Some developers might shy away from big licenses, scared that they'll trip up and upset the loyal fan base. Not Gameloft. The App Store giant has a plethora of huge characters and franchises taking up residence on its ever growing portfolio of iPhone games. James Cameron's Avatar, Prince of Persia and Iron Man have all been given the touchscreen treatment courtesy of the French powerhouse, and the most revered of Marvel superheroes has recently joined them. Based on the Ultimate Spider-Man license, Total Mayhem follows Spidey after six of his most memorable foes are unleashed onto the streets of New York.
Graphically speaking, Gameloft hasn't let their standards slip, faithfully bringing Spidey to life in his Ultimate form. The game is drenched in colour, with a splash of cel-shading to keep the comic book vibe intact. For fans of the Ultimate comic line, there's lots of lovely artwork to unlock as you swing through the streets of New York. As is usually the case with Gameloft, the production values are sky high, but this often allows the developer to get away with subpar gameplay. Total Mayhem is fun for the first couple of levels, but the mechanics quickly start to grate.
Three buttons in the bottom-right hand corner of the screen are responsible for punches, jumps and that gooey white stuff flung from Spidey's wrists. Combinations of the three can be used to spice things up a bit, but it fails to add much depth. As long as you don't let up on the button tapping, Spidey's enemies will struggle to get a fist in edgeways. On the rare occasions that they do (or are about to), our hero's spider-sense will tingle, and if you tap the on-screen icon in time he'll leap out of harm's way, giving you space to launch a counter attack.
A simple upgrade system encases the action, allowing players to upgrade Strength, Defense and Speciality attributes by collecting green orbs dotted about each level. Don't ignore them like I did, though, otherwise you'll end up mashed to a blue and red pulp by the likes of Rhino, who's a bitch to down even with the appropriate upgrades. Boss battles are unnecessarily tough in comparison to the rest of the game, and would have the likes of Bruce Banner hulking out and smashing his iPhone to pieces in a fit of rage.
Spider-Man nuts can often be heard banging on about the fact that Spider-Man games should be open world experiences, and I'd be inclined to agree. With super powers that revolve around traversal, Spidey is best suited to an expansive environment. Total Mayhem is the complete opposite of this; a series of linear corridors peppered with goons and a boss looming ominously towards the end. Sure, it's an iPhone game and we can't expect miracles from it, but the framework of Total Mayhem restricts Spidey from being the super-hero he was designed to be.
It's a not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, just a slightly poor use of the license. The game also suffers from Gameloft syndrome; the infliction that makes it play out like every other action orientated game Gameloft has churned out on the App Store. The combat's a tad shallow, and things get repetitive pretty darn quick, but it's still worth the comparatively small price tag. Just.