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Spider-Man: Web of Fire (Sega 32X) artwork

Spider-Man: Web of Fire (Sega 32X) review

"Part clunky brawler, part frustrating platformer, Web of Fire is definitely not the “32-bit gaming experience” promised by Sega."

Spider-Man: Web of Fire is something of a novelty amongst the 32X’s small collection of games in that it isn’t a port of an arcade game, it doesn’t contain FMV, and it can’t be found on any other system. The title screen states that this 32X exclusive was released in 1996, although the date in the credits is November 30th 1995. In any case, it’s supposedly the final North American release for Sega’s doomed system. Rumours of a limited production run have seen prices soar in recent years; a copy sold on eBay just before Christmas went for an auction price of $378.

Its exclusivity and rarity may make it a treasure for Sega collectors, but for everyone else this is a side-scroller that’s best avoided. Rather than involve the guys behind the excellent Maximum Carnage, released a couple years before for the Genesis and SNES, Sega handed development responsibilities to BlueSky Software, a company who had brief success in the mid-90s with Vectorman and World Series Baseball before their demise during the early years of the PlayStation. The producer, Jerry Mankota, can lay claim to a handful of poor X-Men titles for the Game Gear. It’s hardly the all-star team you want in charge of a licensed exclusive and Web of Fire has an amateurish feel about it. Part clunky brawler, part frustrating platformer, it’s definitely not the “32-bit gaming experience” promised by Sega.

The problems begin with an uninspired story that makes poor use of the source material. Web of Fire brings Spider-Man into conflict with the terrorist organisation Hydra, which has taken New York City hostage by trapping it inside a giant electrical web. Although Hydra have become more prominent in recent Marvel films, fans of the mid-90s Spider-Man cartoon can be forgiven for being a little disappointed by the villains in Web of Fire. Instead of the Green Goblin, Kingpin or Dr Octopus, we get to fight Hydra’s hired guns, the likes of The Eel, Dragon Man and Thermite. I don’t know much about Thermite, and Web of Fire does little to make his character seem unique or interesting. Instead of a battle that showcases his super powers, we’re thrown into a brawl that demands we do little more than mash the buttons while Thermite jumps around and occasionally attacks with projectiles. The battles are so repetitive that you can substitute ‘Thermite’ in that last sentence for any one of the bosses in Web of Fire.

Web of Fire is reluctant to break with convention. As the adventure unfolds, we’re taken on a journey that will be very familiar to those who have played more than a few ‘90s side-scrollers. The typical locations are here: the burning rooftops of the city, a dangerous power plant, an even more dangerous oil refinery. The climax sends Spider-Man up the side of a rocket which is moments away from launch. I have nothing against such clichéd stages in principle, but the lack of imagination is unforgivable when the stage design is as poor as it is here. Levels are full of irritating traps and obstacles that slow your progress in the most irritating manner. In the power plant you must repeatedly scale towers while trying to pass electric wires that switch on and off. They operate at what seems like random and they’re reused to excess throughout the stage. It’s actually a short adventure, but it feels longer because levels are tricky and repetitive.

I would like to praise BlueSky Software for their inclusion of ‘web swinging’ sections that allow Spider-Man to freely swing through the skies. It’s the only time where they show an inclination to go beyond the standard platform-scaling, enemy-brawling action that forms the basis of the adventure. The finest sequence is the stage that takes you across Brooklyn Bridge; it even looks the part, with burnt-out cars on the bridge, the silhouettes of the city’s skyscrapers and a purple sky that’s illuminated by Hydra’s flashing neon web. It’s true that swinging through the skies allows you to miss the entirety of the level, but this is more of a blessing than a fault when you consider that the alternative is to battle through tough enemies with no more than a web projectile attack and a single punch combo.

web-swinging across purple skies.

Web of Fire would maybe, possibly, have been ever-so slightly more forgivable had it been released in the early days of the Genesis. It certainly feels, looks and sounds like a poor 16-bit adventure with its tired gameplay, muddy graphics and discordant music. When you remember that it was actually the final game on a console that was supposed to take Sega to new heights it’s harder to excuse its faults. Less than a year after Spider-Man: Web of Fire was released for the 32X, Nintendo gave us Super Mario 64.

I’ll leave you with one moment that demonstrates just how awful this game is. In the city rooftop stage there are rectangular fans that are wide but very low to the ground. Jump onto the flat blades of the fan and Spider-Man will recoil in pain, forcing you to reattempt the leap. Jump just short of the fan and he’ll automatically stick to it, his feet flat against the vertical side, his head sticking out parallel to the ground. While you’re in this ridiculous position, stuck to the side of fan that’s shorter in height than Spider-Man himself, enemies will happily come along and pummel you in the head.


Let me repeat, seven months after Spider-Man: Web of Fire, Nintendo released Super Mario 64 in Japan.


JANUS2's avatar
Freelance review by Tim Ayre (January 06, 2015)

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EmP posted January 07, 2015:

Thanks for kicking this thing off. On the other hand, to hell with you for reminding me about Maximum Carnage for which I now need to drop everything for to immediately replay.

It kind of sucks that this game is so bad – The Eel is one of those ironically brilliant super-villains who‘s entire super power is that he’s kind of slippery, so him being used right in a game could have been brilliant. Bringing up Carnage so early is an excellent tactic with this in mind, because it tells the reader that this came after a comic book game that absolutely nails its source material so Web of Fire is running low on excuses. Same with ensuring you note early that it was the last system release; if any game should start getting the best of the 32X’s pitiful lifespan, surely it would be the last ever release. You tie this point up well later when you talk about things that could have redeemed the game. Noting the release of Mario 64 is a savage boot to the face. You monster, you.

It’s a really good review – I also enjoyed how you give web swinging such backhanded praise and drop in a description of the best stage. It shows the game isn’t completely without ambition and effort while making it very clear that those efforts didn't pan at. At all.

Assuming there’s no objections, I’ll nudge Jason to get his side of promoting this review to staff underway so you can’t sneakily delete it the second my back is turned so we can take the first game off the completion list.
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JANUS2 posted January 07, 2015:

Haha, I knew you still secretly hated me for deleting all those reviews.

On the subject of blasts from the past, I was checking my HGMail archives the other day. The highlight is a message from bluberry with the subject "I'm as drunk as f***". Nostalgia...

Thanks for the comments. I wanted it to come across exactly as you described so I'm glad you liked it. I might even take some screen caps if it's gonna be bumped up to staff. (Do we still do that?)
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overdrive posted January 07, 2015:

I think one thing that resonated most with me was the disappointment a player could feel looking at how none of the enemies were particularly big-name Spiderman foes. Regardless of actual quality, the one thing that separates a superhero game from any random action title is that the characters have a certain validity due to being in other mediums of entertainment. So, when you go past the A-listers and base a game around a group of lesser-tier villains, it just seems second-rate. Reminds me of the god-awful Silver Surfer NES game, where I hadn't even heard of some of the bosses.

If you're going to use no-names (in the grand scheme of things), that's cool...but keep them secondary to the true big-name threat (like the second X-Men PS2 game early boss was a guy who doesn't even rate his own Wiki page, but the main foes were Apocalypse and Sinister).
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EmP posted January 08, 2015:

Boo's all respectable these days. He wears a monocle and only drinks finest cognac when social situations like the grand ball dictates it.

Screenshots are still a thing if that's a route you want to go. Let me know when you're at the final stage of the review and I'll upgrade it.
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JANUS2 posted January 12, 2015:

I've added screens so it can be upgraded now, if everything's in order.
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honestgamer posted January 12, 2015:

Thank you, Janus! I've updated the review, which looks great. I hope this isn't the last 32X game you find time to review. You did a terrific job on this one.

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