Our favorite web-slinger first appeared back in September of 1962 in Amazing Fantasy #15. Since then, he has been beloved by millions as one of the greatest heroes ever created. He is relatable, funny, dynamic and an all-around decent human being… with radioactive spider powers. One draw to him is the fact that even though he is a superhero, he is not too overly powerful. He may be stronger than any normal human being, but there are several superheroes that are far greater in strength. He has his weaknesses and his quirks, but that only makes him more realistic and makes those tense scenes all the more fun to watch.
Being arguably the favorite superhero comes with yet another perk, though. The merchandise and paraphernalia are absolutely through the roof! You would be hard pressed to find some form of entertainment or toy where Spider-man is not prominently showcased in all his red and blue glory. Among these massively popular mediums is video games. Spidey has been featured in tons of games on a vast number of different systems (even systems you may never have heard about) and while some of them have the wall-crawler at his finest, some of them simply missed the mark.
First, we can get into more dismal views of the webbed crusader. He has no shortage of terrible games in his library and many of them can be found in his less recent video games. There was an era of games where the concept of a Spidey game was rather raw and unmolded.
Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six
One of the most well-known games in the old Spider-man era is the 1992 release on the NES, Master system, and game gear. We will be looking at the version of the NES console where we play a side-scrolling platform version of the old web-head. While the graphics are quite good for the time, that’s about all that can be said in a positive light. LJN is a company notorious for its bad video games and timely releases at the cost of quality. It boasts a great roster of villains, some of the favourites are showcased here, and while they shine in the comic-like atmosphere of the game, they are still overtly hated and despised for all the wrong reasons.
The controls of this game are absolutely atrocious! It is a very steep learning curve and the difficulty spike comes from the inability to pull off simple moves rather than the actual gameplay. The worst part is the hit detection. You can be right on target with your punches, which is your strongest attack and still completely miss the mark. You have to be standing in an exact spot and execute it just right to get the desired effect. The boss fights are tedious and completely unfair, rather than sporting a fair challenge. You have a hit bar of four squares while your enemies have a hit bar of seemingly ten or twenty.
The real terror comes in the form of your hit bar and making sure you do not get damaged by enemies. If you get even two hits from the underlings early on, you may as well consider yourself on borrowed time. You have two whole lives to play with, and after losing the second time, you have to start all the way at the beginning of the game. With the hit detection, wonky controls and the fact that you have very little health in the first place, you need to get good and get good quick.
It is clear that the developers were trying to come up with a system that would make the gameplay harder in order to make the time played longer so that you feel like you get more bang for your buck. However, there’s just one problem, the game is not good. You can grow to like it if you really try, but the vast majority didn’t feel like it was worth their time to perfect their craft of playing the game. It was too hard, too tedious, and there were just better games out there that were more worth your time.
The Amazing Spider-man 1 and 2
Now, we can look at the Gameboy entries of Spidey. These are some of the earliest titles in the gallery. The first one came out in 1990 and the next one coming out alongside The Return of the Sinister Six in 1992. Both of these games have been paired together for a reason which will become very clear very quickly.
The first game starts off with, once again, the controls. While we’re not going to judge it too harshly for the graphics (it’s Gameboy, guys, the graphics are going to be crap, get over it) we can very much lay into it for having some of the worst jumping mechanics ever made. Trying to jump over obstacles in this game are next to impossible in some cases, as you have to use a long jump in just the right amount of movement. This can be next to impossible when you are in between two very close crates and can’t gain up the proper momentum.
Once again, the game has been artificially elongated with overuse of difficulty in the form of close proximity in massive amounts of enemies! You can be on a screen for ridiculous amounts of time because of the line of birds above you and the men walking toward you trying to kill you all culminating in a frustrating conga line of stress. That added with the jump mechanic turn this game into a massive failure that is barely even playable from the start.
Spider-man 2 features Carnage on the cover. For those of you who are familiar with the comics, you will recognize the cover from Maximum Carnage in all its beauty and glory. After 2 years of silence, they finally come out with another Gameboy game to follow up the last one. This should be fu– oh who am I kidding? It’s even worse. Yeah, I know I said I wasn’t going to touch on the terrible graphics of the time, but I have an excuse. These graphics are even more abysmal than the first instalment! Spider-man looks like he’s made of flimsy clay and his walking mechanic is one of the most awkward things to look at.
Without a playthrough to follow, you will get lost. You have to watch a playthrough very, very closely or you are going to bore yourself by searching through the same hallways and staircases over and over, scratching your head to figure things out. Now, I don’t know what your cup of tea is, but if you want a straightforward game with action-packed mechanics, look away from this game. It’s a puzzle solving game. Yes, having Spider-man solve puzzles and use his wits to defeat the baddies is a good thing, but in small doses. You will be traversing these hard puzzles to get to the villains while clawing your eyes out.
The sad part about this is that the controls have improved somewhat. The hit detection is more well-focused and the jump mechanics have changed to make it much more intuitive to jump over boxes and obstacles. However, we trade one horrific trait for a whole nother one as this game is ridiculously boring and hard to figure out. Is it worth your time? Well, that’s obviously for you to figure out, but this game will be hard pressed to appeal to the masses.
So, all in all, we see that Spider-man has had a rough past (thanks in part to LJN) when it comes to video games. What brought all of these problems about? Controls, of course. Controls and the limitations of video games to bring about a travesty of problems when it comes to depicting the hero in his true form. Spidey is a mobile hero. His agility, flexibility and quick thinking are what many love about him when it comes to fighting crime, and back in the old side-scrolling days of video games, they just couldn’t go about translating all of that into games. The limitations of game consoles back then made it nigh impossible to do him justice and the games suffered for it along with their players.
Join us next time as we travel through the ages to take a look at more video games featuring the wall-crawler and his entire host of villainous misfits! There’s a lot of standouts that feature Spidey and while we can’t get through all of them, we can certainly take a quick gander. Remember to stay a true-believer, and remember to drink water.