Doing It All Over Again

Venom/Spider-man: Separation Anxiety (1995 Video Game)

Look, no one expected good games out of Acclaim. Okay, yes, back in the day we all hoped for the best, but now, with retrospect on our side, it's pretty obvious that the primary thing Acclaim produced was shovelware. Their output was mid-level, at beast, video games based on a license. Sometimes they managed something good, hiring people to crank out these bargain bin-destined products. Most of the time not. But because of the license, their games sold... and at times sold well. That's the power of a name.

Venom/Spider-man: Separation Anxiety

Just look at Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage. This was a game (very) loosely based on a popular comics run, featuring two of the top heroes of the mid-1990s right on the box. Everyone loved (and still loves) 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., and in the '90s everyone went ape-shit for VenomSpun out from a "What If?" story in Marvel Comics, this black suit variant of Spider-man became his own character, and eventually became almost as popular as the web-head himself.. If you put both of them on a game it was gonna sell, and Maximum Carnage sold well enough to warrant a sequel.

Now, when we say "sequel", don't get your hopes up about what that means. Venom/Spider-man: Separation Anxiety is not a game that says, "hey, this previous title was popular, so how can we improve the formula?" No, this is shovelware, which means that Acclaim took their existing game, redid the bare minimum of graphics, reused everything from the engine they could, and crapped out another game in less than a year. It's the same game, basically, just with simple pieces moved around. If you played the 1994 game then you've effectively played this title start to finish already.

Venom/Spider-man: Separation Anxiety is based on the Venom comic of the same name... although, not really. It takes the name from one comic series, but it more or less used the plot of the previous comic run, Venom: Lethal Protector (not that most kids playing games at the time knew that). Venom and Spider-man have to team up to take on street thugs and assassins sent by the Life Foundations, a group of evil bio-engineers that have stolen a part of the Venom symbiote and grown five now symbiotic warriors of their own. Now those symbiotes are loose and looking to kill the heroes. The heroes have to defeat the symbiotes, and stop the Life Foundation, to save the day.

What that actually entails is a whole lot of brawling on he streets of San Francisco. Like the previous game, Separation Anxiety is a street brawler with the two heroes, Venom and Spider-man, going from one direction to the other battling foes with their fists. And you will be fighting a lot of foes over the course of the game as the game forces you to take on every bad guy that crosses your path. Move a screen, fight a bunch of dudes, and then move another screen and fight a bunch more dudes. Over and over until you finally reach the end of the stage where some random boss fight will happen before you get to do it all again. And that's it.

The combat is, to say the least, repetitive. You don't just have to very slowly make your way across long stages, forced to fight everything (to pad out the play time) but you're doing it with characters that haven't changed in any meaningful way since the previous game. You still have the same move sets on the characters, letting them do the same things. No real new moves, no special improvements to the combat, just the same old thing you likely already spent an hour doing before in the last game.

Along with the same combat, the superhero summons also make a return here, although they make even less sense this time than they did before. At least in Maximum Carnage the other heroes, like 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 Iron Fist, interacted with the playable heroes in cut-scenes. Here they're just icons you collect and suddenly Cap, Ghost Rider, Daredevil, or Hawkeye show up. Why? Because this was a feature in the previous game. But there's no reason, in the plot, for these heroes to be here, especially not this random selection of dudes.

Meanwhile, the whole cadre of bad guys has gotten a downgrade this time around. The opening stage involves you fighting random street thugs, which are all recycled from the previous game. It makes no sense why they're here, fighting the heroes, but this is what we get. After that, though, it's the same cookie-cutter looking Life Foundation goons, over and over again. They all look the same, they only have a simple range of attacks (on has a pistol, another a shotgun, and a third grenades), and these are all also recycled from the goons over the previous game. And this is all we get for the rest of the game. Just these bozos and some bosses.

Not that the bosses are any better. Half of them are the same recycled Life Foundation foes while the rest are the symbiotes. I'm sure fans were thinking, "hey, we get to fight symbiotes! That's awesome." But it isn't because they're all incredibly stupid. They have only one or two attacks each and their primary form of attack is to run or jump into you and take whatever bruising you give them. If you use the superhero summons, or even just jump kick repeatedly, just about every villain dies without doing any damage to you. These fights are not balanced.

Even the art has somehow gotten lazier here. My assumption is that the artists that worked on the previous title weren't available to work on this one, so all the old hero and enemy art that was reused here had to be drawn over, and it looks so much worse. It's a flat, cell-shading that looks terrible, too smooth and puffy. Of course, that had to be done so they'd match with all the new art for the enemies and bosses, which is equally bad. This game is just a crime to look at, start to finish.

I gave Maximum Carnage credit for at least trying to be an okay game. It wasn't great, but it was playable and gave us both Spider-man and Venom together to work with. That was cool. But this game, Venom/Spider-man: Separation Anxiety, doesn't even try. It's recycled trash that does nothing new and does a few things much worse. It's shovelware through and through, a waste of time, effort, and money for all involved, creators and players.