I am a sucker for all things comic book. Don't get me wrong, I've never been one to run out and buy each new issue of a series, but I do try to at least pick up and read the trades and hash my way through the vastly changing and convoluted plotlines. I liken the plots to soap operas for guys as they kill and bring back characters with over-the-top situations.
Once my favorite comics were making their way to the big screen, I was happy, and with a few exceptions, most have not disappointed what a comic fan might expect from a live-action adaptation. The Spider-man series of movies have not disappointed in that regard. Sam Raimi has done a great job of bringing this comic to life, although the games related to this movie series have been somewhat hit and miss at times. This one is definitely a hit.
The console versions of the Spider-man games have taken to the "Sandbox" style of gameplay, which allows players to pick and choose what missions to try and in what order, and this game mimics that concept as well as it can. While the main story follows a linear path similar to the movie plot with Venom, Goblin and Sandman; the other side missions can be done in whatever order the player chooses. Even after a mission is completed, a player can return to an area and do a Crime Watch, which involves beating up various street thugs while a gauge fills up. Included in each stage are items to collect.
There are two notable things about this newest incarnation of the Spider-man series on the DS: the graphics and the controls. Graphically, the game looks amazing. Even though the character is controlled on a 2D plane, the backgrounds and such are 3D, and as Spidey moves down these crime-ridden streets, he actually turns the corners, and the 3D backgrounds swing to follow. This gives the game a definitive style and makes the stages feel much larger than they actually are.
The controls are probably the most interesting feature. Spider-man is controlled with either the d-pad or the buttons, depending on your handedness. These controls allow you to move and web-swing across the stages. All attacking and other functions are done through the stylus. To attack an enemy, the player only need to make swipes across the lower screen to perform various attacks and combos. Some of the most fun is had by shooting a web at an enemy who is off a ways and pulling him in for a combo attack. As a player beats up baddies and finishes missions, he also earns points to buy new attacks and abilities or to enhance ones you already have, such as web-swinging speed.
The game sounds good, although the music is a bit repetitive and not very memorable. The voice of Spider-man is done by Tobey Maguire, so the voice-over parts are done well. The quips he throws out during combat are what a fan of the comics would expect from Spider-man and add to the overall production value of the game.
The main story of the game isn't exactly lengthy and can be finished in a few gaming sessions, but the additional content and the addition of multiplayer (although each player needs to have the game) can make for a few extra hours of fun. If you're a completion-oriented person, you should find yourself occupied by the side missions and races, as well as tracking down hidden objects throughout the game.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of Spider-man 3. The companies that license movie-oriented games typically spend less time on the handheld versions than the console or PC titles, and it shows in the end. But this time around, I feel that Vicarious Visions has made a game worth the money and time.