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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Spiderman 2 (PSP)


By Michael Palisano

Marvel's classic web-slinger makes his PSP debut with the release of Activision's Spider-man 2. It loosely follows the plot of last summer's action movie, though adds a few unique scenes and foes. This action-adventure title is similar in structure to the console versions, and features a varied selection of levels. Spider-Man 2's power-up system allows you to purchase new abilities as you beat levels. From an aesthetic standpoint, it showcases the PSP's abilities with stellar production values and sharp visuals that lend Spider-Man 2 a truly cinematic feel. Join us as we take a swing and find out what makes Spider-Man 2 such an impressive launch title.

It comes as little surprise that Activision's Spider-Man 2 would make an appearance at the PSP launch. With a UMD version of the film packed in with the console's initial shipments, releasing a game based on the film makes sense. What's even better about Spider-Man 2 is that this handheld version comes very close to the quality and depth of the console versions Activision released last summer. Spider-Man 2 puts players into the webbed feet of the reluctant hero Peter Parker and follows the film's plot for the most part. There are many sequences allowing you to relive many of the movie's memorable events such as the epic airborne battles with Doc Ock. However, the PSP edition of Spiderman also includes of a number of unique scenes and classic Marvel villains such as Mysterio that weren't seen in the film. This makes for an unpredictable game that's more exciting than you'd expect it to be. Spider-Man 2 is a solid action/platform title that offers a variety of tasks and levels to complete. The game takes place in third-person perspective, with players viewing the action from behind Spidey, allowing you to see where he is in relation to the environments easily.

Controlling Spider-man is intuitive with a simple interface that most players should be able to pick this game's controls quickly. You move the webslinger using the PSP's analog nub and fight enemies using standard punches and kicks. The fighting system is a bit more elaborate than you'd expect. You can chain punches and kicks together to form combos, which in turn increase your hero score at the end of each level. Spider-man can use his web-slinging abilities to wrap and temporarily disable some of the foes he faces. He has a limited amount of this. In most areas of the game, he can also use his webs to swing above the levels, which allows him to move much faster. Controlling the swinging motion is straightforward, and Spidey moves through the air with ease and grace, making this one of the most enjoyable parts of the game. Spiderman's controls in this area are virtually flawless, making you feel like you're the one doing the swinging. Moving around in the air and changing direction takes a bit of practice, but becomes second nature quickly, though you have to keep your eye on the Web Gauge or you'll find yourself plunging to the ground.

While the basics are simple to master, you won't get very far against the bosses and tougher opponents unless you master some of the more advanced moves. Spiderman can also perform more advanced moves including cocooning foes, throwing enemies. He can also carry civilians in one arm and still swing, jump and run around. As you'd expect, he can also crawl up the sides of walls and buildings with ease, though some camera problems seem to occur when he crawls through vents. However, you can manually adjust the camera using the standard d-pad, which mitigates these problems to a large degree. The controls are easy to get the hang of, but if you get stuck, you can use the select key, which calls up a quick tutorial that explains the basic moves and commands. Spider-Man 2's controls and interface are fairly straightforward and intuitive, allowing you a transparent level of control that allows you to focus on the task without fumbling for the right button. Once they've gotten the hang of the controls, players can use Spider-man's abilities to his advantage in several ways, which makes the combat seem more flexible. While the standard fighting techniques and combo system is great, you'll also have to use your head in some areas as well. You won't always need or want to confront enemies directly and can beat them using other techniques such as climbing on ceilings to escape a group of enemies or swinging over the Manhattan skyline to reach a destination quickly or to 'drop-in' on a robbery in progress. This sense of freedom makes the gameplay feel quite open and inventive, and the developers have done an excellent job in getting away from the linear gameplay conventions that saddle most licensed titles.

Spider-Man starts the game with some powerful abilities, but as we alluded to earlier, he has the opportunity to purchase upgrades. After you complete each level, you earn a set amount of Hero Points, which you can use to buy a number of items. These range from extra moves, to increased health bars, higher jumps, additional combos, extra web-capacity and more with some abilities offering multiple tiers of upgrades. This upgrade system works well because it rewards a player's skill, while also introducing new abilities at a measured pace. The game's structure is straightforward, with each mission giving players a set number of objectives to complete. For example, you'll have to rescue all the hostages on a given level before you can advance. Most objectives are easy to understand with plenty of action, though there are some puzzle elements in certain areas. Most of these puzzle tasks are simple and usually involve hitting a switch in one room to open a door in another section of the level. If he gets lost or confused, he can look at the arrows to point him in the right direction or use his "Spidey-sense" abilities which alert him to nearby objectives. Spider-Man 2 offers plenty of variety in missions, with some emphasizing standard exploration and combat in linear areas with doors and keys. There are also more open areas where you find yourself swinging over the streets of Manhattan, climbing over skyscrapers, running through traffic and more. The developers have done an excellent job with the pacing and structure of Spider-Man 2 that creates a fast-moving game that mimics the energetic pace of the film without getting undermines in recreating every nuance of its source material. Spider-Man 2's varied level types and objectives gives the gameplay a good balance and enough variety to keep your interest level high throughout.

As you'd expect, Spider-Man 2's presentation and visuals are superb and truly take advantage of the PSP's rendering abilities. Obviously, the PSP's 16:9 aspect screen enhances the cinematic appearance, but the developers have utilized the space effectively. The environments fill the screen convincingly and are rendered with plenty of detail with light sourcing and reflections used throughout. This is particularly evident when you're swinging above the streets through the canyons of Manhattan at night with beautiful light sourcing and reflections. These areas are surprisingly convincing and thrilling thanks to the game's smooth frame rate and superb graphics engine. This makes for a smooth feel throughout. The game's level designs are generally excellent, though some of the indoor levels suffer from a monotonous and dull appearance in spots. Spider-Man himself looks fantastic, and moves with a fluid, athletic dexterity that really brings him to life. A series of elaborate cinematic cut-scenes between levels draws you right into the action. Using the actual voices of the fim's actors, including Tobey MacGuire, Kirsten Dunst and Alfred Molina, goes a long way in mimicking the movie with faithful recreations of some key scenes allowing the plot to come to life. Spider-Man 2's orchestral soundtrack further adds to the game's cinematic feel, giving it an epic quality that's surprisingly effective. This impressive title succeeds from an aesthetic standpoint. Anyone who's seen the film will appreciate the game's highly-polished production values are superb, matching the quality and scope of console titles, though slightly scaled down.

Spider-Man 2 is an positive example of how to do a movie-to-film conversion properly. It stays close in spirit to the film while offering a few side-quests and unique areas to surprise players. The game controls beautifully with an intuitive command system that allows players plenty of flexibility in terms of combat style. The level designs are clever and smart, with the game unfolding at a fast pace. It challenging and entertaining gameplay is solid while the levels offer enough variety to create a satisfying experience. Spider-Man 2 also packs plenty of visual punch. From an aesthetic standpoint, the cinematic approach works well with the PSP's hardware design to create an immersive, graphically pleasing title that effectively recreates the look of the film. Overall, Spider-Man 2 offers players a solidly entertaining and challenging action-adventure experience that's highly recommended for fans of the web-slinger, making this a solid PSP launch title.

Grade: B

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