Mysterio Mirthlessly Masterminds Another Menacing Machination
The Amazing Spider-man 2 (1992 Game Boy Game)
Look, the first 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. adventure for the Game Boy, The Amazing Spider-Man, was no treat. Rare of that era were a work for hire studio, doing as man licensed games as they good to keep the doors open and the lights on while they also handled their own internal fare, like BattletoadsRare's mutants with attitude came out in a massive popular, and very difficult, first game, which also marked the high point for the series. or Wizards and Warriors. Their internal games were good, while their licensed games were far more hit or miss. The Amazing Spider-man was very much a miss. Bad game play, boring design, and it was only elevated at all by decent presentation. This was not a game that really deserved a sequel.
And yet a sequel it technically got. Technically, I say, because while an Amazing Spider-man 2 was released, Rare wasn't in charge of this game. Development duties were passed of by LJN to British studio Bits, who made their own fair share of licensed shovelware. And that's what this sequel feels like: shovelware, designed quickly and shoved out the door to keep a license and scam some money off suspecting purchasers. It's a bad game, basically, through and through.
In the game, Peter wakes up, apparently having been drugged the night before, only to learn that somehow Spider-man has turned into a villain. Apparently the hero (aka, Peter) went and stole $3 Million the night before, and now Spidey is Public Enemy Number One. A Spider-man, Peter has to go out into the city to clear his name, battling fiends from his rogues gallery while learning who framed him and just what their ultimate plan may be. It's an adventure across Queens for everyone's favorite web head.
So the game makes some interesting choices that I do have to note. For starters, the game is presented as one connected world. You start off in a building on a back alley of New York, and once you head out you'll find that the alley connects to all the other locations you'll visit in one nearly seamless set of zones. It's a connected map, almost Metroid-like in its construction, with the ability to basically traverse anywhere and do anything, if you know the order to take your steps.
That is a key distinction there that should be made: you have freedom to go anywhere and explore anything you can, but your progress is still gated by a very linear set of items you have to collect. Want to open a door? You have to defeat Hobgoblin early on to get a key. Need to access a computer, you have to find a key card. Progress to the next section requires the right item, the right location, the right knowledge. Freedom of movement is presented but it's an illusion, really. I get the idea behind it but it would have been nice if the game could have had a little more Metroidvania in its design.
See, with Spider-man being the hero that he is, there's plenty of opportunities with free movement all over. It's to the game's credit that the designers understood this, so they make a bunch of vertical passages and other areas where Spidey's abilities actually can come in handy. A little more thought into that to make the level design a little more open, a little more free form, could have allowed for really unique Metroidvania game design ideas that would have made the exploration and adventure fun. As it stands, the game is basically an open map with fixed key locks that you have to do in the right order, and that's far less interesting.
As far as combat is concerned, Spidey is fairly limited. He can punch, he can jump kick, and he can theoretically shoot his webs out to do damage. Punching and kicking are fine enough, although the hit boxes on all the enemies and bosses are janky so it's a wonder sometimes if you can actually hit them, or not take damage from the attempt. Web slinging is far worse as there's noticeable delay between attempting to spit it out and the webs actually forming. Worse, even when you do, the webs are slow and likely will miss their target. It's annoying, to say the least.
Now, the designers did seem to understand that combat in the game wasn't exactly easy or deep, so to compensate for that they made Spidey pretty buff. He's got a lot of health and can take a fair amount of damage before dying. With even meager health boosts scattered around the game, I still only died once in my travels through the adventure, but it still wasn't very fun. Spider being able to take a lot of hits is only enjoyable if the combat is meaty and this game certainly doesn't have anything close to that. It's basic, it's boring, and it's pretty tedious.
At times the game also feels pretty unfair with its enemy placement. There are plenty of times where you have to crawl through short passages and can't do any attacking at all, while enemies can come in and touch-hit you. Everything in the game, from bats and rats to humans and the bosses, will damage you if they just touch you, so expect to take a lot of damage from enemy placement. The worst offender is the Lizard who, in his first appearance, crawls back and forth through pipes that you have to crawl through as well, essentially forcing you to soak damage for no good reason.
On top of the bad game play we also have bad design. The characters are all horribly crafted, with very basic sprites that hardly resemble the actually villains. Spider-man fares no worse, essentially looking like a black blob of pixels that can't even walk right. And the character portraits are laughably bad. There's one sequence in particular where Spidey gets advice from the Human Torch but the character is unrecognizable. Hell, even now I'm only guessing it's the Human Torch. It's could have been "Guy Covered in Thick Clay" based on how he looks.
Oh, and the sound design isn't great either. The game features three whole tracks, one of which only appears on the title screen. The whole in-game soundtrack is a single song on loop, while the cut-scenes have their own song... and that's it. You'll hear these two tracks a lot and, while not exactly terrible, they do get increasingly tiresome over the course of the play through, essentially becoming white noise by the end of it. If I don't have to hear these tracks again it will be too soon.
If there's any mercy its the fact that the game is laughably short. Once you know what you're doing you can clear it in a quick 20 minutes. The whole adventure, with all the exploration, and boss fights, and everything else, fits in 20 minutes of game play. That's so short it barely even counts as a game, especially by 1992 (when this cart came out). Sure, the first game wasn't incredibly long but it was still better than this (and that's not something I expected to say about that first, awful title).
There really is no better way to describe The Amazing Spider-man 2 than as shovelware. Cheap, cruddy, and not very much fun to play, it's just a bad and tragic game. I can see what Bits Studios wanted to do with this adventure, to craft an interesting exploration adventure. But either due to their own inability, or a rushed production schedule handed down by their corporate sugar-daddy, they just couldn't make it happen. This is bottom-bin Game Boy software that no one needs to play.