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Spider-Man & Venom: Maximum Carnage (Genesis) artwork

Spider-Man & Venom: Maximum Carnage (Genesis) review

"Over the years, Acclaim has tortured the world with its arduous library of licensed fodder, ''original'' garbage and malicious mixtures of the two. Acclaim has consistently released turd after turd into the underpants of the videogame world, soiling the seats of gamers and leaving its foul streaks to never be forgotten. "

Over the years, Acclaim has tortured the world with its arduous library of licensed fodder, ''original'' garbage and malicious mixtures of the two. Acclaim has consistently released turd after turd into the underpants of the videogame world, soiling the seats of gamers and leaving its foul streaks to never be forgotten.

Except Maximum Carnage. Acclaim slipped up and released a masterpiece.

Maximum Carnage, the event, was a gruesome spectacle. It was the organized chaos inspired by Carnage and several other Marvel supervillains, the fruits of which resulted in destruction and the devastation of New York City. The lure of the power this type of unheralded anarchy yielded caught on. Soon, the streets were bleeding from the damage of Demogoblin, Doppelganger, Shriek, Carnage, and every faceless hoodlum in New England.

Maximum Carnage thrusts you into this mess first as Spiderman. This game being a sidescrolling brawler, you must end the rioting one goon at a time.

No Spiderman game before this had ever controlled so well. Spiderman's roster of moves and combos is huge and effective. Basic punches and kicks form basic combos, easily mixed and matched. The limber webslinger can do a poetic backflip, breaking the jaws of nearby ruffians. Web abilities are ample: lasso an enemy and draw them near; tie one up in cords of webbing; swing around the screen and kick the skulls of stupefied hooligans; get between two baddies and snare them both with webbing, cracking their heads above you as you draw them into each other.

Maximum Carnage has almost astonishing control and depth for ''just'' a brawler. And then Venom joins the fray.

For every acrobatic display of agile precision Spiderman exudes, Venom is there to provide brutal balance. Venom punishes and cripples enemies; his movements are strong and broad, almost clumsy but deliberate. His groundshaking double punches and throws are the antithesis of Spiderman's lightfooted flips and reflex-intensive speed. The two working together, as you choose to play as either one of them, is a prime, supremely effective combination.

The pairing of archrivals sets out across New York; alleyways and streets spill with low-rent thugs who provide an outlet for classic brawling elements; combo, punch, kick, throw objects- eradicate the punks until the screen moves you forward again. Soon enough, though, Maximum Carnage switches the pace; you must put those spider-powers to work climbing buildings or in claustrophobic boss fights in night clubs.

It's a tough affair. As the levels advance from simple streets to the Fantastic Four headquarters, to Central Park, to prisons and to the Statue of Liberty, you'll wish you could go crawling back to the simple streets. Enemies pour in from all sides and pass you around like a prison bitch. You can sling a web to temporary safety at the top of the screen, but the evil masses gather at your feet- starving dogs stepping over each other for a taste of the bleeding meat at the end of a rope. Former mini-bosses become routine enemies and soon it takes a mighty ass-whooping to advance three screens in the game. And then you get to the bosses.

The bosses never play fair, and as the game progresses, they don't play fair in large bunches. Imagine a gangbanging from Shriek, Carnage and Doppelganger- each can hit back while you combo them, and each hovers around you waiting for their turn. ''Backup'' superheroes can be called to join the battle; as you collect their icons, you can employ the very temporary aid of minor Marvel lackeys such as ''Deathlok,'' ''Firestar,'' and ''Ironfist.'' Their help is certainly welcome, but they do little to truly relieve the difficulty of the game. Determination, practice, talent, and lots of starting over will separate the winners from the complainers at the end of this journey.

Maximum Carnage is an attractive game, but the Genesis version is (sadly) slightly weaker than its SNES sibling. The comic-book cutscenes between levels are practically identical, but the characters are a little smaller and the coloring throughout is not as pronounced or vivid as the Super Nintendo rev. Regardless, the look of Maximum Carnage still impresses; this was no doubt an inspiration for Comix Zone. Details in the game are very comic-book in nature; black outlines highlight the appearances of the heroes and the levels seem ripped from the pages of one of Marvel's non-X-Men books. Bubbles pop up with tidbits of information such as ''thwak'' and ''pow'' to let you know you're striking an enemy, and throughout, the game runs a little faster than the SNES game.

The sound, though, is the ultimate anguish of the game. Whereas the SNES version contained an excellent soundtrack composed by goof-rockers Green Jelly, the Genesis version got a sodomized version of the same music, achingly puked through the sound chip for which it wasn't designed. The driving rock rhythms and riffs are disgusting and primitive here, as if no thought was given to sound past the native SNES delivery. After all the confusing hype as to why Green Jelly would be enlisted to write songs for a videogame, the result was a case of extremes. The Genesis received the worst of it.

But that means little within the confines of such an excellent brawler. Had the culmination of the Genesis version's speed and the SNES version's sound ever occurred, I'd be reviewing one of the finest games ever conceived. I'm not though, so I work with what I have.

Maximum Carnage is a superb game, a game that destroys over-hyped genre-mates such as Final Fight and Streets of Rage 2. It is the perfect expression of the abilities of Spiderman and an excellent stretching of the boundaries of its own archetype. As much as Acclaim probably tried, they simply couldn't forsake the prospect of one sterling game amid their bleak, dingy library.

ethereal's avatar
Community review by ethereal (March 14, 2004)

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