Alas poor Spider-Man, they killed him well
. But sadly his penchant for death-defying web-slinging through the skyscrapers of New York has been replaced by button-bashing melee combat and the most repetitive and cliched gameplay design that you will see this holiday period, if not this year. Everything that gives Spider-Man games potential to be great has been sucked out and instead we are presented with generic gameplay and a nonsensical story that intertwines the Peter Parker Spider-Man with Spider-Man 2099 throwing in cameos left and right without cause, reason or success.
The opening sequence gives cause for hope. It's a well directed introduction as Spider-Man 2099 crawls through vents with the credits coming and going along the walls. It's certainly a rapid descent into mediocre as the game unfolds with the Alchemax corporation traveling back in time to establish a dominance that would expand continually through to the year 2099. While it's undoubtedly true that messing with the past is a bad idea it's left unclear why this particular plot is so nefarious, and also why anti-venom is trashing the same facility that houses the time portal, or how the time portal appeared in the past, unless they built it knowing they would want to time travel back through it in 100 odd years.
It is explained, however, that the two Spideys, after a temporal version of trading places, can communicate across time. Not only that, actions performed in the past can affect the future either causing or solving problems. It's thin ice in terms of trying something to get the two Spideys working together compounded by inane execution. At times pitted against the clock you must smash things or press buttons in order to save the other Spider-Man. However the concept was intended it comes across as flaccid; an element introduced to stretch out a game that lacks any drive from its main story.
The story is actually dragged out by tasks a gopher would tire of as you make your way through dozens of locked doors, many of which require you to collect three keys from defeated enemies so you can proceed and once again defeat three separate roomfuls of enemies to gain three more keys or hit three buttons to open another door. Not only is it nauseatingly dull, it's insulting.
Technically, Spider-Man is well executed and the combat is reasonably intuitive. The main problem is that it’s the same thing room after room after room. After less than two hours of play the formula is tired, flat and frustrating to the point of verbal abuse. Never can either Spider-Man go from A to B without having it blocked. The game plays like a long drawn out scene, there's no development or exploration or nuance, it's dull and lifeless and being continually asked to repeat tasks in the same setting time after time after time is mind-boggling in it's ineptitude of failed design. Seriously, Spider-Man must collect power orbs to buy upgrades. Spider-Man on the SEGA Master System had more considered design as you sold photos of yourself in action to buy more web cartridges. It also had varied level design.
Perhaps if it weren't a Spider-Man game it would be different, but not by much. The major flaw is not only that it removes the most exciting possibilities of playing Spider-Man, it doesn't offer anything in replacement. The arcade element of upgrading attacks gives you nothing of consequence, and how can it when Spider-Man already has his skill set locked in? It's a dead concept. But ultimately it fails because the story is a hodgepodge collection of cameos thrown in to hide that the whole time travel story has no hook or development and in terms of interest, is utterly without consequence.