Spider-Man

Atari 2600

Review by Joe Santulli

Parker Bros

Action

Graphics: 7

Sound: 7

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 7


spiderman.gif (4641 bytes)How I love the classics.

Even the games that werenít much fun back then just have this wonderful purity thatís so hard to capture in this era of superior technology. You canít play a game where just one button on your controller is all you need to "be" a major-license superhero. Not anymore, and thatís a damn shame.

Few super-powered characters have transcended video game eras as well as Spider-man has (Superman being the only other exception). I know why... itís because few super-powered characters have as many super-powers as Spider-man. Look, he can shoot webs. He can climb the sides of buildings. He can "sense" things. He has "spider" strength (more on this in a moment). Hell, he even knows judo, boxing, and just about every other hand-to-hand fighting technique invented... quite a feat for a mild-mannered news photographer. For this very reason, Spider-man can "make it" on ANY video game platform. Heís simply too versatile to fail.

This was the first game based on the alter-ego of Peter Parker, who was bitten by a radioactive spider and ultimately became a misunderstood crime-fighting legend, and itís arguably his best game. I really enjoyed the Sega Genesis take on Spider-man, but it takes a little while to get into. The Atari 2600 version is instantly playable. Ahh, one button.

The foe of choice here is the "Green Goblin", whom comic book fans may recall. Although heís even tougher these days, and now known as "Hobgoblin", this baddie has rigged a few skyscrapers with super bombs that threaten Spider-manís fair city. The goal, like the joystick configuration, is simple: disarm the bomb. The task of reaching the top of each skyscraper where the super bomb lies isnít easy. Thugs wait at every window ready to cut down your web. Smaller bombs appear near the top, all set to blow up in the webslingerís face. And, of course, the Green Goblin roams about, just to slow you down.

I have a thing about superheroes in gaming in that no game ever seems to capture ALL of a superheroís skills. If I were Spider-man, I wouldnít waste my time slinging webs to scale the building, Iíd just climb up the walls. Iíd also use a little of the Ju-jitsu I learned on lunch hours at the newspaper job to clobber a few of the thugs along the way. Alas, it isnít so much a limitation on the Atari system as it is on the gameís designers that Spidey has no such skills in this format. So he has to dodge the bad guys, hoping to "swing" into them for points. And he can actually run out of fluid on his way up to the top of the building, sending him plummeting to his death. Thereís also no sign of "spider" strength here, although I question that... I can pretty much smash even a really big spider with my pathetic "human" strength. Just like those ants carrying 500 times their weight. Big deal, I outweigh those little bastards by at least 50,000 times!

The gameís graphics are pretty good, with fairly well-rendered Spidey and Goblin. The building is rather non-descript, but it works. The bombs change from black (safe) to purple (ready to blow), and finally explode. Spidey swings realistically on his webbing, too.

There isnít much sound, but itís OK. A familiar tune launches each new stage, and the explosions and effects work rather nicely. Mae would be proud, if her hearing aid were working, that is.

Any gamer who has played Crazy Climber will immediately see Spider-manís inspiration. In many ways, this title is superior, as it is far simpler to control Spidey than that infernal Crazy Climber guy. Unfortunately, the windows never open and close, and the thugs just sort of watch - you wonít find them dropping flower plants on your head here.

Itís hard NOT to like this game. The familiar characters, simple but challenging gameplay, and progressive difficulty put it in that "classic" stack of oldies, even if it really didnít turn many heads when it was originally released.

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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:32 PM