Sometimes, when reviewing a new game, I have to think long and hard about why a particular title doesn’t work. Other times the answer is quite obvious. The latter case applies to The Amazing Spider-man for the Nintendo 3DS. While it’s built around solid mechanics and incorporates enough new ideas to make an appealing game in theory, I can sum up the biggest problem with the game in one word: agoraphobia. You see, unlike its console brethren, the 3DS version does not feature a sprawling open world Manhattan for our favorite webslinger to protect. Rather, it incorporates a few confined spaces and recycles them ad nauseam. This is not the only thing that is wrong with The Amazing Spider-man, far from it, but more than anything else this prohibits enjoyment of the game.
While The Amazing Spider-man is a tie-in to the recently released film of the same name, it functions more as a sequel to those events than a direct adaptation. At the beginning of the game Dr. Connors/The Lizard is already sealed away in the asylum when Gwen Stacy decides to take Peter Parker on a tour of Oscorp. In this iteration of Spiderman, the webslinger and other genetically modified beings like him are referred to as cross-species. Naturally something goes wrong with the secret experiments at Oscorp which leads to an outbreak of an infection that kills people or turns them into cross-species. Gwen Stacey is quarantined alongside a group of scientists inside the Oscorp labs, so Spiderman’s only choice is to turn to Dr. Connors for help developing a cure while grappling with trust issues over whether the brilliant scientist can control his urge to become The Lizard. As the story progresses you can feel the stakes escalate considerably but that doesn’t mean the narrative itself is particularly enjoyable.
The Amazing Spider-man is essentially a 3D beat-em-up with a few platforming elements. The basic mechanics are well implemented for the most part. You can get around by pressing the B button to web swing and holding the Y button to gain elevation while doing so. The X button controls melee attacks and pressing it in rapid succession will build a combo. The A button can be used to shoot webs at foes from afar or to activate Spiderman’s signature move at the end of a combo chain. The combat animations are probably the best thing The Amazing Spider-man has going for it. Even though you are mashing the same buttons repeatedly, Spiderman has various attack animations that work especially well when fighting a large group and cancel into one another fluidly so the combat is always visually pleasing at the very least.
The other key gameplay element is Spiderman’s Web Rush ability. Holding down the Y button shifts the camera into first person perspective and allows you to aim at anything in your surroundings. Aiming the reticule at the walls, ceiling, floor, or any protruding ledge will cause Spiderman to instantaneously find his way there as if on a zipline. This feature works amazingly well and is a great tactic for evading enemy fire or covering long distances speedily. Web Rush can also be used to target enemies and objects in the environment. You can take down bad guys by stealthily trapping them in a web cocoon or get the drop on a host of enemies by slamming an exploding gas tank on their heads. Unfortunately, there are times when the camera gets in the way of properly aiming at your target during a web rush which awkwardly forces you to reposition Spiderman and hope for a better angle. The touchscreen features two commands, one used to dodge attacks and the other the retreat to safety or cancel a web rush. Both commands are vital for surviving heavy attack from enemies.
Lackluster level design undermines the solid foundation laid by the combat mechanics. Far too many levels take place in Oscorp and the sewers. These sections begin to blend in with one another about halfway through the game. Though the levels incorporate large spaces, they still feel hopelessly confined. Some levels do take place outdoors but these sections also contain well-defined borders and uninspired layouts. A few boss battles with giant robots take place above the roofs of skyscrapers but these areas are replete with invisible walls and the buildings appear to float in the air, meaning you can fall to your death if you dip too far below the skyline. Outside of fist fights and web slinging, the gameplay is broken up by rudimentary challenges such as memorizing a sequence of numbers or a very basic hacking mini-game.
Graphically, the game is a mixed bag. Spiderman looks and animates wonderfully but everything else is lacking in certain areas. The environments are all far too similar and lack imagination. Enemies come in a wide variety ranging from thugs, to security guards, robots and mutants, but they all lack detail. Well known Spiderman villains like Rhino and Scorpion are present but their respective designs are unsightly. In most 3DS games, the 3D viewing option is a neat but non-essential alternative, in some games the 3D actually enhances the experience, and finally there are the games - like this one - which shouldn’t have even bothered utilising 3D technology. 3D is a nightmare thanks to the hectic camera and Spiderman’s swift and constant acrobatics. All of this motion makes playing in 3D a chore at best and headache-inducing at worst. The in-game cutscenes and FMVs don’t suffer from this issue but many of them are dull and muddy to begin with.
The audio fares about as well as the visuals, with music which serves its purpose but is otherwise forgettable, and voice acting performances that are middling at best. Many of the voice actors put too much strain on their lines in unsuccessful attempts to add dramatic heft to the storyline, and Spiderman spends a lot of the time making wisecracks about enemies and making real world references to communicate how hip and cool this new iteration of the character is supposed to be. Some of the quips are funny and true to the character, but others seem strange and are repeated far too often.
The story features 13 chapters which take somewhere in the region of eight hours to complete. Strewn throughout levels are hidden items such as audio files, character bios, and alternate costumes for Spidey to wear. Scouring the game for all of these extras will pad out the length but not by much considering the pay-off is rather minor. In addition to replaying completed chapters, you can also view the city map and select extra challenges to complete. These challenges usually involve clearing a single, self-contained area of a few thugs or saving helpless citizens from danger. The inclusion of such events is an attempt to replicate the random crimes that pop up in the Spiderman games that feature an actual open world but in this game it never feels like you are part of a real city or doing anything more than mashing the combat buttons. The bottom line: there is enough content here to spend upwards of 12 hours with the game, but you’re not guaranteed to enjoy them.
The Amazing Spider-man is a rather average game. Nowadays, average isn’t really worth your time or your money. The linear and confined level design compromises the game’s ambition of letting you feel like Spiderman. After so many videogame incarnations of the character it should be abundantly clear by now that the freedom to swing through an open world is one of the greatest incentives to play a Spiderman game and, without it, the fluid combat and fantastic Web Rush mechanic fall by the wayside. Spiderman is undoubtedly a great character but the wait continues for another truly amazing videogame to be built around him.