Woe Betide Those Who Face the Sinister Six
The Amazing Spider-man (1990 Game Boy Game)
As we track through the SpidermanSure, DC Comics has Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, but among the most popular superheroes stands a guy from Marvel Comics, a younger hero dressed in red and blue who shoots webs and sticks to walls. Introduced in the 1960s, Spider-Man has been a constant presence in comics and more, featured in movies regularly since his big screen debut in 2002. games, I had one hope to look forward to in these early, "classic era" games: Rare. In 1990 that company, which was known for some decent games around that time period, such a Donkey Kong Country, had made a trio of Spider-man games under contract from LJN. "Rare games? Those should be good," I thought, naively. What I forgot to take into account was the fact that Rare also made terrible games during that time period, like Wizards and Warriors X, and their output could be pretty hit or miss. Plus LJN was not a discerning publisher and would put out any licensed product that would make a buck.
This is all a long way to go to say that 1990's The Amazing Spider-man (not to be confused with the other 1990 The Amazing Spider-Man from Oxford Digital Enterprises) is a terrible game. It's the very definition of Game Boy shovelware, a game created not to be fun but simply to fulfill the requirements of a license contract. It's Rare making a paycheck so they could go off and create other, better games elsewhere.
In the game, Mary Jane has been kidnapped and all of Spider-man's rogues -- Mysterio, Hobgoblin, Scorpion, Rhino, Doc Oc, and Venom -- arrive to take credit for her kidnapping. Spider-man has to walk, jump, fight, and wall climb his way through six stages to defeat the six foes and, in the end, save his lady love from the forces of darkness. That is, of course, if you actually happen to make it through this incredibly disappointing Game Boy adventure.
Let's start with the basics: most of the time this game doesn't really need Spider-man in it. It's a slow walking beat-em-up in which any random hero could have been inserted. Does this make as much sense as a BatmanOne of the longest running, consistently in-print superheroes ever (matched only by Superman and Wonder Woman), Batman has been a force in entertainment for nearly as long as there's been an entertainment industry. It only makes sense, then that he is also the most regularly adapted, and consistently successful, superhero to grace the Silver Screen. game? Sure. Slap on some clowns in place of the villains, and have Batman going to save the Ice Princess instead of Mary Jane and you suddenly have a Game Boy entry for Batman Returns. There are very few instances where the game really makes you feel like you're truly playing as Spider-man, thus missing the point of the hero.
There are two stages that aren't ratchet-scrolling beat-em-up stages, and these both involve Spider-man climbing up a building, dodging enemies and falling rocks all to reach the roof. These sections are, to be clear, even worse than the beat-em-up areas. They're packed with enemies (especially on the second run through) while random crap quickly falls from the sky. You'd be hard pressed to get through these areas with taking a ton of damage and dying, and none of it really feels fair.
But then, most of the game is designed to not feel fair. Spider-man moves slowly, barely feeling like the lithe and agile hero we expect. He can kick and punch and shoot web shots, which is fine, but the acrobatics we expect aren't here. His has a very basic jump and, if you get close enough to the sky with those jumps maybe (and only maybe) you'll use some webs to swing around. It feels like the web slinging is very dependent on location, only allowing you to do it at certain sections of the stages, but that also makes it feel incredibly limited and kind of pointless.
Most of the time, though, you're just slowly walking towards enemies while they mob you from all directions. This is especially true during and after the third level when birds arrive. At this point Rare takes their gloves off and says, "hell, have birds everywhere!" You will get mobbed by enemies, all the time, and getting through any stage with all your lives intact can be a struggle. But then, the game also seems stingy with lives (I never found an extra life in my entire play through of the game), and even health boosts are few and far between.
About the only time the game does feel fair is when it comes to the bosses, but that's only because they're all laughably easy to kill. To a man every boss has one mode of attack that they'll loop over and over again. Damaging them also stops them and forces them to redo their loop over again. Thus, once you know their patterns you can break their A.I. with easy and get through every boss encounter like it's nothing. Don't get me wrong I prefer this to the unfair, limitlessly spawning mobs of enemies, but neither is really ideal.
Even the presentation is lacking for this title. The enemies are all incredibly generic and silly looking. The bosses feel slap-dash is their art, and their portraits are laughably bad. I think the worst offender on both fronts is Doc Oc who both has a terrible portrait and then has a sprite that slowly lumbers forward and only uses two of his four robotic arms. Like... what? This is the way you want to use this character, a character that can climb around and swing in the comics? It's just so stupid.
About the only place where the game does actually nail its vibe is on the opening screen. The logo waves in, a rendition of the classic "Spider-man Theme" plays, and you get a real sense that you're about to drop into an epic adventure with Spider-man. Of course, none of that arrives and, after, you're left feeling like you should have never left the title screen. Listen to that impulse, follow that feeling. This game is bad and you shouldn't ever play it.
What I find most shocking isn't the ineptitude of this title, how Rare simply phoned it in, but that there were two sequels. Two! Apparently kids in the 1990s bought this game in droves such that the license was snatched up by Acclaim (another studio that published shit games) so they could have Bit Studio develop follow-ups. They are direct sequels in name, if not play style, and that means we have more terrible adventures to suffer through. Oh joy.