Not Feeling This Brawl Today
The Amazing Spider-Man and Captain America in Dr. Doom's Revenge!
I have played some pretty dire games in my time reviewing for this site. There have been some that were bad in concept, like trapping 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. in a skyscraper for Questprobe featuring Spider-Man, and others that lacked polish, such as TMNT: Manhattan Missions, but it's rare that I find a game so completely devoid of anything of merit that I feel compelled to make a list of "worst games ever" simply so I can slap it on there. I've have found my first contender for that hyperbolic list, and it is The Amazing Spider-Man and Captain America in Dr. Doom's Revenge!.
The game, released for a variety of home and gaming computers in 1989, is essentially a one-player fighter / brawler. The player is tasked with alternately playing as either Captain AmericaCreated by Simon and Kirby in 1941, Captain America was a super soldier created to fight Germany and the evil HYDRA. Then he was lost in the ice, only to be found and reborn decades later as the great symbol of the USA. or Spider-man as they navigate through Dr. Doom's fortress to find the villain, defeat him, and stop a missile he has aimed at... somewhere, to blow up... something. At each stage of the game your hero will either fight a boss or, in some rare instances, perform a short jumping challenge. And then it's back to the fighting again.
Let's be clear, I am not hating on the game for it's basic construction. Fighting and brawling games are a natural fit for superheroes. There have been fantastic games where all you do is wander left to right and pummel your foes as one of the spangled superheroes in either the Marvel of DC canon. Hell, Capcom managed to crank out a whole slew of Marvel Superhero games in the 1990s and 2000s, setting the bar for how all superhero games really should be. Those games were great. The Amazing Spider-Man and Captain America in Dr. Doom's Revenge!, developed by Paragon Software, is a far cry from that majesty.
I will note that it is hard to rate a fighting game released before the sublime Street Fighter II, as that game (also from Capcom) defined an entire era. Every fighting game released before Capcom's seminal sequel feels slow, clunky, and inferior by comparison (and that includes the original Street Fighter). But even with those caveats in place, it's hard to say that there is anyone, anywhere, that could have found this mashup of Spidey and Cap fun to play. It's just a slow, clunky, horribly programmed mess.
Street Fighter which came out two years before this game in 1987, isn't a great game in retrospect, but it did at least illustrate what fighting games should aspire to: fast, heavy, with a feeling of impact, and special moves you can perform (if you know what you're doing). What Cap and Spidey's adventure lacks is any of that. It's slow, to start. Very, very slow. Knowing that they had to make this game playable on a variety of systems (not just DOS and Amiga but the Atari ST and the ZX Spectrum, among others) you can get why it's slow slow and plodding: it has to play the same everywhere, and some of those systems were pretty terrible.
Beyond that, though, the fighting lacks weight and substance. To compare it again to Street Fighter (which had already been out for two years at this point), your fighters can push each other around. They have real presence in the game, and their kicks and punches cause knock back. None of that is present in this Spidey-Cap adventure. The computer will charge towards you, literally walk into your hit back, and even when you hit them, or they hit you, there's no impact to it. It's airy. Weightless. Devoid of feedback.
The computer, also, lacks any kind of real intelligence. They do just brainlessly march towards you, walking back and forth on your spot. They'll punch and kick and use projectiles at you, but they don't pay attention to if their hit box overlaps your character's hit box, so most of the time just standing still, not moving, is the perfect defense. They'll hardly ever hit you, and when they do it'll be for a pathetic amount of damage, so why even try moving around the screen?
Not that your combat skills are much better. You'll be able to do a low kick, a punch, throw a projectile (webs for Spidey, a shield for Cap), and (only in Spidey's case) cling to the wall or ceiling of the battle arena. The wall clinging is actually pretty useless since you can't attack here, just avoid the enemies, but avoiding them, as I noted, is pretty much pointless when they hardly ever touch you. Like, you can understand why the various powers are put in -- Spidey clings to things, that's his "thing" -- but they didn't really do anything to differentiate them substantially or make them interesting to the game play. Even when it comes to the villains (a rogues gallery from Electro to Hobgoblin to the Hulk) it's the same issue, with most villains having a projectile power but all of them functioning them same in execution. It's boring game play.
Meanwhile, the platforming section that are in the game are probably even more disposable than the actual combat. It feels like these sections were put in to break up the flow of the game, much in the same way that in Street Fighter II the player is tasked with breaking a car, and other objects, at a couple of points in the game. Breaking up the flow is good in theory, but this Spidey-Cap adventure doesn't really do anything with that idea. Capt has to walk down a hall and jump over fireballs. Then Spidey walks down a hall and jumps over missiles. Then Cap walks down a hall and, well, you get the idea. It's boring and it adds nothing to the flow of the game.
I think the worst aspect of the game, though, beyond its sloppy game play, is that it has absolutely no story to it. The game, on disc, is just the fighting adventure with a few very minimal cut-scenes. And by minimal I mean, "oh, look, there's another foe to fight", over and over again. All the actual story for the game is contained in a comic book pack in for the title that you may not even get if you buy it used (or, well, find the game via other means). This wasn't an uncommon practice, putting in a comic to flesh out more detail with the game or toy you bought, but in this case having absolutely no plot in the actual game means that, as a player, I have no investment in the proceedings. I just walk down halls and fight guys for no discernible reason, over and over again.
Could this game have been good? Most assuredly, but that would have required Paragon focusing on only one or two computers and really putting effort into crafting an interesting, detailed fighting game. Instead they made a crap product that likely disappointed every kid that tried to play it. This is a bad game, through and through, so utterly devoid of fun that it could probably be considered anti-fun. Like, if you put this game next to actual fun, the two would cancel each other out in a powerful (but entirely neutral) explosion. It's that bad.
So yeah, don't play it. That's my point. Whatever you do, if you have a choice of doing anything else or playing The Amazing Spider-Man and Captain America in Dr. Doom's Revenge!, go do that other thing. I'm sure it has to be better.