Review by Computerbug8

Reviewed: 05/15/09

My mediocre game senses are tingling!

You know, off the top of my head, it's really hard for me to come up with a game based on a superhero that actually turned out to be fun to play. I've never been a huge fan of Marvel or anything like that, but I've played a few games with their characters before. And as I just hinted, the ones I've played have generally been mediocre at best, with only one or two exceptions.

Enter this borderline painful memory. Like almost all the other superhero games I've played, Spiderman Vs. The Kingpin is a game I can only say is decent if I'm in a general mood. While it plays alright for the most part, specific gameplay elements and other little details about this game just make the experience more of a groan-fest than the middle of Spiderman 3.

STORY

Since this game has a little bit of a plot going, I should probably throw it in there. So, one of Peter Parker's arch enemies, The Kingpin, has planted a bomb somewhere in New York City and has convinced everyone that Spiderman was the one responsible. Now, Spiderman has twenty-four hours to locate the bomb and disarm it before the city is blown to bits. But poor Spiderman can't just go over to the bomb and flip the switch off. Instead, he has to go through the trouble of tracking down some of his other enemies who are holding the keys needs to disarm the bomb while figuring out how to reach The Kingpin.

For a supehero game from the Genesis, this is probably about as good as you can get. At least here you're given an explanation as to why you're going through the different levels and why you're battling some of Spidermans deadliest foes there. Heck, the locations of the villains even make sense; the Lizard is lurking in the sewers while Electro is having fun at the power plant. So at least there's a little bit of logic here.

GAMEPLAY

Naturally, you play as Spiderman as you go through each area while beating the snot out of any enemies that stand in your way. There are no exceptions here. If it moves, it can hurt you. Whether it's one of Spidey's arch rivals, a random armed grunt who seems to have a bone to pick with Spiderman for whatever reason, or even a tiny rat, anything and everything is out to get you. There are two ways you can go about vanquishing these foes, the first of which is the old fashioned way: kicking and punching. While the close combat moves aren't always that strong, they become very helpful once you eventually hit an enemy with them, because unlike your other mode of attacking, you can kick and punch an enemy as many times as you want.

In case you couldn't guess, the other way you can beat an enemy is by shooting at it with web. However, you have a limited supply of web, and every time you either shoot at an enemy or swing, your web meter is depleted. Depending on how tough you made the game for yourself, this can happen rather quickly. Like your regular health, you can pick up some items along the way that give you more web, but this alone probably won't be enough. Thankfully, there's another way of obtaining web: buying it. But to buy it, you obviously need money. And to get money, you have to utilize Peter Parker's job at the Daily Bugle and take pictures of your enemies. However, you can only take three or four pictures per level, so you have to choose wisely. Taking photos of regular and generic enemies will get you a small amount of money, whereas taking pictures of bosses will get you a considerably higher amount. At the end of each level, the money you earned by taking pictures will automatically buy more web until your meter is filled or until you run out of money.

So far the game seems pretty decent, right? Just playing as Spiderman, going from one place to another beating up enemies with an objective in mind...so what's not to like? Lots of stuff.

Let's start with one of the game's features that'll be sure to get on your bad side: the time limit. Remember that 24-hour time limit mentioned earlier that Spiderman has to disarm the bomb? The game keeps track of the time until the bomb explodes, but that's not 24 real hours. Time in this game goes by at a much faster pace, so you actually only have a few hours, tops. What's worse, every time you die you automatically lose two hours from the clock. While there's no definite amount of lives you can lose, repeatedly dying will quickly drain the clock.

Most of the time, you'll probably find yourself dying at the hands of the bosses. This is where the gameplay starts getting kind of weird. Initially, the bosses will seem really tricky and perhaps even unbeatable. You could find yourself getting killed three or four times by Dr. Octopus in level one before you even realize how to hit him at all. All the other bosses follow the same pattern, and yet all of them (save the final boss) actually have very repetitive moves that leave them open to you finding a weakness that will enable you to kill them without any sort of trouble at all. I can personally say that the first couple of times I tried fighting Electro, I got my butt handed to me. But after finding one particular pattern, I was able to beat him while only taking one or two hits without any sort of trouble at all. The others bosses are exactly the same way. It's perfectly normal to get better at fighting an enemy after you do it enough times, but in the case of Spiderman Vs. The Kingpin, you don't really have to "get better". Instead, you just find out how each enemy moves and you just find a way to attack the enemy without the risk of being hit yourself. Again, every boss except for the final one can easily be beaten while taking minimal damage.

But if you think the bosses are the only enemies in the game who'll give you a hard time, then you're in for a rude awakening. The regular enemies you battle can be just as annoying, if not, more so, than Spiderman's biggest villains. Take the random people armed with guns who you meet several times throughout the game, for example. When it's just one that you're fighting and you can just walk over to them, it's not a problem. However, there are a few instances where you have to jump up a ledge or something, much like in other platformers. The trouble is, there are usually enemies waiting right by the end of the ledge, and it's not uncommon at all to try to jump up, only to be hit by the enemy and then knocked back down, forcing you to jump or climb up again. This could easily happen several times before you finally dodge the bullet (literally) and can proceed. Come on, Mr. Programmer. Those kinds of things don't make the game challenging or fun, they're just annoying!

In short, good luck getting through the levels without taking a little bit of damage. Yes, you could always put up a web shield after navigating through the conveniently simple menu, but that uses up your web canister, and the shield can only take three hits. While we're on the subject of the menu, let's talk about some other options you can access from it. In addition to putting up web shields, this is also where you select the camera for when you want to snap a photo of an enemy. You can also choose an icon that'll take you back to your apartment where your life bar refills, but this causes the countdown clock to really pick up speed, and you end up wasting a lot of time. What's more, you can't even pick up where you left off. Instead, you have to start back at the level. Really, you're better off just letting yourself get killed if you want to refill your health bar.

The controls certainly don't make the game any easier. To be honest, they're not that bad, and even if they're a little unresponsive or clunky at first, they're pretty easy to get used to. However, it can still be tough getting Spiderman to do what you want him to, even when you could otherwise play the game in your sleep. No matter where you are in the game and how experienced you are, there will always be times when you try getting Spiderman to cling to a wall or climb a tree, and he won't. Having him aim his web is also a little tricky, because there were times when I tried having him shoot diagonally upwards and he wouldn't,

As hard as this game may seem at first, it's actually really easy. When you're first starting out and trying to get a hang of the levels and how to deal with enemies, it may take fifteen or twenty minutes just to get to the boss or figure out how to beat him. However, once you figure out the patterns for each enemy and exploit weaknesses that allow you to take risk-free cheap shots, you'll instead be able to go from the first level to final boss in fifteen or twenty minutes. That said, being able to go through the game fairly quickly and easily after enough practice could explain why the developers didn't feel the need to put in a save or password system. Having to start from the beginning of a level after dying is one thing, but having to start over from the very beginning for running out of time without any way to skip ahead is just annoying.

GRAPHICS

Now that the gameplay's out of the way, on to something that's a little bit easier to describe. The graphics aren't incredible as far as Genesis games go, but they're really not bad. For starters, Spiderman is modeled fairly well, as are all his enemies. The villains especially look pretty good, as you can easily tell who you're fighting without having to use your imagination at all. The sprites are pretty good overall and look well animated, so no major complaints here.

The backgrounds are alright, although they begin repeating themselevs incredibly quickly. Still, this is to be expected, as as I just said, they're not all that bad looking. The buildings in the background give you the sense of being in the middle of the city, the towers and other weird devices make you feel like Spiderman's really stepped into a power plant, and the sewers are dark and filled with alligators, just as I'm sure you were expecting.

Just to top off the comic book style, there are a few still images seen throughout the game. These are done fairly well and actually look almost like they were pictures taken right out of the latest issue of Spiderman and planted into the game. The Kingpin is seen in all his fat and ugly glory when he's delivering broadcasts, and it's always satisfying after finishing off a boss battle to see an image of the villain tied up in Spidey's web.

SOUND

This is where the game once again starts sinking. For starters, none of the tunes are all that catchy. I would be shocked if you played this game and then ever had the urge to start humming one of the tunes from it while walking down the street. That's not to say the music's bad, but it's certainly not anything great. None of the songs will ever get on your nerves, but they won't be sticking around in your head for that long. The only ones you'll probably remember after a while are the ones you hear over and over, like the opening screen track, the song that plays during one of the game's few cutscenes between levels, and probably the waaaaay overly dramatic music that plays every single time you lose a life.

The sound effects aren't anything too special either, and they can get kind of annoying after a while. And some of them are just weird. For instance, Doc Ock's tentacles sound about as far from loud and crushing as you can imagine, and Spiderman's punches are like a mechanical version of a twig loudly snapping.

LENGTH

Like many other games, Spiderman Vs. The Kingpin will take you a long time to get through at first, but once you get the hang of it, it's not really all that long. As stated before, a password or saving system could certainly help make the experience quicker and more enjoyable, but since the game can easily be beaten in under half an hour with enough patience invested in it, I guess those kinds of things aren't really necessary. But even though it's a quick game once you get used to it, don't go expecting it be a complete breeze the first time you pick it up.

PROS

+ Story is actually pretty logical
+ Graphics are decent
+ Music is alright
+ Easy to get the hang of

CONS

- Controls are kind of clunky
- Boss battles are broken; you will either have an impossible time with them, or beat them in a painfully easy way once exploiting the weakness in their patterns
- Game clock is also messed up; if you run out of time, it won't be from taking too long, but by how many times you died
- Some regular enemies just make the game flat out annoying
- Lack of password or saving features make going through the levels again tedious

CLOSING NOTES

As you can see, there are certainly good things that can be said about Spiderman Vs. The Kingpin. The graphics are nice looking, and, while it's definitely not the best music you'll find on the Genesis, the tunes aren't all that bad. On top of all that, it's really easy getting a hang of how the game works. These are nice and all, but they ultimately won't mean much if the game itself has some glaring faults. Sadly, that is the case we have here. While the game itself isn't that tough with practice, that doesn't mean it's not annoying. Having to go through the same levels and enemies over and over just because you ran out of time on the final area is never fun, even if it only takes about a third of an hour to get back to where you lost. And while the game becomes a great deal less frustrating once you learn how to hit an enemy or boss without taking any damage, it really takes away any difficulty or challenge the game had to offer. Bypassing enemies and bosses is tough at first, but once you learn how to deal with them, this game becomes incredibly easy for the most part.

Overall, this game isn't that bad. In fact, it's much better compared to other games making use of the Spiderman license. (Like that crime against humanity, The Amazing Spiderman, on the Game Boy was) Still, the game has obvious flaws that bring the overall experience down a lot. The imbalanced difficult doesn't help, and overall the game just proves to be more frustrating than challenging for the most part.

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Product Release: Spider-Man (US, 10/17/91)

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