Spider-Man has always been my favourite Marvel Comics character. It was Marvel UK’s US Spider-Man reprint comics that led to my love of the character 25 years ago. Spider-Man is of course one of Marvel’s most beloved creations. Over the years, Spider-Man has become more of a marketable figure outside of comic lore; this summer’s Spider-Man Homecoming will be the 6th Spidey movie in just 15 years. The same can be said for video games, with 30+ releases across almost every platform in the last 35 years. Here I recommend 4 of Peter Parker’s best solo digital releases; heavy on the mythos, and not a Marvel vs Capcom game in sight.
The early 1990’s gave birth to two major new villains for both Spider-Man and Peter Parker: Venom and Carnage. Venom (aka disgraced journalist Eddie Brock) quickly became a fan favourite. After terrorising Peter and wife Mary-Jane Watson in some of the comic’s most haunting scenes, he was even given his own series for a time. Once the murderous offspring Carnage (aka serial killer Kletus Cassidy) came on the scene, Venom became a good guy of sorts. Determined to stop this symbiotic progeny, a truce was called with Spider-Man in order to stop Carnage. And so began the huge comic book crossover that was Maximum Carnage, and the SNES/Sega Mega Drive title it inspired.
Despite this Final Fight clone not holding up so well more than 20 years on, it’s devotion to its source material is still commendable. Panels from the actual comics are used to tell the story as you progress through simple yet challenging waves of bad guys and bosses. Despite being a Spider-Man story, Maximum Carnage did feature a strong supporting cast of heroes such as Captain America and Iron Fist. These can be called upon as special moves should you feel overwhelmed in combat.
The stages, scenes and characters all appear as if taken direct from a comic book. This gives Maximum Carnage a sense of authenticity and respect to its continuity, despite its frustrations.
Spider-Man: The Video Game (Arcade):-
This Sega-developed colourful arcade classic of the 90’s sits perfectly with the Konami and Capcom beat-em-ups of the time. While it follows the familiar formula of TMNT, The Simpsons and Final Fight, an extra dimension was added to shake things up; part of each stage would pan the camera back and become a platformer.
Classic villains such as the aforementioned Venom, Green Goblin and even Doctor Doom comprise boss elements. Marvel heroes Black Cat, Namor the Sub-Mariner and Avenger Hawkeye complete the playable cast. Unfortunately, unlike most of the 90’s classic arcades, Sega’s Spider-Man arcade has never been re-released on any format, but fingers crossed it will happen one day.
Spider-Man (PSOne, Dreamcast):-
Proving they had more than just skateboarding in their repertoire, developer Neversoft gave Peter Parker what he never had before: Personality. CD technology and storage capabilities meant a fully-voiced Peter/Spider-Man was finally realised. Delivering wisecracks a plenty in all manner of situations, it gave personality to an extremely competent 3D platformer/stealth adventure.
Neversoft’s classic was truly the first modern Spider-Man game. It led onto a sequel, Enter Electro, and ultimately open-world adventures were developed, that accompanied the imminent Sam Raimi trilogy. It also broke the mould for a character that for almost 20 years felt trapped in plain platformers and standard scrolling beat-em-ups.
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions
Shattered Dimensions is a unique experience. Firstly, it is essentially 4 smaller games into 1; not only do you take on modern day Peter Parker, but also a black-suited Ultimate Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2099, plus a noir Spidey from the 20’s. Each ‘game’ is slightly tweaked from the next, such as noir Spidey owing much to the stealth sections of Batman: Arkham Asylum, albeit not as good.
The mechanics and the character differentials however lead to a disjointed experience overall. Swinging from web to web can be fiddly, especially when under duress from enemies. Different Spidey’s means variety, but you will quickly find they are not of the same quality.
Thankfully Shattered Dimensions’ settings, dialogue and especially voice acting (particularly Neil Patrick Harris) steal the show. They all keep the adventure interesting and serve as a great tribute to the history and mythos of Spider-Man.
These are my favourites, what are yours? What are your thoughts on the upcoming Spider-Man by Insomniac Games? Please share in the comments!