Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Brick Miser Is Going To Salt Lake Comic Con 2017

Hey everyone! Just a quick announcement that I'm going to Salt Lake Comic Con 2017. NOT as a guest(yet), but just as a convention goer walking around and seeing the awesomeness.

I will, of course, be going as a minifigure wearing a ZC-Infinity logo:

I'm only going to be attending Thursday afternoon from about 1:00 to 6:00. If you can find me idling around(aka NOT playing a game/talking to someone else/attending a panel/standing in line for an autograph) and tell me the phrase below, I'll throw a bag of building bricks at you(while supplies last; one per person; please don't tell your friends I'm giving away free stuff so there's enough for people who actually follow my blog/channel):

Brick Miser SUCKS! Pink Lady ROCKS!

Afterwards, I'll tell you all about it and share the adventures both I and my minifigure avatar had together. Let's hope Brick doesn't get lost in the huge event!

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Plug n Play Game Corner: Spider-Man and The Masked Menace

Am I too late for the Spider-Man train? ...Well, I have a bunch of Spider-Man Plug n Play games taking up space anyway, so I don't care. Let's swing in with Spider-Man and The Masked Menace.

Game: Spider-Man and The Masked Menace
Developer: Jakks Pacific/Santa Cruz Games
Release Date: 2008
Genre: Platformer/Beat 'Em Up

So, we got a new Spider-Man reboot this year in the form of Spider-Man: Homecoming. Apparently, it's considered the best Spider-Man movie to date, features the most fitting actor ever chosen for Spider-Man, and involves Michael Keaton who's back from his long hiatus(after taking secondary roles for the last 2 decades.) ...And that's all I know about it. I don't follow superhero movies, and this one is no exception. I don't think it looks bad(on the contrary, it looks exciting), but it's just not my kind of movie. If you like it, great. You stick with the fandoms YOU like, and I'll stick with the fandoms I like.

However, I will admit that once upon a time, Spider-Man was my favorite superhero. I thought he was the most unique of any Marvel hero based on the limited number of comics I read back then. He was young, he was funny, he had a great costume, he was the most down-to-earth of all the superheroes, his rogues gallery was enticing, he was just a lot of fun. The fact that he didn't have to win every time and that he could be smart without going off the rails into fantasy territory(most of the time) made him more human and interesting to read, since I didn't always know what was going to happen. He was the first superhero I followed and one that I really wanted to emulate.

I was even Spider-Man for Halloween back when I was 9(picture not available)!

...But all that was before I realized just how whiny and depressing Spider-Man actually is. When he's fighting and cracking one liners, it's a lot of fun, but in between battles, Spider-Man/Peter Parker is just about the last person you want to be around. He NEVER finds a balance between his superheroing and personal life, constantly letting one interfere with another and ruining them both. He NEVER finds a way to make money with his abilities and is always stuck with minimum wage jobs where everyone hates him or he hates them. He NEVER finds love, because he's always worried that someone will track down and hurt his family, so he either pushes people away or becomes smotheringly overprotective to the point they want to leave his life. And he NEVER gains the respect of other supers, since he's too proud and impulsive to think about the situation before he jumps headfirst into it. Life is a living hell for Peter Parker.

However, most of his agony is his fault, as Peter Parker/Spider-Man is possibly the most irresponsible and self-defeating super in comics. He never thinks about where his actions are going to take him, and when he sees the inevitable consequences of what he's done, he does NOTHING but mope about it, continually beating himself up until he can find someone else to funnel all his anger into. He never fixes anything, he never sets things up to prevent them from happening again, and he never admits his faults. He just goes in, guns blazing, screams that he's made a mistake for a while, then forgets about it and goes off to ruin something else. For a guy whose catchphrase is "With great power comes great responsibility", he's one of the most irresponsible characters in media I know!

There's a bit of dialog in the infamous "Spider-Man: One More Day" run of the Spider-Man comics that I feel sums him up perfectly. Basically, he has to make the pain he feels felt by everyone else, because if he can make others feel guilty for what HE'S done, then he can feel like his conscience is clear and just go about his day, simply passing the buck to someone else to deal with. And this would be ok if he was just starting out as a teenager and learning from his mistakes as he goes. ...But he's been an adult for decades, with YEARS of experience and ever-changing responsibilities. And he STILL makes the same mistakes, STILL has the same self-loathing attitude he tries to hide by fighting supervillains, and STILL never takes responsibility or uses his powers to actually aid himself and others. He's forever 15 with the angst and inexperience of someone that age...

Heck, in the possible-future comic "Spider-Man: Reign", we see Peter Parker when he's about 70. ...And he STILL can't hold down a job(even though he hasn't even put on the costume in DECADES), constantly berates himself for being a loser, wallows in self-pity for supposedly killing his wife(which is debatable at best), and can only function if he's beating up the bad guy! Oh, and he continually hallucinates on top of all of that as well. It gets so bad, that he nearly commits suicide and J JONAH JAMESON and DOCTOR OCTOPUS, two of comics' biggest bullies, have to set up a defense against the baddies and a way to provoke Spider-Man into action! ...WHY ARE WE FOLLOWING A SUPERHERO WHO'S SO PATHETIC THAT THE SUPERVILLAINS HAVE TO STEP IN AND SAVE THE DAY?!

Now admittedly, I'm talking about the main Marvel universe stuff pre-One More Day. I haven't followed this character in years, so I have no idea what developments he's been through. Something about he and Doc Ock switching brains for a while, then there was a Spider Island, then the Ultimate Universe collapsed into the main universe, and Peter Parker and Mary Jane remarried and retired, so now there's another guy named Miles Morales taking his place, and in some parallel universe it was actually Gwen Stacey who became Spider-Gwen. ...I don't know. Nor do I really care.

I'm also not necessarily referring to the various movies or TV series. Admittedly, Spider-Man/Peter Parker is given a lot more character and learning potential in what I've seen, which makes him much more likable than the comics, but I'll save my opinions of those incarnations for when we feature something that ties in to them.

So why did I just go on a huge rant about the comics when I'm talking about a Plug n Play game? ...Well, it's something that's been bugging me for YEARS and I felt like I had to get it off my chest*. Plus, I couldn't help but think of the comics given that the game we're looking at is based on them. ...And a rather dark period of Spider-Man comics at that: The Clone Saga.

*At least the short version. I could have gone on for MUCH longer about my thoughts on Spider-Man, but I'll stop until a more relevant time.

Fans of comic show Atop the Fourth Wall may be familiar with Linkara's annual look at certain sections of the story arc, and I would highly recommend you check those out for the full story since he's much more knowledgeable about the saga and the stupefying thought process behind it(and bad comics in general.)

To summarize, the Clone Saga was a story arc that lasted between 1994 and 1997, though with a few issues concerning the arc being released before and after that period as well. A new Spider-Man villain, the Jackal, claimed that he had apparently mastered cloning, proving it by continually making clones of Peter Parker and Gwen Stacey. What resulted were several years of "Who's the clone and who's real?" stories, treatises on the nature of humanity, some omnipotent villains whose backstories were never explained, and a LOT of repetition and bad ideas...

This was mainly due to the fact that the story arc was only supposed to last less than a year. However, the first few issues sold so well, that the marketing team was given complete control over the process, stretching it out to several years and keeping it going through every dumb story idea imaginable. So during that time, we had attempts to turn Spider-Man's clone into a main character with his own series(which failed miserably), a backstory to the symbiote behind Spider-Man villain Venom where they turned Eddie Brock into the Doom Marine, the previously mentioned omnipotent villain who puts Spider-Man through many pointless tests to determine what makes up "humanity", and so on and so forth through dozens of issues of meandering, boring, confusing, and bottom-of-the-barrel-scraping stories spanning across every Spider-Man series at the time. ...It's not a series I'd recommend checking out is my point.

But in case the threat of an overly long and complicated story is scaring you away from this game, don't worry. This has almost NOTHING to do with that certain saga*. Is that a good thing? ...Well, let's delve into it and find out.

*At least as far as I know. I haven't read the entire series, so maybe it's actually faithfully based on the start of the saga? ...Now's your chance to prove you're smarter than me! ...Not that that's too hard...

The console itself is a pretty nice design, looking almost like a third-party PlayStation controller. I especially like how it's painted in Spider-Man's trademark red & blue colors, and in a way that it's clear they put some thought into where the colors would fit best and they didn't just smudge them wherever they felt like.

Though it's a little confusing why they painted the handle grips gray like Spider-Man's webbing

Yet left the actual web pattern untextured.

The grips are just hard plastic that were clearly painted gray over already blue plastic. I guess they help hold onto the console, but something more rubber would have been nicer to hold.

This console also has three buttons, which is rare for a Plug n Play game. I think the last console we looked at with three buttons was the My Little Pony Grand Puzzleventure game last year. ...That console somehow finds a way to keep coming back, doesn't it?

But let's face it. You just skipped over the last few lines to get to the point where I address the large Spider-Man right in the middle of the console.

Yes, similarly to the Scooby-Doo console we looked at, this console also incorporates a plastic figure that has to do with the franchise it's based off of. ...Except this one takes up a LOT more room than Scooby holding on for dear life on the back of the Mystery Machine.

I find it rather humorous that they positioned him to look directly at the player as they're playing. He's just crouched there, web shooter at the ready, like he's going "Alright kid, I put a lot of time and energy into this game, so if you don't play it all the way through, I'm going to web up the parts of you you don't know are important yet. ...Wait, am I actually good in this game? ...OH GOD, I'M SUCH A LOSER! ...I'm sorry! I need to go vent my anger by pummeling the programmers and telling them it's all their fault just so I can sleep tonight!*"

*...That turned dark quickly...

And here's Spider-Man from behind. There you go, ladies!

Obviously, this isn't the only Spider-Man Plug n Play console out there. I think we can include Spider-Man with Spongebob and Star Wars with characters that have had a ridiculous amount of Plug n Play games based on them.

Including a VR-ish motion sensing game! ...Which I will probably never be able to casually find since the pieces are lost super easy...

Still, from what I could find, this series has at least SIX games all dedicated to Spider-Man. He probably popped up in some other Marvel games as well. We'll just have to hope that we live long enough to see them all here.

In addition to Jakks Pacific, the guest developer this time is one known as Santa Cruz Games.

Santa Cruz Games was a game company located in, of course, Santa Cruz, California. Like most of the guest developers we've seen, they mostly focused on handheld ports of franchised games and movie licenses.

Though they did start out making games for the PS1, including the OTHER E.T. game, which nobody seems to remember exists.

And they apparently contributed "Additional Art" to the old City of Villains MMORPG, so that's something I guess.

I can't find any indication that this company still exists. Their website is completely defunct, and the last game recorded as being developed by them was the DS port of Tomb Raider: Underworld back in 2009, so I'm guessing they shut their doors around that time as well.

One slight problem that arises right away is that they can't seem to decide what this game is called. On the console, it's called "Spider Sense Spider-Man"

 While on the menu screen, it's "Spider-Man and the Masked Menace." Both are maddeningly generic, but since it's the latter on the game itself, that's what I'm calling it.

So this game has a rarity for Plug n Play games: Actual cutscenes! Again similarly to the My Little Pony Grand Puzzleventure game, there's a short movie with exposition that precedes the next level. ...There's unfortunately no spoken dialog anywhere in this game, but there are text boxes and unique character animations, which are always nice in an 8/16-bit-style game.

And while I just stated in detail why I don't like Spider-Man as much as I used to, the stuff where Spider-Man's joking and trying to be brave in the face of danger is always fun, and I think they nailed his snarky attitude quite well during these cutscenes. It's cheesy, but hey, so's 99% of his dialog in any media.

Alright, did I get some positive energy flowing? ...Good. Now I can be brutal.

Something you're going to notice about this game really early on is that it controls pretty awkwardly. The control layout is fine, but remembering to switch between the buttons can sometimes be a challenge, especially with three of them. "A" is Punch, "B" is Jump, and "C" fires your Web Shot to web up enemies. Seems simple enough.

But then pushing "B" + "C" makes Spider-Man web swing for as long as you hold down the button. The web stays as long as the distance between the ceiling and the floor, and you can't adjust it without letting go of the button and then quickly pressing "C" again when you're at the height you want. This can make getting over obstacles especially tricky since you're constantly adjusting your swing to avoid things...

Though this does mean that you can technically make Spider-Man airborne forever. Just jump, web swing, then jump again. ...Against the air, apparently. Spider-Man, Spider-Man, defying physics like any spider can! ...Except they can't...

Then there's wall-crawling, which happens whenever you jump against a wall. Then you can just crawl up and down the wall and punch stuff in your way.

However, it's difficult to determine what surfaces you can and can't jump onto, meaning you'll end up jumping onto things you don't want to jump on and falling through objects you thought you could grab onto. ...In fact, how does grabbing onto these surfaces even work? Aren't they technically in the background? ...Eh, 2D 16-bit logic. Shouldn't question it...

Ironically, Spider-Man starts the game by rambling about all of the game's obvious features EXCEPT for the control scheme. ...Don't you think that would have made a more important tutorial than "Find keys to unlock doors?"

So after you've spent a good amount of time trying to acclimate yourself to the control scheme and not swinging into walls every 2 seconds, you're ready for fun! ...What little there is in this game.

Ok, maybe I'm being unfair. Compared to a lot of the other stuff featured on this blog, this is a "real" game, with levels, objectives, collectables, boss fights, etc. It's not a bare-bones racing game or collection of minigames, but... Well, let's start at the beginning.

So what is the story of this little adventure that's told to us through these cutscenes? Peter Parker is informed by J Jonah Jameson that Spider-Man is robbing a nearby research lab. Obviously, the REAL Spider-Man isn't the culprit, so he sets off to find out just what's going on and who's impersonating him for the 3877534th time*.

*Seriously, how many superhero imposter stories are there? And how does nobody catch on to the fact that anyone can go buy a discount costume online and pose as a superhero, so their favorite hero gone rogue might not actually be the hero?

And that's the goal. To get to the end of each level, fighting off hordes of henchmen and finding keys to unlock doors, and reach the next section of the story. It's just about as basic of a setup as you can get.

And that sadly also applies to the game mechanics. All you do in each level is collect coins and mash the "A" button to punch enemies. There are no combos, no weapons, no puzzles, no upgrade store, and no real sense of exploration. It's a VERY bare bones game that can get old VERY fast.

 To progress through these levels, you need keys to unlock doors, which you can either find in chests or dropped by these color-coded yellow henchmen. ...I personally question the logic of dressing your henchman assigned to holding keys in a way to stand out to people looking to steal them, but this IS the same universe where half the planet can explode, be reconstituted from some alien life form's atoms*, and it's forgotten the next week, so subtlety is probably an extinct concept in this reality.

*I just pulled that scenario out of thin air, so I have no idea if it actually happened or not. ...But this is the comic universe, so I wouldn't be surprised if that was the plot to some series arc.

That's really all you need to keep an eye out for. There are coins scattered across the levels, but since you don't actually spend them, they're just there for points and to achieve 100% completion. So unless you're really after those trophies(more on that later), you can just skip over them.

Then, of course, there's health, which is sometimes dropped by henchmen or found in crates. ...Though through most of this game, it's questionable if you NEED health replenishers.

Spider-Man has a VERY long life bar in this game, with 5 levels starting from blue and cycling through green, cyan, yellow, then red before finally depleting. And as you can imagine, it can take a long time for enough damage to be inflicted to finally kill him off.

 Obviously, dying can be a thing, especially during boss battles and fights with the worst enemies of the game(bringing up in a sec.) ...However, after being killed, Spider-Man revives in the exact same spot with full health, just at the cost of a life, so there's no real consequence to dying.

Lives aren't even that hard to come by. In every level, there are certain "secret" areas(some more subtle than the one I'm showing here) that each contain an extra life. Finding these areas is one of the challenges of the game, so you'll be searching every inch of the level and finding 1-3 lives in each zone. Sure, they're secret, but since you'll be purposely looking for them if you're after 100% completion, you'll still find plenty of them. And since you'll find roughly 15 lives during the course of the game and likely lose only a third of those, they stack up with subsequent playthroughs. Losing everything isn't a normal option for this game.

I'd just like to point out that, contrary to most games of this genre, there's no difficulty selection. It's a "naturally progressing" hike through the game. I bring this up just so you know I wasn't "wussing out" and playing on a lower difficulty level. It's really this easy. ...Most of the time.

Anyway, Level 1 is comprised of running through the laboratory to find whomever is soiling Spider-Man's (already soiled)good name.

 It's also here that you're introduced to the only baddies you'll encounter throughout the game: Clone henchmen. ...No, seriously, they're clones. It's not just the usual same model for recurring baddies nearly every single game uses to save on time and memory space, they are actually manufactured clones. ...Points for their own explanation of why every henchman is the same, I guess...

Most of them can be taken down with a simple one-two punch, or just avoided altogether. ...Though again, if you're going for 100% completion, it's required you track down and destroy every one in your path. ...So much for Spider-Man's "No Kill" policy*.

*Though given how often he's prone to losing his mind, I'm surprised he hadn't broken it earlier...

Some henchmen carry guns though, so try to sneak up on them from behind to avoid losing health. ...If you consider that an issue here...

And, like I(and Spider-Man) mentioned, yellow henchmen carry keys, so if you're stuck at a doorway without one, backtrack to see if there are any you missed.

Eventually, you'll come across the game's version of an "enemy rush" in the form of these strangely-phallic hydrant machines that literally spawn henchmen. ...See? Clones.

You'll need to fight off the continually spawning enemies while also punching the machine until it's destroyed to proceed. Thankfully, in 2D video game fashion, punching one enemy also hurts anything else's hit box in the area, so fighting off the minions will also smash up the machine and you'll be on your way in under a minute.

Finally, Spider-Man will reach the imposter, who taunts him while carrying a suspicious vial before running off, leaving him to a group of cloned henchmen. ...And seeing as how you'll regularly be taking down machines that can spew out an endless stream of these things, this clearly isn't an obstacle.

But it does give him enough headway to run to the next level, which is signified by this group of gold coins, so Spider-Man pursues him, ending Level 1.

At the end of each level, there's a Results screen that tallies up the coins collected and enemies defeated. ...They don't add anything to your score, so it's relatively pointless, but it's there.

This is also where the game will show you any trophies you earned during the level, depending on if you've collected all the coins, beaten all the enemies, found all the secrets, or reached a target score. Like the Fry Cook Games, they don't unlock anything, they're just there for vanity, so if you're not trying for 100%, don't worry about it. I didn't.

 Level 2 takes place on the city streets, where Spider-Man continues to pursue the imposter.

This is possibly the easiest of all the levels in the game. Just run right and take down anyone in your path.

Including a few clone spawners, which now spawn henchmen with guns. ...On top of their uniforms... ...I'm just assuming these things run on Superman IV cloning logic...

Eventually, you'll reach the end of the level and encounter your first boss fight, where it's revealed that the imposter is actually The Chameleon(whom I'm surprised has never gotten any movie time.)

...And yes, even the boss fights are boring. Just run up to them and punchapunchapuncha. There's no visible strategy or pattern most of the time(and, like I said, no real consequences for dying since you'll respawn right where you were with the boss' HP at the exact same level), so just keep punching until defeated.

This is a game where the infamous Doom Protip applies to every enemy.

After being defeated, The Chameleon still gets away, but Spider-Man manages to swipe the vial he was carrying. Chameleon is unusually unswayed by this as he promises that they'll get it back, cryptically mentioning that nothing will stop the "Master Planner", ending Level 2.

If this is your first playthrough of this game, then after the Results screen, you also receive an upgrade to your web, web swinging, or punch combo, making each better with each level.

And, amazingly, these upgrades carry over to a new playthrough of the game, so everything you've collected, including extra lives and your score, are present at the beginning of the new game*! It's surprisingly rare to find a New Game+ mode in a regular game, let alone a Plug n Play console!

*Which, if you've been paying close attention,has been the first two levels of the game shown in the screenshots and video. My capture device corrupted and erased the first two levels, so I went back and played them over again, with the New Game+ features. But from here on out, it's how I played the game the first time.

In Level 3, you're on the rooftops of New York, your mission to get the vial to Doctor Curt Connors(aka The Lizard.)

Obviously, dropping straight down leads to falling off the screen. ...However, unlike most games, it only results in losing a sliver of health as opposed to a life, plus you swing right back to where you dropped. ...So even falling off a building is boring...

...However, this is where you're introduced to the biggest annoyance of the game:

HENCHMEN ON GLIDERS! Oh GEEZ, these guys were a pain!

Their gimmick is to continually fly just out of reach, before suddenly swooping right at you and causing damage before you have a chance to react!

It is essentially impossible to take these guys on without getting a large number of hits, and quite often dying!


There's no pattern to their attack! They just float around, usually half off-screen where you can't even see them, and remain just outside of reach! Only a direct attack does any damage, since even if you make contact with his sprite, the attack will go RIGHT THROUGH HIM! You will spend FOREVER just chasing these guys around the screen and jumping at them, desperately trying to make Spider-Man's foot contact with the thug's face, losing a health bar or two in the process!

When you FINALLY take down one of them, congratulations, but that's just Glider Henchman #1 out of 123! There are literally two right around the corner, so good luck buddy!

Trust me, it doesn't get any easier later on. I literally lost a life-and-a-half taking on ONE of these b$&%@^*$ later in the game! I guess all things considered, these guys are the only challenge you'll find in this game. ...But it's a cheap shot, intentionally annoying the players to keep them from beating the game too quickly. I don't feel like I've accomplished anything after beating them, I'm just worn out and stressed that I'll eventually have to fight another one...

 On the Annoyance Scale from Zubat to Creeper, they rank somewhere between a Poison Headcrab and a Medusa Head.

 From here on out, the game plays essentially the same as the previous two levels. Go to the right, collect coins and keys, keep a lookout for extra lives, and fight the boss at the end. Lather, rinse repeat.

...And this is the most frustrating aspect for me as both a gamer and a reviewer. Everything worth noting can be seen in the first 3 levels. ...In a NINE level game! I have just shared with you all you need to know about the game, and we're not even halfway through...

There are additional obstacles thrown your way in the form of lasers and spikes in later levels, but all I can tell you about them is "don't get hit."

I guess I could mention that the graphics and animation in this game are... not bad. There's quite a bit of color variation, Spider-Man stands out and is drawn well, there's variation in the backgrounds, and there's even parallax scrolling in some levels, especially the city rooftop level here.

...However, there are considerably fewer frames in the animations than most of what has been featured here before. Spider-Man's run cycle is only about 5 frames, getting hit is 2, and going from running to jumping has absolutely no transition. It's that weird limbo between "fluid" and "jerky" that messes with your brain and tells you it's professional and cheap at the same time...

And while the backgrounds are varied from level to level and given a little bit of detail, they're just as boring as anything else in this game. They're patterns that are repeated every so often of the same walls, doors, and platforms, with no variation to differentiate the area at the beginning from the one at the end. This can lead to you getting lost and heavily backtracking in later levels...

And, like I mentioned, it's the SAME henchmen throughout the game! They're palette-swapped in later levels to indicate they're tougher, and some wear armor to take more hits, but it's the SAME model, SAME walk cycle, and SAME attack pattern!

Anyone who complains about the lack of variety in Dante's Inferno can officially shut up...!

...So since there's nothing else to talk about in the game itself, what's the rest of the story?

At the end of Level 3, Spider-Man takes on the Hobgoblin, who threatens to kill Dr. Warren, a scientist working with Dr. Connors, if Spider-Man doesn't hand over the vial.

And despite being on a glider, this guy is surprisingly easier to take down than any of the glider-riding henchmen. He's much slower and intentionally stays in your area so he can throw pumpkin bombs at Spidey, so just wait until he's level with you and keep punching him.

Eventually, you'll cause him to fall off his glider. Then it's a simple matter of punching him until he finally collapses. ...AKA the strategy used on every enemy of the game...

Dr. Warren thanks Spider-Man for his help, then explains that he couldn't find Dr. Connors. Just a hole in the floor leading to the sewers, where someone probably took him.

Spidey thanks him for his help and starts to go after him, but not before Dr. Warren heals him and suggests he hold onto the vial Spider-Man is carrying for safe keeping, which Spider-Man gladly gives to him.

Level 4 has Spidey running through the sewers, looking for Dr. Connors. ...I'd make a joke about how the sewer level is the WORST kind of level in ANY game from Mario to Enter the Matrix to Xenogears, but since it's as blandly designed as all the other levels with no additions, I don't have anything to point out...

 At the end, Spider-Man finds Dr. Connors, but he's reverted back to his The Lizard persona, who is a lot less friendly toward Spider-Man than his human form...

This guy's a cinch to take down. Just run up to him and punchapunchapuncha. ...So nothing new.

Though watch out, as he'll sometimes jump behind his little chemistry table and throw evil green beakers at you, then jump back out and throw you across the room. ...Or don't watch out. Like I mentioned, you have a very long health bar...

As it turns out, all that was needed to restore Dr. Connors to his human form was to repeatedly beat the crap out of him, so he changes back and tells Spidey that the Master Planner wanted to work with The Lizard to develop a cloning serum. ...With a little help from a guy named Dr. Warren(aka The Jackal), whom you recently handed both a blood sample and the only existing vial of perma-clone.

Luckily, Dr. Connors just happens to know that the Master Planner has an underwater laboratory, which just HAPPENS to be right down the same sewer tunnel they're both in.

Level 5 features Spidey running toward said underwater laboratory, through what is essentially a continuation of the sewer zone from the previous level...

There's not even a boss at the end. Spider-Man just walks through this door and the level's over. Almost like they had enough sewer level to split in half and pass over as TWO levels, hmmm? So even though they didn't add any frustrating aspects to their sewer level like every other game does, they STILL managed to give it the same amount of annoyance...

 By Level 6, Spider-Man has made it to the underwater laboratory. ...Which looks a lot like the first laboratory in the first level. ...Well, that'll save on having to design the rest of the levels...

After beating up several dozen more henchmen and destroying advanced machinery with your bare hands, Spidey meets up with Dr. Warren-turned-The Jackal(who's a college professor and well-known scientist, yet appears with green skin and pointy ears and wears nothing but a loincloth...), who tells Spider-Man that although he's beaten everyone, that he should try to "beat himself."

Spidey then runs into who is supposedly The Chameleon again, though he strangely accuses YOU of being The Chameleon. ...Eh, nothing that a good ol' brawl won't eventually solve.

As The Jackal points out, he is indeed trying to "beat himself"(shoot me...). It's just the same Spider-Man sprite, colored slightly lighter to differentiate the two, with his limited array of punches and web shots. ...Though he likes to run away after getting hit a few times, so that's additionally annoying...

Just get him up against the wall and punch the living daylights(as well as the Octopussy, Goldeneye, and Spectre) out of him and he'll faint just like a Spider-Man can. ...Though with the added bonus of turning into a pile of ash, revealing that it's actually a clone and NOT The Chameleon(what a shock, I know.)

Spider-Man's a little shocked at the reveal that was telegraphed to us 4 levels ago and realizes now he REALLY needs to stop The Jackal before he creates an army of Spider-Men to take over the world with.

 Too late...

Level 7 has more Spidey running through the underground lab in pursuit of The Jackal. Only now it's blue! ...Pulling out all the stops, these guys...

Once again, no boss battle. He just falls down this chute and the level ends, leading into the next level, which has a similar layout to the previous. ...Yay. TWO levels pointlessly cut into four...

Though by Level 8, the objective has changed to "Find the Master Planner." ...Guess Spider-Man realized running through the previous level "Wait a minute. I'm chasing an insane college professor running around in green makeup and a loincloth. ...I think that problem will rectify itself; let's see who this 'Master Planner' is."

However, Spider-Man does end up running into The Jackal again, standing in front of a jumbo-sized version of those clone spawners and literally hopping mad that Spidey destroyed the previous clone.

But despite his threat that he'll create more Spider-Men to thrash you, the Jumbo-Clone just spews out more of the generic henchmen you've been fighting all throughout the game... So you're not only taking on The Jackal, but wave after wave of henchmen. ...It's not as epic as it sounds, as we've come to expect.

Though give him credit, The Jackal DOES provide an extra animation for Spider-Man when he starts zapping him with... whatever Jackal-related gizmo he has.

This time, Spider-Man doesn't need to take down the machine with his bare hands. After beating The Jackal, the machine just decides to commit suicide. The Jackal admits defeat, but says that the Maser Planner awaits Spider-Man...

To which Spider-Man rightly states that "Master Planner" is a stupid name...

 Finally, Spider-Man reaches Level 9. ...Same layout, same colors, I'm tired, so let's skip to the end.

And when Spider-Man gets to the end of the level, it turns out the "Master Planner" is Doc Ock! ...Which, seeing as how he's the evil genius behind 99% of all Spider-Man villain team-ups, is not really a shock!

This version of Doc Ock likes to throw exploding beakers at Spider-Man and occasionally grab him with a tentacle, throwing him against the wall. ...Of course, by now, you're probably so tired of this game that you just want to wail on him with your fists no matter what he does, even if it costs a few lives. ...Which, hey, go ahead. You have the lives to spare.

So Doc Ock is defeated, Spider-Man laughs at his cliched ending, and the day is saved.

And what do we get for enduring two hours of a repetitive beat 'em up, fighting wave after wave of the same henchmen and dealing with bosses with the simplistic strategy of "Hit them. Don't get hit?"

The end credits. ...Well, it's a little more than most of these games give us, I guess.

Then we're shown the Trophy room, where all the awards we've gotten throughout the game are on display, as well as what we still need to get. ...Unfortunately, there aren't enough hours in my life to play this game over and over again, so this is where this little story ends.


Design: As I mentioned, the console looks a lot like a third-party digital PlayStation controller, just a bit bulkier and with the shoulder buttons removed and only three face buttons. The patterns they gave to the face and sides are pretty nice and the red-and-blue color scheme really gives it that Spider-Man touch. But what makes this console is the plastic statue of Spider-Man crouched and pointing at your nether regions as you play... I usually prefer the Plug n Play systems I look at to have a more creative design, but I judge this category based on how likely I am to stop and notice this thing is there, and a Spider-Man sitting on top of a PlayStation controller would get my attention.

Controls: The controls aren't unmanageable, but they take a LOT of getting used to. I'm not accustomed to Plug n Play systems having more than one(sometimes two) buttons, so to have THREE clumped together confuses my fingers sometimes. Plus, there's trying to pull off the web swinging, attacking, wall crawling, getting off the wall, and web swinging while attacking to crash into a wall then trying to get off the wall. ...There's a lot to keep track of, is my point. The buttons needed to be spaced out and in a more "circular" pattern like a standard game controller to really function. Still, it's far from the worst control scheme I've come across. Even for this blog.

Graphics: I should really be giving the graphics more praise. The color palette is nice and varied, the sprites are well designed, there is variation for most of the levels, and they even included things like parallax scrolling and idle animations. There aren't many frames of animation, especially considering other older games we've looked at that have more professional animation, but it's forgivable for what kind of game this is. ...However, despite the detail they put into these graphics, they're just boring to look at. There's nothing active in the background, no Easter eggs, nothing to pick up, not even any pictures in the background of any of the interior levels or billboards in the outside levels. I probably wouldn't mind as much if this was a collection of minigames where the objective is different in each one, or just something that moved along more quickly, but since it's a beat 'em up all throughout, they don't give you anything to keep your attention. So while the graphics are professional and easy on the eyes, roughly mid-tier GBA-quality, they're bland and boring to look at.

Music & Sound: The music for this game is WEIRD! They have different music tracks for each level, so I can give them that, but each one sounds like a variation of Chopsticks. They're mostly comprised of someone quickly alternating between two notes while a backing beat plays behind them. On top of that, everything sounds so dreary and lowbeat, which for a bright, colorful, energetic superhero like Spider-Man, just seems out of place. It's fitting music for Peter Parker, but I digress. I guess they do their job, but if you asked me to hum any of them, I wouldn't remember a single track. The sound effects are basic, but they're all unique. I can tell a punch from a web shot, a coin from a key, web swinging from a box breaking, etc. And they even included running sounds, which is uncommon for cheaper games. Nothing's as memorable as the Mario 1-up sound, but for what they are, they do their job.

Gameplay: ...This is where the game falls flat. This is one of the most monotonous beat 'em ups/platformers I've ever played. The goal of each level is to run to the right, occasionally find another path up or down, punch everything in sight, and collect keys to keep going. No combos, no Easter eggs, no power-ups, no minigames, no variations in gameplay, not even any enemy variation! It's the SAME EXACT HENCHMEN IN EACH LEVEL! You have the ones with guns, the ones with gliders, and the ones with nothing, all having the EXACT SAME CHARACTER MODEL! And, like I said, basically everything there is to talk about happens in the first three levels of a NINE level game! The only things that break up the monotony are the different backgrounds, the boss fights, and the occasional secret to find, and even those are so similar and bare bones, they're barely worth the effort. It was a chore to slog through this game and I'm surprised that I made it from the beginning to the end without getting distracted by something more interesting. Like grass growing.

Replay Value: The game can be completed in about 2 hours. Faster if you've memorized where everything is and don't bother collecting or fighting anything. After you've completed it, it DOES give you incentive to play it again and collect all the trophies. And it even allows you to keep all upgrades and lives from your previous playthrough to use from the beginning! ...But that's only if you want to slog through the game all over again just to grab that illusive coin or find that missed enemy. And if you missed it again, you have to finish your current playthrough and start over! So while it DOES give you reasons to play it over again, after playing it once, it's unlikely you'd want to...


This is possibly the most tedious game I've featured on this blog. Yes, even the Elmo's World game was more varied and the POP Station games were at least short. The graphics, sound, and music are passable and I could imagine them all on a Game Boy Advance game, and it does offer more replay incentive than most other games, but the gameplay is so BORING! You're just going through the motions with every level and mindlessly tapping the punch button with everything you come across, which isn't much. I'd give it credit for how insane the story is, but seeing as how 99% of all video games already have insane plots(plumbers rescuing princesses, elves piecing together triangles, robotic cuttlefish trying to take over the galaxy, little statues coming alive to fight off a human Invader Zim, etc.) there's nothing else to emphasize how stupidly fun it could have been. Unless you're crazy about Spider-Man and want to find a game you could easily 100% and brag about it to your friends, I'd recommend skipping this title.

But this game did do one thing.

It gave me new appreciation for the comic arc. ...It was also stupid and tedious, but stuff happened at least. Go out, find a trade, and compare them yourself. You may be surprised.