Software : Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six (NES)

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Filling Gaps

This review was first published on: 2008.

Background...

Doctor Octopus is plotting the crowning caper of his criminal career... to rule the world. He has recruited the Sinister Six, and with these Super Villains together again, nothing stands in their way - except Spider-Man.

In Detail...

Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six (NES)
Year 1992 : SM Title
Summary: See also Handheld versions
Publisher:  LJN
Developer:  B.I.T.S.
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Review

Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six was the first and only Spider-Man game to be released for the NES. As a first attempt, it could potentially receive some leeway for its foibles and faults, but considering it was released in the twilight years of the NES's life cycle, a certain level of quality is still expected.

This game features the second incarnation of the Sinister Six which included Doctor Octopus, Sandman, Vulture, Mysterio, Electro, and the Hobgoblin. The only means of following the story would be to own the comics themselves as the story in this game largely consists of one screen telling you to go get the bad guys. Each level is preceded by increasingly ugly images of the villains.

Spidey is dropped in six different levels, and I use the term different generously, and in typical platformer fashion travels from left to right fighting various bad guys. Spider-Man is nicely animated with some nice looking jump and attack animations. However, the majority of villains look terrible and make little to no sense. Guys with bazookas popping out of manhole covers and weird white drops of liquid are a few of the obstacles you'll find yourself up against. Enemies can appear with an annoying frequency, and since Spider-Man's elaborate jumping animation translates to limited air manoeuvrability, it gets frustratingly difficult to avoid enemies when you take to the air. Of course, avoiding enemies often seems like the best course of action in this game, which is a bit unfortunate. Instead of trying to time Spider-Man's slow, but pretty, attacks to catch a villain who fires a barrage of bullets at you, it's far easier to just jump over him and move on. It certainly doesn't feel very heroic when you're running from a kid throwing pink blobs at you.

The levels themselves seem to get progressively worse. Each one seems shorter and less inspired than the last. In fact, the final few levels send you back to the streets of New York, often using the same art assets from the first level. It certainly makes sense to keep Spidey in New York, but considering the fact that the final battle takes place in Doc Ock's castle(?), I don't think the developers were that concerned with location accuracy.

The boss battles consist of avoiding enemy attacks and waiting for an opening. Unfortunately, most of these battles are quite easy once you learn to time your punches properly. You can take out a good 75% of a boss's life by tapping the attack button as soon as the boss recovers from the damage animation. Any challenge a boss offers is usually by forcing you to fight him again multiple times (which only really makes sense for Mysterio), or allowing the boss to go to a part of the stage where they cannot be attacked while firing projectiles at you. The encounters are still the most interesting ones in the game, but they certainly feel like chores.

The overall length of the game is quite short, it can be finished in about half an hour. However, the difficulty is rather high, which is the typical NES means of lengthening a short game. You only have one continue and life rarely regenerates. I can't really imagine anyone but the most dedicated actually completing this game without cheating. I imagine that even if I had been 8 years old when I played this game, and was a huge Spider-Man fan, I'd be looking for something else to play within the hour.

In General...

Graphics - 4 Webs: Most levels look quite good, and Spidey's animations are terrific. But the overuse of backgrounds and objects along with boring enemy design bumps it down a bit.

Sound - 2.5 Webs: Generic clanging noise. It doesn't offend, but it's hard to imagine yourself humming any of these themes later on.

Gameplay - 1.5 Webs: Moving around with Spidey is only half broken, but everything else is completely out of whack.

Story - 0 Webs: Just read the comic by the same name. No story to see here.

Fun Factor - 1 Webs: I enjoy certain classic NES games, and on some level it was amusing to see an 8-bit Spidey fighting some of his classic villains. However, I think you could get the same effect from watching a clip of this game on YouTube.

Replay Factor - 0.5 Webs: You may try to beat it legitimately for a while, but I imagine the unrewarding later stages would shunt any interest in progressing further. If you do happen to finish it, there isn't a thing to bring you back. Aging Factor - 1 Webs: It's clearly an NES game from the later end of its life cycle which gives it a little leeway. The fact that it pales in comparison to games that came out years beforehand is an embarrassment.

Tech Troubles - (None)

Overall Rating...

I suppose it's historically important as the first Spider-Man title on a Nintendo platform. That being said, it does little else to make itself relevant.

Footnote...

This game was later ported to the Game Gear, and from what I've heard, copious amounts of suck were removed.