managed to get ahead of myself - what is SpiderFoF? It's a scrolling beat 'em up based in the Marvel universe. Basically: Spidey is out fighting just about every bad guy he's ever had to face, when suddenly they're all abducted. Spidey is then taken himself by Nick Fury of SHIELD and told some irrelevant crap about meteor shards and symbiotes. Players then take control of Spidey and one of 13 other Marvel superheroes/villains as they take on hundreds of identikit baddies in areas around the world (sunny world, slippy slidey ice world, spooky world et al), using such stunning moves as punches, jumps and a bit of web fluid.
It's enough to put you into a coma. Just because it's 'for kids', doesn't mean it should be shit.
Combat is bland at best, dull on average and frustratingly arsey at worst - punch, punch, punch, bit of web-slinging, infect that group with some magical nano virus, punch, punch, wait for enemy to walk off cliff of its own accord, beat up large symbiote only to realise it's decided to be invincible to that particular attack, punch, jump, die, no matter, punch win. And that's about every level. Sometimes you get boss battles thrown in - defeat the supervillain (Doc Ock, Green Goblin, Venom, Sandman etc.) and you win their services in the main game. These fights are incredibly easy, though not without their frustrations, with bosses proving adept at the aforementioned random invincibility to certain moves. Bah. Also, I beat Venom without taking a hit, and he's the second-to-last boss. Sandman was harder.
But it's for kids, surely it should be easy? Not this easy. It's insulting to the young 'uns.
Spidey and chums can be upgraded with the 'tech tokens' collected in battle, with new moves and web attacks unlocked as the game progresses. Don't let this fool you though, as these attacks are little more than variations on three main manoeuvres - web line, web shot and web stun. It's an elaborate illusion. Aside from two specials per character, Spidey's partners are all exactly the same - well, some are listed as 'powerful' or 'quick', but they all seemed identikit useless to me, often falling off the many, many cliff faces in the game for no reason whatsoever.
Graphically the game goes for a comic book style, and it achieves limited success - bold colours and basic backgrounds work stylistically, but it doesn't stop the game from looking boring and lazy. There's just no heart in it and things feel decidedly cold, calculated and corporate throughout.
It's not all bad though, I suppose. I mean, it was fun for ten minutes or so until the mind-numbing monotony kicked in, some of the cut scenes are (dare I say it) funny, especially when compared to the similar 'for da kidz' Crash of the Titans' sense of 'humour' and it's very, very easy to rack up a crapload of gamerpoints on it, with around five hours of play rewarding me with a nice 925 of the suckers. The last 75 can sod off though, as I cannot be arsed levelling up the rest of my characters.
All in all, it's a pile of uninspired cynicism, passed off as okay because it's one for the kids. It's short-lived, too easy and insulting to the children of this fair world. I'm sure it'll sell in the millions over Christmas.