Game developer Beenox set out with an ambitious premise for this Spider-man video game: Mysterio has gotten hold of some mystical tablet that will give him untold power, and it breaks during a fight with Spidey. Madam Web summons the Spider-men of 4 dimensions—the standard “616” Spidey, the Spidey of the Ultimate universe, Spider-man 2099 and Spidey Noir—to retrieve the broken pieces of the tablet in their respective dimensions and stop Mysterio and ensure peace. In effect, this game also eschews the “open sandbox” style of gameplay (i.e. free roaming over an entire video-game New York of the movie games) for a more linear story.
How does this concept fare? Overall, pretty well (and naturally, game spoilers abound in the following). Where this game really delivers are in the worlds of Spider-man 2099 and Spider-man Noir. The Noir stages have you crawling around the shadows, avoiding armed thugs. When you get close enough to them from above or on a wall, you can launch an attack where Spidey webs them up in a glob of webbing and delivers a few brutal punches. It’s something that never seems to get old, even though much of the stealth sneaking in these stages does.
In the Noir stages you face off against Vulture and Norman Osborne (as the circus sideshow “The Goblin”), and even Hammerhead is thrown in for good measure. The Goblin Noir stage is well-crafted—an amusement park overrun with Norman’s thugs, who are holding hostages. You are tasked with taking out the thugs one by one—and not get caught in the light of the fireworks exploding overhead.
The 2099 stages are what really sold me on this game as well—as you power up Miguel O’ Hara throughout the game his attacks become more fast and brutal. There is a slowed “bullet-time” style trick Spidey 2099 can pull off when the gauge is full enough—though I never found a lot of use for it. The gooey Scorpion 2099 level stands out to me from this end of things—lots of green slime and hatching eggs a’la "Alien". All of the 2099 stages have an appealing, glowy, futuristic design.
The rest of the game is so-so—in the Ultimate Spider-man incarnation you play in the black symbiote costume, including a face-off with Carnage at a SHIELD outpost filled with zombies. The only really standout Ultimate stage is in facing off against Ultimate Deadpool, who’s tricked-out his level as a warped reality show with Spidey as the star, and sends his fan club (dressed exactly like him) to beat Spidey down with guns and bats. As regular Spidey, gamers will encounter Kraven, Sandman and Juggernaut as the bosses. Nothing too spectacular there, but it shows the developers were thinking outside the box in choosing some of the villains.
The storyline is overall rather preposterous (though it does feature writing by current Spidey brain trust-er Dan Slott), but Dimensions more than gets by on its high-concept premise. Madam Web guides you via voice over through the game if you don’t figure out what to do quick enough—and offers up a sagely “That solves that.” when you, erm, solve something. There are lots of in-game quips that are actually pretty funny--and plenty that are merely repetitive and annoying; I expect to hear Ultimate Spider-man say things like “Take that, yo!” and “C-ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya’” during gameplay, but it’s disconcerting to hear the Amazing incarnation instead actually say those exclamations.
The developers chose four different voice actors (four former animated-Spider-man voice actors) for the different Spidey: Neil Patrick Harris as 616; Christopher Daniel Barnes for Noir; Josh Keaton as Ultimate Spidey and Dan Gilvezan as Spidey 2099. The voice acting here is a major improvement over past games (cough Web Of Shadows cough). The villain voicing runs the gamut from good (Hammerhead) to okay (Sandman) to too over the top and hokey (Mysterio).
There are several in-game glitches, including a very annoying one during the last fight with Mysterio that I experienced. The camera view also goes completely crazy when any of the Spideys wall-crawl, as well, making it next to impossible to orient oneself unless the game locks the camera on during certain missions.
Another very annoying aspect is how repetitive some of the levels become—to find out halfway through the (often at least an hour long) levels that I’d be rescuing more hostages or guarding a worker from a glut of enemies as the worker laboriously tries to open a security door was enough to make me put my controller down in disinterest a few times.
This is as good a time as any to mention that for this review, I played the Xbox version:
Graphics – 4 webs: Nice-looking overall, with a smoothness and attention to mood and detail that really delivers in the Noir levels, and pops in the 2099 era.
Sound – 3.5 webs: The voice acting here is a huge improvement on past games, and Stan "The Man" Lee himself even turns up a few times for narration. The score is the regular superhero style that is nothing out of the ordinary for this genre, but is nothing bad either.
Gameplay – 3.5 webs: The controls are mostly responsive. Things get out-of-whack during wall-crawling, camera-wise.
Story - 3 webs: Forgettable and superfluous are two words that come right to mind—but as it’s really just an excuse to show a new side of Spidey in a video game, the story is more than alright.
Fun factor - 4 webs: On the whole, this game is a blast to play--it only gets dragged down in the repetitive nature of many of the missions; there are enough fun things scattered throughout the levels to compensate, however.
Replay factor – 3.5 webs: There are close to 200 challenge missions to achieve throughout the game; completing them opens up the chance to buy new moves and outfits--not quite sure how many times I would replay this game after I unlocked/bought everything.
Tech troubles: Stupid AI on some of the enemies throughout, and it can cause levels to awkwardly hang up if said enemies get trapped in a wall somewhere, as what happened to me on the final stage.
The moodiness of the Noir universe as well as the futuristic sheen of the 2099 world make this a cut above your average Spidey video game punch ‘em up. On the other hand, much of the game is rather repetitive, and sometimes wonky controls and a beserk player camera harm the game play overall. With some more varied gameplay and some minor bug fixes pre-release, Beenox could’ve had a bigger winner on their hands. As is, this one is still up there with the best the Spidey games have to offer.