Fans of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man have had a rough few years when it comes to video games. Ever since the critically acclaimed Spider-Man 2 hit consoles, there hasn’t really been a Spidey game to write home about. Thankfully, the developer Beenox has come along and dropped Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions in eager gamers’ laps. It may be a little rough around the edges, but it is easily the best outing that the wall-crawler has had in quite some time.
Shattered Dimensions doesn’t just follow one webslinger; instead, gamers get a chance to play as four Spider-Men from different universes, each with their own unique style of play and villains. When Beenox first announced that they were splitting the game play between different heroes, I thought it would turn out to be gimmicky and repetitive. Surprisingly, they had enough unique ideas to actually separate the four worlds for the most part.
Amazing Spider-Man is the plain vanilla Spidey that fans know and love whether they’ve just seen the movies or know to cringe at the mention of The Clone Saga. Spider-Man Noir resides in a very pulpy 1940s and doesn’t quite have the strength to match up to the others, so his missions play out as cloak and dagger stealth missions. Spider-Man 2099 is from… well the year 2099. His missions incorporate adrenaline-fueled sequences of base jumping and skydiving through the cluttered, neon-infused future cityscape. Ultimate Spider-Man is a younger version of Peter Parker who has the infamous black symbiote suit that allows for some God of War-like combat as he whips black tendrils around to take out baddies.
To be fair, they all play pretty similarly, but since it’s pretty easy for a beat-em-up to get stale, it’s good that there are enough differences to keep things fresh. I was almost caught off guard by how Beenox was able to make Ultimate and Amazing Spider-Man play as differently as they do.
Unlike Spider-Man 2, Shattered Dimensions isn’t a free roaming swing-for-all. Instead it follows an incredibly linear path where each level is based on a confrontation with one of Spidey’s rogues gallery who have taken possession of a piece of the Tablet of Order and Chaos, the game’s McGuffin. This actually turns out to be one of the games strengths since it keeps the action focused and the player constantly moving towards their goal. The Sandman level is definitely a stand out, taking place in an abandoned mining town that’s being held hostage by an enormous dust and sand tornado. Because of this, there aren’t a lot of safe places for the player to touch down, so they spend a good chunk of the level suspended in the air as they zip around on all of the debris that the dust storm is tossing around. Just one of the few moments where I said to myself, “Wow, this feels like I’m Spider-Man,” while playing.
The biggest feature is The Web of Destiny. The Web of Destiny works like an in-game achievement system where each level has a set of challenges that reward the player with Spider Essence, the game’s experience points. The challenges range from getting through certain scripted events in each level to combat challenges. Not only do these add a bit of replay value to each level, but they give extra incentive to try out different styles. It’s easy to fall into a rut in brawlers where you just punch and kick your way through the level, but Shattered Dimensions offers up some Spidey-centric moves that are a blast to use. Thanks to some of the early challenges in the Web of Destiny, the player has an extra reason to try out webbing objects and throwing them at enemies, or the different variations of the web-zip kick. Thanks to the gentle suggestions of the Web of Destiny, the combat stays fresh since the player is always trying out different strategies.
The four Spider-Men are voiced by Neil Patrick Harris (Amazing), Josh Keaton (Ultimate), Dan Gilvezan (2099), and Christopher Daniel Barnes (Noir), and all four turn in great performances, delivering the puns and bad jokes that Spider-Man is known for. However, the villains are hit and miss, which is a shame. There’s really no story to speak of; The Tablet of Order and Chaos is broken, each piece is held by a villain, Spidey fights them. That’s about it. The final level is the definition of lackluster.
While the combat can be a little repetitive, the Noir sections have a very imperfect stealth system and the story is paper thin, the game still delivers. It’s fun, it can illicit a few chuckles and it accomplishes the goal of making the player feel like Spider-Man. If you’re a fan of the wall-crawler, it’s definitely worth a play. Hopefully, Shattered Dimensions signals a return to form for the Spider-Man franchise in the gaming world.