Last year, Beenox took a drastic departure from the Spider-Man video game experience by not only taking the open world sandbox enviroment out of play, but also for the first time creating a game that had multiple Spider-Men at the player’s fingertips with Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions.
This year’s iteration of the Spider-Man franchise brings a different experience as well. While the Spider-Men in Shattered Dimensions all shared a common goal, their actions were independent of each other.
Now, in Spider-Man: Edge of Time both Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2099 must work together to save the past as well as the future from a mad scientist who has interfered with the time stream by causing the death of Spider-Man.
Much like the previous Spider-Man title, Spider-Man: Edge of Time focuses on contained levels instead of a free roaming city. The story is kept fairly on rails with little room for full exploration, though there are hidden collectibles that can be used to upgrade the powers of both Spider-Man and his 2099 counterpart throughout the game. As a result, the focus on much of the game revolves around combat.
Both Spider-Men share a group of basic powers as well as the ability to create a singularity that freezes time around them which halts any opponents next to them while showing visions of the past and future for a pretty cool and very trippy effect. Each Spider-Man then has their own series of abilities to purchase and upgrade. While some of these are similar like each having a X,X,X,X,X combo, there is some play variation between the two.
The classic Spider-Man focuses more on agility as a means of defense and uses his spider-sense to perform matrix like dodges from a flurry of attacks as well as sneaking past laser defenses. He will also webzip into the heat of combat by snagging and opponent and then pulling himself at them. Spider-Man 2099 is more focused on technology. Spider-Man 2099 can use an accelerated decoy of himself to escape the fray of battle while enemies shoot at a hologram or send a decoy out to pull an opponent away from his compatriots into his grasp.
The way the levels are designed in Spider-Man: Edge of Time keep action coming at a brisker pace than Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions as well. Though there aren’t many instances of a sneak attack, aside from the freakish tentacles that appear later in the game, there is a better flow and pacing to it. Players always feel like they are doing something and it is often hard for someone to decide when and where to end a play session as they get the urge to progress just a little bit further. Boss fights remain fun as they revolve around strategy and proper timing and have drifted away from the quick time events of days past.
Spider-Man: Edge of Time has a strong, single cohesive storyline that does a fantastic job on the concept of time travel and the effects of what happens in the past effecting the future. The problem Shattered Dimensions had was it felt like a bunch of separate episodes that had an overarching theme. Once you completed an episode, you had to change your play style as you changed roles to become a different Spider-Man and it felt like a fresh story was given to you. This game’s interactive thread keeps everything running seamlessly between the two time periods as they play out concurrently.
Unlike a lot of recent Spider-Man characters, this game lacks a narrator which makes the storytelling fresh as some outside force isn’t walking players through everything. Spider-Man also keeps his inner monologue to a minimum as he and Spider-Man 2099 talk cross time with each other resulting in a fairly in-depth and meaningful dialogue between the two. There is a wider range of emotion between the two Spider-Men than seen in previous titles as well. Because the modern day Spider-Man finds himself lost in time and clueless as to the effects of this crosstime adventure, there are moments where he feels and acts like he is real peril. The Spider-Man of 2099 is then tasked with not only his own adventure but trying to keep his counterpart sane throughout.
One problem the game experiences which can be seen throughout many superhero games are the hordes of faceless villains the heroes must face. While there are some great climactic bosses to encounter like Anti-Venom or the game’s new creation Atrocity, the Alchemax security forces never feel like a real threat because everyone knows that some schlub thug like them isn’t going to be the one to take down Spider-Man.
Because Spider-Man: Edge of Time only has two main heroes and a consistent art style and level design, it is an impressive upgrade visually from Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. Graphics are crisper and cleaner as are the animations. The “picture in picture” effects are great touches that allow for the dual story to be told but the team at Beenox was able to pull it off in a way that it didn’t distract from the action right in front of the player.
The voice work also is surprising in Spider-Man: Edge of Time. Not because the voice actors chosen for the game aren’t a talented bunch but voices didn’t feel off compared to the cast change of the previous game. Neither Spider-Man was voiced by the same person who did them in the previous title but both pulled off their roles well, which should be expected since they have all taken the Spider-Man mantle at one point in the cartoons. Val Kilmer does a solid job as the game’s main villain as well as his likeness is now best used for voice work instead of on screen combat.
Spider-Man: Edge of Time is a step up from the previous, but still well received, release from Beenox. While the game is a fun time, it still falls into some of the usual weaknesses of super hero games as it follows a standard beat up hordes of faceless enemies to reach the iconic boss battles. The fighting system has definitely been smoothed out a little this time though which keeps the beatings fun throughout.
With a much more concise story, the experience of Spider-Man: Edge of Time is fulfilling to see both Spider-Men through the cross time tale. Fans of the wall crawler have most likely already picked this up and super hero video game fans will most likely enjoy their time as both Spider-Men as well. The one question remains, can any other writer touch Spider-Man 2099 the way Peter David can?