Tiiiiime is on my side, yes it is. Time is not on Spider-Man’s side, though. Peter Parker must team up with his 2099 counterpart, Miguel O’Hara, to stop the evil Alchemax scientist Walker Sloan from traveling back in time and alternating history. To save time I am going to forgo the whole plot summary and just assume everyone has had a chance to play Beenox’s latest Spider-Man video game. If not, then stop wasting your time and go pick up Spidey’s latest game in console format. No wait! First take some time to read the latest review, if you don’t mind the spoilers, that is.
Spider-Man: Edge of Time
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, DS and 3DS
Style: Single Player Action-Adventure, Platformer
Story and Writing: I enjoy science fiction, but too much of it can make my head spin. Alternate dimensions and time travel can result in a convoluted story, but it’s something that Spider-Man has been associated with on numerous occasions. Beenox employed both of these devices in both their entries in the Spider-Man gaming franchise, but this time they chose to focus on just two alternate Spider-Men. I’m glad they trimmed the universes to two instead of the four they used in 2010’s Shattered Dimensions and I think that they have improved as a whole with their sophomore stab at Spidey.
I did not follow the line of 2099 comics so I do not have a lot of interest in Miguel O’Hara’s portion of the game, but Beenox brought in Peter David, the co-creator of Spider-Man 2099, to help polish the script and story. I think hiring an actual comic book writer is a great move when creating a comic book-based video game. As when Dan Slott pitched in with Shattered Dimensions, it really helped Edge of Time.
I enjoyed the story for the first act, but it went off the rails half way through the second. Walker Sloan, who was hyped to be the main antagonist prior to the game’s release, was pretty much non-existent after the first act and, along with Anti-Venom and Dr. Octopus, turned into a much more ridiculous character, the Atrocity. The reveal that a future, anti-aging Peter Parker becomes the main antagonist was a big disappointment.
Where Peter David really shines is in the dialogue that he scripted for the game. The two Spider-Men’s ability to communicate through the timeline offered a lot of great opportunities for witty banter between the heroes, such as Peter’s “sunny side-up” and “over-easy” puns when Miguel placed him in the egg-shaped rehabilitation chamber. The storyline involving Mary Jane also showcased how the two characters, similar in name and heroics, have stark differences when it comes to saving one versus the many. While Miguel grudgingly helped save Mary Jane, Peter was lamenting over how his “future is meaningless without her.”
David had a lot of other great lines that not only help cement this story in the world of Spider-Man, but also in the larger Marvel Universe. I really liked how Amazing Spider-Man thanked Spider-Man 2099 for bringing him back from the dead and replied that he now knows “how Captain America, Jean Grey and Colossus feel.” I also appreciated the tongue-in-cheek reference to the real world when J. Jonah Jameson joked that Spider-Man was so popular that they were eventually going to make a musical based on of the hero. The only problem I had with the dialogue was the overuse of the all-purpose profanity word of 2099, “shock.” It seemed like every other word spoken by Christopher Daniel Barnes was a derivative of the word. Rating: Meh
Characters and Voice Acting: Barnes and Josh Keaton return from Shattered Dimensions but provide the voices for different characters this time around. Keaton, who voiced the Ultimate hero in Shattered Dimensions, takes over duties as the Amazing Spider-Man and offers up the same jovial approach to Peter Parker that he provided in the Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon. Barnes, the voice of Spider-Man Noir in Dimensions, takes over the 2099 hero this time and gives him the same edgier, darker feel.
I think Barnes does a much better job with the 2099 character than his predecessor Dan Gilvezan did in the previous game. I thought using voice actors from previous Spider-Man animations as the heroes in Shattered Dimensions was a great idea, and was really pleased to see Beenox stick with that in this game. Keaton and Barnes do a great job voicing the heroes.
Fanboy favorites, Laura Vandervoot and Katee Sackhoff provide the voices for two important females in Peter Parker’s life, Mary Jane and Black Cat, respectively. Vandervoot does a great job with the panicked Mary Jane as she evades octopus tentacles and plummets down an elevator shaft, but Sackhoff was just mediocre as the tormented clone of the Black Cat. The biggest name in the credits is someone with another tie to the comic book world. Former Batman Val Kilmer offered the voice of antagonist Walker Sloan, but like his character, was pretty underused and forgettable by the end of the storyline.
The most interesting character choice in the game was the inclusion of Anti-Venom. The somewhat recently-created vigilante made a really quick jump from the pages of the comic book to video game immortality. His appearance in the game is also interesting because he represents a Brand New Day based character interacting with characters and elements of the more ‘classic’ Spider-Man, such as a Peter-and-Mary Jane relationship and a normal-looking Dr. Octopus. Since this story is based on alternate timelines, however, they can easily explain the mingling of the storylines and choose which aspects of Spider-Man lore they want to include.
I like Anti-Venom in the game and thought they did a good job explaining why he would be fighting with Spider-Man, since he usually has been portrayed as a wannabe do-gooder. I liked that they acknowledged Peter’s relationship with Eddie Brock through their dialogue and even had Peter try to convince Eddie to talk things out over coffee. They decided to make Anti-Venom a larger character than he is in the comics, but I thought there was a good reason for why he gets so big.
One of the biggest problems with video games is their desire to make the main bosses grander and more intimidating than they should be, sometimes taking it to the extreme. This was the case with the creation of the Atrocity, a grotesque monster created by fusing Dr. Octopus, Anti-Venom and Sloan in the time storm. They also put the evil CEO version of Peter in an absurd mechanical version of a spider suit for the climactic battle of the game. Overall there were not a lot of characters from Spider-Man’s rogue’s gallery in this game, and therefore not a lot of boss battles, which I feel is a missed opportunity in a Spider-Man game. It also made the use of these over-the-top baddies a little harder to appreciate. Rating: Poor
Gameplay: Boss battles were something Shattered Dimensions did really well, so this was one facet in which Edge of Time took a step back. I’d like to see a return to structured boss fights in future installments by Beenox. However, where Shattered Dimensions was much more of a segmented game, Edge of Time feels more fluid. The chapters of Edge of Time flow into each other more naturally since it is only focused on two dimensions and the player does not need to select which chapter he plays next. This can work to the game’s disadvantage, though, as several times I was thoroughly enjoying playing in one timeline and then suddenly I was dropped into the other.
The Amazing Universe is close to perfect when it comes to the type of gameplay I expect from a Spider-Man title. The Amazing Universe style is focused on over the top webbing attacks at a distance and I enjoyed smashing bad guys over and over again with webhammers or giant web fists. Amazing Spidey also employs his webbing to pull himself across the room to webzip attack his enemies, and if things get too heated, Spider-Man can activate his hyper senses which speed up his movement and leaves a spidey-outline in his path that shows him ducking and weaving his way through incoming gunfire and attacks.
While Amazing Spider-Man utilizes his webbing and speed, Spider-Man 2099 focuses on technology and furious kicks. Instead of webzipping towards bad guys, Miguel uses holographs to distract and pull his enemies closer. Even though this strategy is at least as effective in avoiding attacks, it does not look quite as cool in my opinion. The other problem I have with the 2099 dimension is the free fall portion of the game which returns from Shattered Dimensions. Beenox made a huge improvement with the free falling by having a cursor appear whenever you were going to hit an obstacle to make it easier to navigate, but it still seems like a waste of time that could be spent improving other parts of the game.
I don’t like having to switch fighting styles between the two dimensions and believe that is one of the main problems Beenox faces with using this multiple Spider-Man gimmick. I would rather have a game focus on just the main Amazing Spider-Man where you can choose to level up different facets of Spider-Man’s fighting style such as web attacks, speed attacks or defensive moves depending on the player’s fighting preference. Edge of Time touches upon this by letting you upgrade specific moves for the characters by spending the portal energy you collect, but there’s not a lot of variety in the upgrades and you should easily be able to unlock them all by the end of the game so you’re not really forced to choose how you want to play.
There are some other things that could be added to the game to extend the game time and keep it from getting repetitive. I think adding some sort of focus on puzzles could show off Peter’s intelligence and Spider-Man seems like the perfect character that could utilize more platforming sequences. Rating: Meh
Graphics and visuals: I always defend video games as being interactive movies and one of the keys to that is the cinematics. Edge of Time has beautiful cut scenes that help propel the story. I enjoyed the way this story involved seeing Peter and Miguel without their masks. All the characters looked really good. I thought the intro to the game was a little long, but it was a nice touch to have the credits and title of the game appear around the screen as Spider-Man 2099 crawled through the air vents of Alchemax.
The action was accented by bright effects, such as when a flash of yellow appears to indicate that Spidey breaks a bad guy’s defenses. Red laser sights and purple energy cannons also helped indicate when you should activate your defenses and get clear of a crippling attack. The graphics used for the webbing during fights were also entertaining.
There were a lot of nice visuals hidden throughout the Alchemax offices, such as the Scorpion 2099 outfit and statues of the Silver Sable and Kraven character models used in Shattered Dimensions. The Spider-Man newspaper clippings and Mary Jane’s photos in the CEO’s office were also a nice touch. Rating: Good
Extras: The Web of Destiny in Shattered Dimensions is replaced by the Web of Challenges in Edge of Time and offers a great way to extend what would otherwise be a short game. The challenges are unlocked as you progress through the game and you can easily retry the challenges as you play the game in order to try and obtain a gold medal on all the challenges. There was not a lot of variety in the challenges, most requiring you to beat a certain number of bad guys or build combo meters in a specific amount of time, but they got increasingly difficult as the game progressed. I found that it was fairly easy to acquire the gold standard in all of the challenges and appreciated being able to complete the Web of Challenge, whereas the Web of Destiny required a bit more patience.
As you unlock the Web of Challenges you are rewarded with portal energy and golden spiders, but the best award is the ability to unlock alternate costumes. Beenox gives the players a great selection of extra costumes to choose from, such as the new FF and Ultimate Spider-Man costumes found in the recent comics. Every costume has a short history and story attached to it, explaining how the character acquired the threads. Anybody who played Shattered Dimensions is also rewarded by being offered several of the extra costumes acquired in the previous game, which I thought was nice of the developer.
The achievements for Edge of Time were also easy to obtain, especially compared to Shattered Dimensions. Anyone who plays the game long enough and does enough collecting should have no problem acquiring the majority of the achievements. I also found the naming convention of the awards very humorous and think Stan Lee would approve of the alliterative achievements.
As you finish a level you are awarded with newspaper headlines which show you a regular event and an altered history headline. I enjoyed reading these newspaper headers every time I finished a level. The funniest example of this was the Daily Bugle headline which highlighted the marriage of May Parker to J. Jonah Sr., but the alternate headline shows that Jonah Sr. prefers a younger partner and marries Betty Brant instead. Rating: Good
Overall Rating: 7.5/10 Black Cat Clones