While the film certainly didn't bomb, it's fair to say that on release Spider-Man 3 received a somewhat lukewarm reception compared to Peter Parker's previous celluloid adventures. Sadly, most of the console versions of the related games made the cinematic Spidey look like an Oscar winner, so there is some irony to the fact that on the smallest screen of all, the big screen licence has found itself the most suitable home.
On Nintendo's DS, despite some relatively impressive 3D backdrops, Spider-Man 3 is effectively a 2D platform romp. Set, like its TV-bound cousins, in a crime riddled virtual realisation of Manhattan Island, the game's focus is on graceful web-swinging and close quarters combat, but has a lot more to give than the basics of the genre we've all seen countless times before.
If there is any room left for innovation on a portable that has seen an incredible amount of eccentric and eclectic content, Spider-Man 3 has some to give. With its novel control scheme, which juggles D-pad and stylus input with surprising success, the latest outing by the friendly neighbourhood superhero goes some way to reinventing the platformer as a ledge leaping 'tap-'n'-slash'.
While the direction buttons handle the basics of running and jumping, strokes of the stylus on the touch screen control both Spidey's fists and agile legs, and work to direct spurts of unfeasibly strong web and special attacks.
Imagine for a moment an unusually sedate Spider-Man standing still beside a baby-snatching thug in need of a pounding from comic book history's most clean-cut legend. A quick slash of the stylus towards the enemy will send a powerful punch into the deserving criminal's stomach. Guide the tiny pen along a more vertical path and it will pile an uppercut into the villain's jaw, lifting them high in the air. A stroke away from your foe will even throw them over your shoulder, and potentially into any other enemies standing behind you.
Double taps on the touch screen also send a jet of web in the desired direction, which can be used to grab the various delinquents, rendering most of them defenceless and at your mercy. Once ensnared, flurries with the stylus can be used to pull them towards you or swing them about your head. Similarly elaborate hand movements can also be used for various special attacks, which are unlocked using the currency earned from hit-combos on unruly crooks.
While not immediately instinctive, this system works very well for despatching multiple lawbreakers and countering their advances. The web is also used to swing from building to building which, while taking little skill, is a satisfying and immediate way of getting to out-of-reach areas and accumulating the sparse selection of hidden collectables.
It's certainly an overstatement to describe Spider-Man 3 on the DS as free-roaming, but it has a very good go at aping the basics of the sandbox model set by the console versions of the game, and on the whole does a reasonably decent job of it. While you start out embarking on what appears to be a very linear adventure, it quickly becomes apparent that the map screen acts as a shortcut to almost anywhere in the game world, meaning you can leap from area to area like a superhero on a length of sticky rope.
Markers scattered thinly about the Big Apple indicate access points to start the various missions, which mostly concentrate on fighting waves of enemies, but also include races and parameter lead stages. Unfortunately, all too often Spider-Man 3 on the DS is a shade too repetitive, and could do with a potent dose of variety.
It is essentially a youngster's game, and does a very good job of providing its target audience with just the kind of action they will want. For gamers looking for something more substantial or impressive it has little to offer, but Spider-Man 3 DS betters the Wii, PS3 and 360 versions, without any need for their technical muscle and big-budget gloss.
VideoGamer.com Score7 Score out of 10
- Makes great use of the stylus for combat
- A tidy little platform game with plenty to do
- Reasonably repetitive throughout
- Sandbox game-world feels rather sparse