Marvel comics’ main timeline recently entered into the “Heroic Age,” ushering in a time when groups like the X-Men have just overcome possible extinction, The Avengers have newly reformed after the fall of Norman Osborne’s Dark Avengers, and Thor can finally begin the rebuilding of Asgard. In a word, the Heroic Age is one of progress. So it’s fitting that, when stacked up against previous attempts at bringing Peter Parker into the realm of 3D, the same one word comes to mind; progress. Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions may have noticeable flaws, but it’s easily one of the best Spider-Man games to come around in some time, and after finishing SM: SD, you’ll feel like the digital Spider-Man is entering a Heroic Age all his own.
Shattered Dimensions initially kicks off in the Amazing universe, as Spidey catches Mysterio in the act of stealing a powerful tablet from a museum. The web-slinger foils Mysterio’s plans but, mistakenly, cracks the tablet in the process. After splitting apart, the pieces of the tablet begin to glow and eventually vanish to various locations throughout multiple universes. Thus begins Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. Madame Web (an oracle of sorts) shows up to bridge the gap between universes, informing each individual Spider-Man of their heroic counterparts and instructing them on the tasks ahead.
SM:SD has a decent enough premise, but don’t expect any award-winning, comic narrative here. Aside from the opening and ending cinematic, there isn’t much meat to the story. You simply go from level to level defeating foes until all the pieces are acquired, thereby somehow saving the universe. Considering comic vet Dan Slott wrote the script, this is a disappointment.
Luckily, that alone won’t keep you from enjoying this game. Along with the four, individual, universes comes four, refreshing, unique art-styles. Both the Amazing and Ultimate universes contain a cel-shaded look; Noir contains a gritty, more realistic 1930s’ vibe; and 2099 brings with it a futuristic New York filled with vibrant, neon lighting. Every era is an absolute joy to web-sling about. The look and sound of each era is exceptionally delivered, thus keeping things from ever getting stale. Developer Beenox did a fantastic job of making each universe feel as though it was just as important as the next, and their efforts really are to be applauded.
What really allows SM:SD to stand out from the myriad Spider-Man titles is its gameplay. Bringing four completely different universes into the equation can be a recipe for disaster for several reasons. The overall premise of SM:SD immediately fails if each iteration of Spidey simply brandishes a new coat of paint with no variations in gameplay. Alongside that, each world must be equally entertaining, assuring certain eras don’t feel like a chore to play through. Here Beenox succeeds in spades. All 14 levels of the game seem to bring something new to the table — the Amazing universe brings classic Spider-Man gameplay with devastating combos; the Ultimate universe contains a youthful Peter Parker with seemingly unlimited, brutal symbiotic abilities; Noir encompasses stealth-action gameplay that feels like a cross between Splinter Cell and Arkham Asylum; and 2099 delivers a techno-punk attitude with, arguably, the most memorable boss battles of the game.
For the most part, Beenox does a great job of making you feel like you’re in Spider-Man’s suit. Controlling Spidey is limited to a simple heavy/light/grapple control set-up but it still works. And, of course, for those looking for more depth, there’s a wide array of advanced moves to unlock as well as era-specific ones.
Sadly, SM:SD suffers from problems that seem inescapable to most web-slinger adventures. While Spidey is easy to control, the same can’t be said for the camera, and it can become a real problem, most noticeably in the Noir dimensions when trying to sneak by random thugs. I also encountered a couple of glitches that froze the game and some that prohibited me from advancing at all. It should be noted that this review is based off the PS3 version of the game and I’m unaware of its performance on the 360. Lastly (and this is purely subjective), I felt it would have been nice to include more originality in the gameplay. While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, it became rather noticeable (again, in the Noir dimension) when Beenox was ripping off Rocksteady’s marquee title, Batman: Arkham Asylum. But that’s not so much a complaint as it is a wish for fresh ideas.
Don’t let any of those complaints fool you. Shattered Dimensions is a blast to play. The heroes are cool; the villains are vicious; and every time you complete a level, you’ll be begging to see what the next one has in store. Many things could’ve gone wrong in Shattered Dimensions, but Beenox delivers on almost all fronts. If nothing else, playing through the vastly different eras in SM:SD is just plain fun. The game never seems to take itself to seriously and aside from the mundane plot, that’s an attribute that works well for the game. Is Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions the best superhero game ever? Nah, that still belongs to Arkham Asylum. But it’s still a great time and at the end of the day, just do the math – four different Spider-Men is four times the fun. ‘Nuff said.
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence. This game can also be found on: Nintendo DS, PC, Wii, and Xbox 360.