The newest entry in the Spider-Man gaming franchise has not just one friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, but four who are set through various times and dimensions and are all playable with varying abilities and styles.
The story in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions goes that the evil villain Mysterio has shattered the Tablet of Order and Chaos into fragments spread across multiple realities, and Madame Web has tasked the original Amazing Spider-Man to work with three other Spider-Men from the other realities: Ultimate Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2099 and Spider-Man Noir.
It's clear from the beginning that Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is a game targeting children. The story? Non-existent. Jump around, beat up the bad guys and claim a tablet piece. This wouldn't really be that much of a negative attribute — plenty of all-star games have terrible plots — but the developers have Spider-Man spouting corny one-liners like a machine gun. After about 10 minutes, I had more than enough of lines like, "There are four Spider-Men? But I'm the most charming, of course!"
The gameplay? Completely linear. Playing as the different characters is really fun, but the level design is ridiculously simple. Developer Beenox decided to depart from the normal swing-around-a-gigantic-city style of past Spider-Man games, and instead create a much more confined level design. In one way, it's nice to do something different with Spider-Man, but it creates a frustrating camera experience. Too many times, the camera will swing wildly out of control, zoom in way too close, or cause myriad other problems that create a complete lack of control of Spider-Man.
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As for combat, it's simple, easy and repetitive. The foundation of the combat system is solid, and there are a variety of moves that players can execute on their enemies, but after a bit, it starts to feel stale.
Despite having four Spider-Man characters, the Noir version is really the only one that differs from the rest. The Amazing, Ultimate and 2099 versions have essentially the same play style, with some visual tweaks and minor power differences thrown in. But in the Noir reality, the gameplay mode is all about stealth. The graphics are tweaked to a film-noir feel, highlighting mostly blacks and grays. Spidey essentially is forced to stick to the shadows and execute surprise attacks on his enemies. If he is seen, he must retreat into the shadows and try again.
All in all, this is a welcome break for the series, and despite its shortcomings, is a playable, if short, game. I would definitely recommend this as a Christmas present for children.