Mysterio is after the Tablet of Order and Chaos to make himself more powerful than Peter Parker could ever imagine. However, it’s been shattered and the pieces are split into four different dimensions of the Marvel world, each with its own version of Spider-Man. Amazing Spider-Man, Ultimate Spider-Man (in the Venom suit), Spider-Man Noir and Spider-Man 2099 must all work together to collect the missing pieces of the tablet to keep them from falling into the wrong hands.
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Beyond the coming together of four Spideys, the story is a magnitude of disappointment. The references are true to the source material, but the narrative of Shattered Dimensions is rather boring. For most of the game, each Spider-Man remains isolated in their own dimension, and there’s very little connections between the four. Each has their own special powers, making the four way split a unique opportunity that could have benefited from a stronger story. Pete runs around each level after a piece of the tablet kicking ass and ultimately defeating a boss. Repeat several times and then it’s game over. That is the entire story. Having said that, it plays its role well enough and acts as an excuse for you to be able to play as four entirely different Spider-Men in one game.
Gone is the open landscape of New York City to web-sling through, with smaller linear levels in its place. The new take on level design refocuses your attention on completing each act rather than wasting time exploring a large but empty city, as has become the trend in previous Spider-Man games. Each dimension is crawling with its own villains and ultimately leads to a devastating boss battle. Every act has a range of optional challenges to complete that require you to move or eliminate enemies in a certain way. Completing these will unlock new abilities and earn points to purchase upgrades.
Most of your time is spent in combat with a range of cloned opponents, between swinging around levels contained by invisible walls. Movement is a little rough on the ground, but each of his powers controls well once you grasp a feel for things. The combat system becomes more advanced as you progress, but it’s merely a combination of buttoning mashing to attack between dodging. Each Spider-Man jumps into first person at random moments, often in boss fights, forcing you to use the two analogue sticks to dodge and throw punches. It’s as terrible as it is random and I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone thought it would be a good idea.
The Noir levels change things up considerably and have taken a sizable leaf out of Batman: Arkham Asylum’s book; albeit at a lower standard. They place a strong emphasis on stealth and give you a well earned chance to rest your thumbs from the riggers of combat. Hiding in the shadows, old school Spidey can pick off badguys who haven’t the faintest idea where he came from. If spotted, the alarms will sound and he has mere seconds to get out of sight or face being shot to pieces.
Ultimate Spider-Man, in the black Venom suit minus the ill-effects, isn’t all that different to the Amazing Spider-Man but has the option to enter rage mode to obviate his opponents. With the extra power, comes more dangerous enemies; most of which are exaggerated versions of ugly foes in the other dimensions. Jumping into the future, Spider-Man 2099 can slow down time, allowing him to dodge projectile weapons and fists of fury.
Despite the negatively, Shattered Dimensions isn’t without standout moments. Web-slinging, half the reason we play Spider-Man games, is better than ever. It’s far more exhilarating dashing through linear levels, whilst dodging gunfire and beating up brutes, than a mindless simulation of a city. Shifting between four different incarnations of Spider-Man works well, even if their ultimate goal is the same. Each plays differently enough to avoid repetition and their diverse backgrounds serve as a history lesson for anyone who jumped onboard the bandwagon during the movie tie-ins.
With the more centralized levels comes a major road block: a failure for a camera. Fast-paced action in relatively small areas overwhelms the struggling camera, leaving you with no option than to button mash wildly and hope for the best, whilst ruining your combo streaks. In the stealth levels it focuses on Noir Spidey, when you clearly want to be able to see the henchmen you’re trying to covertly assassinate. Spider-Man games have always suffered at the hands of terrible camera angles; you would hope someone would make fixing that a priority.
The cel-shaded visuals are fantastic and each level is reminiscent of their respective dimension and the rich history behind each version of Spider-Man. Likewise, the voice acting is superb with each Spider-Man having his own. Neil Patrick Harris (of How I Met Your Mother fame) is the standout as the Amazing Spider-Man and hits the humorous notes perfectly. The jokes aren’t perfect, but they are funny and charming thanks to the high quality of work from the impressive cast list.