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Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions (Xbox 360) artwork

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions (Xbox 360) review

"Each level revolves around its boss, with some of them creating a memorable experience. Sandman's Amazing (and amazing) stage features the villain spending much of the time in the shape of a tornado. For Spider-Man to reach water towers to tip on him, disrupting his powers, you'll have to use your webbing to zip from one piece of flying debris to another. "

To say that Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is a perfect game or anything like that would be an exaggeration. There definitely are camera issues that can pop up at really inopportune times — such as when attempting to sneak up on thugs, when engaged in deadly conflict with a boss or even when trying to pull off a string of precise web swings. Not cool. And I could see minor details like how every stage essentially plays out the same way (level boss introduced, followed by Spidey chasing him or her through stage while beating up a few billion thugs before the climactic showdown...wash, rinse, repeat) or how the overall story is beyond simplistic also potentially turning off players.

Not me, though. Perhaps it's just my "Spider-Man Geek" coming to the forefront, but I had a blast with this game. I know I yelled a few choice words when the camera refused to cooperate and I could have done without the short, boring tutorial, but those things are merely afterthoughts as I reflect on my time playing through Shattered Dimensions.

Due to a mystical tablet getting smashed into pieces, Spider-Man has to collect all the fragments, which seem to have all fallen into the hands of super-villains, making them more formidable than usual. Or more precisely, Spider-MEN will be doing the collecting, as the fragments are scattered through four Marvel dimensions. You start controlling Amazing Spider-Man, but move on to Ultimate Spider-Man, Spider-Man Noir and Spider-Man 2099 — with each version of the web-slinger handling three stages.

The differences between three of the Spider-Men are more cosmetic than anything. Amazing is the standard nimble, web-spinning version of the hero, while Ultimate and 2099 essentially control the same with minor additions to their repertoire. Ultimate can enter "rage mode", where he utterly brutalizes large groups of foes with enhanced symbiote-fueled attacks. As the alternate future version of Spider-Man, 2099 has accelerated vision, which allows him to temporarily slow down time to overcome tough enemies. However, you'll still be hitting the same button combinations to do similar moves that just look a bit different in execution with each of these three guys.

Noir is a different story. Taking place in a dark world set in the Great Depression, the moments of brawling take a back seat to stealth-oriented combat. Spider-Man will be expected to lurk in the shadows, sneak up on enemies and perform quick-hitting, bone-shattering takedowns…unless getting discovered and filled full of lead almost instantly is your goal. These levels have a totally different feel. While there is the occasional "many-on-1" brawl, most of the time you have to utilize a more tactical style of play, making them a nice change-of-pace to the other three dimensions. On the flip side, these levels also were the ones that induced me to curse the camera the most. Sneaking up on gangsters gets a lot more difficult if your viewpoint wildly changes while you're in mid-motion, which seems to happen often when you're crawling on a wall and reach a corner.

After reading the last two paragraphs, it would be easy to say that, other than the Noir levels, this seems to be a pretty repetitive brawler. Fortunately, the greatest strength of Shattered Dimensions is that the designers went to great pains to ensure this wouldn't be the case. Each level revolves around its boss, with some of them creating a memorable experience. Sandman's Amazing (and amazing) stage features the villain spending much of the time in the shape of a tornado. For Spider-Man to reach water towers to tip on him, disrupting his powers, you'll have to use your webbing to zip from one piece of flying debris to another. Later, in the Ultimate dimension, you'll travel to a pair of oil rigs to match wits (and one-liners) with Deadpool in a reality TV show where he (and hordes of fan-boys) hunt mutants and, for this particular episode, you. 

There also are tons of challenges (180, to be exact) you can attempt to complete. While some are automatically done while progressing through the game (rescuing all the hostages in the Noir Vulture level or winning the first battle with certain bosses), others take a bit of work. Maybe you'll have to take out all the enemies in a large brawl within a time limit or use a particular attack a certain number of times. These challenges succeeded in getting me to experiment with different types of attacks, as opposed to sticking to my usual action game style (find something that works and use it non-stop on everything), which also helped keep things feeling fresh.

And you'll want to accomplish as many challenges as possible. Each one completed gives you points that can be spent on new (or improved) attacks, extra health, new costumes and more. The more challenges completed, the tougher and more effective Spider-Man will be as you progress through the game and face stronger and more aggressive enemies.

The enemies are another high point in the game, as they illustrate how a few cosmetic changes can make a big difference. While playing through Batman: Arkham Asylum, one of my biggest complaints was how most generic thugs looked nearly identical. Here, while they can easily be sorted into categories (huge bruiser, cannon-fodder lackey, etc.), there is an effort to give each level's goons their own look, so it doesn't feel like I'm beating down the exact same foes throughout the entire 12-15 hours it took to complete Shattered Dimensions. 

But as I said, each level revolves around its boss. You'll fight each one at least twice in their level (one "normal" fight and one after they've used their tablet fragment to gain new powers) with there being a good bit of diversity in how each battle is won. Some can be topped with brute force, while others force you to take advantage of the terrain. In the final battle with Ultimate Dimension Electro, he's invulnerable to anything you can do, so you have to dodge his attacks until he destroys a dam in his attempts to squash you, which deluges him with water and "shorts him out". Noir Dimension Vulture hates light, so in both battles with him, it'll be to your advantage to lure him into the path of various spotlights in order to get a few easy shots while he's temporarily blinded. Hammerhead, also in a Noir level, has a fight that works the opposite way. Here, you'll be trying to avoid spotlights, so he doesn't see you and let loose with an obscene amount of ammo.

Shattered Dimensions does have a somewhat flawed camera, but I was able to overlook that problem for the most part simply due to all the other things that it did right. At times while playing, I felt transported to the world of those Saturday morning (and weekday afternoon) super hero cartoons due to the slick graphics and great voice acting, which features several people who've voiced Spider-Man or other characters either in cartoons or in other games. It's a nice surprise when a licensed game actually takes me into the world of its characters, as opposed to coming off as an easy attempt to drag more money out of a franchise (and my wallet).

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (October 28, 2011)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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