Last year’s Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions gave hope to friendly neighbourhood Spider-fans that, finally, the character was with a developer that understood the character, knew his history and what made him tick,and had some idea of how to use all this stuff in a video game. Shattered Dimensions wasn’t Arkham Asylum brilliant, but it was smart and very enjoyable. The mix of four styles of Spidey with four styles of gameplay was a bit awkward, and even the Amazing Spider-Man sections, celebrating our hero in his sixties pomp, weren’t as superb as the Spider-Man Noir sections, with their Arkham-esque stealth take-downs and twisted villains, but there was a promise in the game: a promise that one day, the team at Beenox might come back with a genuine web-slinging, wall-crawling classic.
Well, who knows who’s to blame for Edge of Time. Did Beenox run out of puff? Did Activision push too hard for a one-year turnaround? It’s impossible to say. What we do know is that Edge of Time – while hardly a disaster – is certainly a small step backwards.
Now, you’d think that if you had a successful Spider-Man game that was split into four separate parts with four separate Spider-Men, you might decide to focus your follow-up on the parts that were most successful. Not Beenox. Instead of following up on the creepy monochrome delights of Spider-Man Noir or expanding on the nostalgia magic of the Amazing Spider-Man, Beenox has decided to focus on the less well-known (and less enthralling) Spider-Man of 2099 and a less stylised version of the familiar Spidey, which ditches the classic comic look of the Amazing Spider-Man in Shattered Dimensions.
Worse, where Shattered Dimensions gave us a series of distinctive and sporadically brilliant levels that were effectively running battles against the best Spider-Men villains (and their henchmen), we now get a single, slightly generic tale of time travel and mad-science featuring a villain you don’t really care about and a load of rent-a-mob robots, mutants and security troops.
In practice it works like this. Spider-Man or Spider-Man 2099 are fighting against a menacing scientist who has travelled from 2099 to the present day and changed history to put him and his company on top. What’s more, if our two Spider-Men can’t change things, the present-day Spidey will die at the hands of Anti-Venom (the latest version of Venom, for those of us who don’t follow the comics). Some weird pseudo-scientific nonsense link means the two can communicate. At each stage, Spidey or his 2099 compatriot play a chunk of level which usually involves a spot of wall-crawling, a bit of web-slinging, and a whole dirty-great wodge of battering baddies. Every now and then something dramatic happens, or something one Spidey does changes the reality of the other Spidey in an interesting way. At this point, the action shifts from one Spidey to the other.