Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is a work of pure indulgence, a tapestry of silver age fanservice framed with an overly elaborate multiverse-spanning plot. The wafer-thin conceit is that you flick between four spider-men from various comic incarnations – Amazing, Ultimate, Noir and 2099 – who are working together to fight a variety of familiar villains and recover a magical (read: potentially apocalyptic) artefact, eventually culminating in a showdown with old foe Mysterio.
The game is – wait, Mysterio? This is a guy whose most significant trademark is wearing a fishbowl on his head, and his defining action was blowing his own brains out in an issue of Daredevil. How bad must things be if developer Beenox is forced to scrape the barrel so hard only Mysterio is left remaining? Sure, there's Carnage, Vulture, Deadpool, Doctor Octopus and Kraven, but Norman Osborn's stock must have taken a severe battering if he's playing second fiddle to Mysterio. Mysterio!
But in all seriousness, the game's ensemble cast only serves to prove what most fans will already know: it's the vanilla Amazing Spider-Man that's the best. His is the campaign that ties the others together, and he's the one who receives cult icon Neil Patrick Harris as a voice actor. Still, despite efforts to mix up the quartet with an aesthetic mix of the popular (Amazing, Ultimate) and niche (Noir, 2099) the actual end result, with one exception, tends to play exactly the same.
The real pearl of the game is the punning script, packed full of the one-sided bantering that's come to define the friendly neighbourhood webslinger over the decades. It manages to elicit more than a few chuckles across its duration, though does fall victim to regurgitating the same one-liners from time to time. The solid (if corny) voice acting goes down a treat, though, and Stan Lee's narration neatly fits with the tone of the game. Don't expect gritty, basically.
It also helps that developer Beenox also has a keen eye for the set-pieces. One level has you jumping between oil rigs by way of surfing a capsized boat across a tidal wave, all while being filmed as the contestant in Deadpool's 'The Pain Factor' TV show; another has you darting over splintered shards of wreckage flung out from a stage-engulfing typhoon; and one has you chasing a cannibalistic Vulture through dimmed, prohibition-era backstreets and alleys.
Beenox's decision to theme each stage around one particular rogue pays dividends, with multiple spiralling encounters proving far more rewarding to the player than simply tossing in cursory boss fights as level finales. After enough to-and-fro, each villain will activate the powers of their shard trimming – that one that will destroy the universe – which signifies the big, traditional end of level fight. It is a shame, however, that each souped-up encounter is usually just a more difficult version of former tussles.