Review by Zork86
I'm simply a concerned citizen that wishes to talk about this game.
Most superhero themed games have a rough going of it. There are very few legitimately good ones out there, with Batman seemingly the sole example that has multiple good games. Superman? Yeah right, Wonder Woman? Forget about it...same goes for the rest of those DC guys. It's only been until the last few years that we've managed to get a legit good if not great game that features more DC characters than Batman in it. Marvel however on the whole, seems to fare a little better with the rest of their characters getting decent video game adaptations.
The X-Men in particular seem to have a solid track record, even if I don't agree with whether or not some of these games are worth the time such as the X-Men Legends games. One other standout is Spider-Man, everyone's favorite (or depending on what boneheaded move Marvel's editorial staff makes this time, hated) webhead. As a kid, there were two superheroes that constituted my favorites, Batman of course, and Spider-Man. While Batman remains steadfastly my favorite, much like back then, I enjoyed him and Spider-Man for different reasons. Spider-Man to me was always like Wow, that's so cool! and was more of a lighthearted and fun, thrill seeking kind of adventure.
I had random comics as a kid, and I watched that 90s cartoon religiously. It was only natural that at some point I would try and seek out a Spider-Man video game, or want one anyways. At some point when I was really young in the early 90s, my uncle got me a copy of Spider-Man for the Genesis as it's titled, the subtitle being Spider-Man vs The Kingpin depending on the region, also related to the inferior Sega CD game. There had been Spider-Man games that came before this one, there's an Atari one and a few that were on the NES, Master System and even a decent Arcade beat 'em up that predates this game, however this game is probably the first that got anywhere near being good.
The life of a working class superhero
Spider-Man (the game) actually makes an attempt to have a story, a lot like X-Men did. Kingpin hijacks a local TV station signal to inform the people of New York that Spider-Man has planted a bomb and plans on blowing up the city. He urges everyone to help find him and put a stop Spidey offering a hefty cash reward. Of course this is false as everyone outside of a comic book knows Kingpin is a bad guy and he's the one that has actually planted the bomb for some reason...to blow up the city? What was his plan again? Kingpin sets a bomb and scatters about color coded keys and gives them to various other Spider-Man villain alumni such as Doctor Octopus, The Lizard, Electro, Sandman, and Hobgoblin.
At some point he even gets Venom in on this depending on the difficulty you choose but he doesn't entrust Venom with a key, can you blame him though? Another event that happens later is that Kingpin sics Venom on Mary Jane to kidnap her and hold her hostage, just because. Again, what was his plan? The Kingpin who is that typical gangster with legitimate businesses has a nuclear bomb that's going to blow up the city with color coded Fisher Price keys and he kidnaps a random woman and holds her over a fire and says Spider-Man, defeat these villains, get the keys, and save the girl if you can within 24 hours! AHAHAHA!!!, man thinking about the story now it's pretty dumb. At least X-Men's story made sense, Magneto just wanted screw with the X-Men so he infected their Danger Room computer with a virus.
You have 24 hours Spider-Man...
That's right, this game is on a timer. It's a pretty long one too, the bomb is set to go off in 24 hours and your main goal is to get to the end of each level, fight a boss and not die in the process while snapping some photos for the Daily Bugle for extra cash, that's right this game actually worked in Peter Parker's job into the gameplay somehow and it's kind of cool, as far as I know this is the first Spider-Man game to attempt this. You'll want to snap these pictures so you can refill your web fluid, because this was back when Spider-Man made his web fluid with science, not because he's a weird mutant. Gameplay is basic, as this was a pre six button controller game. You can jump, shoot webs and websling while jumping, punch and kick, you also have a menu that gives access to a web shield, your camera to shoot photos, and the ability to go home and heal.
The Web Shield will absorb a few hits for you, the go home and heal thing is something altogether. Sometimes later on in the game you'll want to go take a rest and get some life back if you can't find a health power up...which by the way the power up icons in this game are confusing. I can never tell what they do, there's different colored ones but they all seem to just have a random effect, like you'll find a blue one that'll give you health, and then you'll find another blue one that gives you web fluid...it's weird. Anyways when you rest at your home, time passes off of the timer a little faster so be careful about this, especially if you've died a few times. When you die, you're thrown in jail and when you continue two hours are shaved off the timer. In a sense you've got twelve continues before you die, a weird number but there it is. At least the game is generous.
This is pretty much in the vain of most action/platformer styled games back then. You traverse a level, jump and swing around, beat up bad guys and try not to die. Simple, but engaging and fun, especially with the webslinging though sometimes you'll wish you had more free range with it. The multitude of enemies you run into are standard fare up to a point, you've got crooks with guns and knives, rats (?), a dude trying to run you over in a forklift, mutants that live in the sewer, giant alligators, and eventually the police in riot gear and mechs! Ol' Webhead's got his work cut out for him.
There is very little wrong here in the gameplay, but if anything you'll mostly just wish that there were more to it. Only thing I didn't like was the fact that later on you're forced to rest at home more because the game gets stingy with power ups. All this does is break pacing of the game as when you're sitting at home, that's literally what you're doing. You just stand there and wait for your health to fill up. I would rather I just hit the button and it subtracted however much time was needed equal to my health that way I could continue.
New York ain't much to look at it, but it has nice sound and personality
Now comes the only other faults I have with game, the visual aspects, and only part of the audio. Graphically, this game is serviceable if I had to put it some way. The boss characters and Spider-Man look great, they stick out, they're colorful and have smooth animation. The other stuff you see like the common enemies and the backdrops however aren't much to write home over. Many of the common enemies have stiff and limited animations and the backdrops are inoffensive at best.
Audio is half and half. The sound effects are just ridiculous in a bad way. When Spider-Man punches or kicks it sounds like he's blasting through screen doors in an echo chamber. Hit effects will sound like a slowed down whoopee cushion, I'm not sure how else to put it. Soundtrack however, this is cool stuff here.
This soundtrack is mostly synth, heavy in bass and rhythm kinds of stuff. I saw a Youtube commenter say this reminds him a lot of John Carpenter's soundtrack work and I find that comparison pretty accurate and really cool. There's a lot of tracks that may stick with you outside of the game too, and it's pretty nice to listen too as just music which is an accomplishment. If you're curious go take a look on Youtube and see if you can find it. I'd point to this game as another good example of Genesis style 16-bit music.
When I played and beat this game again recently (the second time I've ever done it as well in my whole life) I realized this is actually a pretty damn good Spider-Man game. It stands out on it's own against a sea of mediocre games that span all the way back from the Atari days to now with games on the 360 and PS3. I've heard people say there are no good Spider-Man games and it's easy to say that looking back at everything, however there are exceptions and this is one of them on the Genesis.
+ Solid, easy to grasp gameplay.
+ Many Spider-Man characters make an apperance here, even Aunt May and J. Jonah Jameson.
+ Implements Peter Parker's job into the gameplay somehow and even makes it important and not frustrating to do. Not an easy task.
+ Has a kick ass John Carpenter style soundtrack.
- Resting in your home a lot later can be a drag, it bogs the pacing of the game down.
- Graphics are unimpressive for the most part.
- Sound effects are hilariously weird and bad.
Overall Score: 6.75 Above Average
Score Modified to 7/10 for Gamefaqs.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Spider-Man (US, 10/17/91)
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