Title  : Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro
Platforms  : Sony PlayStation
Publisher  : Activision
ESRB Rating  : Everyone
Game Rating  : 6.6
Review by  : Ken Gagne

Spider-Man, Spider-Man. Makes all the mistakes a developer can. 

The original Spider-Man game for the PlayStation was developed by Neversoft, the team responsible for the blockbuster Tony Hawk's Pro Skater games. They worked equally phenomenal magic on the wall-crawler, creating possibly the finest superhero video game ever. Rather than demand a repeat performance, publisher Activision has given responsibility of the sequel, Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro, to Vicarious Visions, who got their web in a knot and failed to follow Neversoft's act. 

As per the game's subtitle, Electro, Spidey's electrifying foe, has stolen a device to increase his strength by millions of volts. Only Peter Parker's alter-ego can save the day! This tour of the Marvel universe will send players toe-to-toe with some of Spider-Man's most nefarious nemeses, with cameos by other comic book characters commonplace. 

Players must become Spider-Man by learning the PlayStation controller in its entirety. Spider-Man can punch, kick, jump, and fire webbing fluid; this last aspect of his repertoire takes the most control. The shoulder buttons are used for taking aim and swinging Spider-Man from web lines. By combining the Triangle button with the directional pad, players can spin seven other forms of webbing, from a protective web dome to impact webbing. Mastering the timing of these combos is essential, yet the occasional mistake will still be unavoidable. 

New to this sequel is an auto-aim feature that compensates for Spider-Man's inability to turn in small degrees. Unfortunately, this new feature has failings of its own. It works only with nearby targets, which Spidey can usually hit automatically anyway. Plus, since firing webbing requires using the directional pad, a slight mistiming of button presses can throw off the aiming slightly, spoiling the shot. 

The gameplay is also hit-or-miss. The sequel has a surplus of free range levels, where Spider-Man must explore at his leisure to accomplish goals such as collecting keys or disabling gun turrets. The approach for these levels is not clearly defined, leaving players to wander around knowing what to do, but not how to do it. Other levels have imprecise endpoints; Spidey can be swinging along from building to building when he's suddenly interrupted by a cinema furthering the story. 

The boss encounters similarly fail to tingle one's spider-sense. The original Spider-Man game demonstrated an intimate knowledge of Spidey's rogues gallery, providing unique and innovative measures for defeating them. In the sequel, the electric menace Shocker is defeated by… throwing crates at him? I fail to see either the connection or the entertainment. 

As with its predecessor, Spider-Man 2 showcases a variety of voice acting talent. Each level is narrated by Spider-Man creator Stan Lee, who could just as well be reading introduction balloons from comic panels. The cast is replete with experienced voice actors who bring to life Electro, the Lizard, Professor X, and other Marvel icons, and give witty retorts that add insult to the injuries Spidey inflicts. The common thugs, however, have a limited arsenal of speech; after hearing the same insipid threats over and over, I fail to feel at all intimidated. 

It is on this level of quality that the music makes its presence known. It hums along in the background, failing to create any additional atmosphere for the webhead's exploits. The title scene is utterly silent, blasphemously devoid of even a hint of the well-known Spider-Man theme song. 

Many developers tinker with game formulas to be innovative and provide fresh gameplay experiences. Vicarious Visions wrongly decided such change was necessary here. A repeat performance of the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler's daring PlayStation adventure would've been a welcome addition to any Spider-fan's gaming library. This game, by contrast, is left caught in its web of gameplay issues.


This article is copyright (c) 2001, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Gamebits, 30-Oct-01