There’s Fun to be Had in Amazing Spider-Man 2

Much like the the movie, the reviews of the Amazing Spider-Man 2 game have been fairly mediocre. But also like the movie, I have been pleasantly surprised at how much I’m enjoying the game.

ASM 2 was developed by Beenox, a studio who knows how to make a decent Spidey game. They had been porting Spider-Man games for years before taking over development of them with the well-received Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions in 2010. The followed that up with Spider-Man: Edge of Time in 2011 and the first ASM movie tie-in game in 2012.

The problem with having a veteran studio attached to a game like this is there is a certain expectation of quality. If Rocksteady puts out an Arkham game, you have a certain expectation. If High Moon puts out a Transformers game, you have a certain expectation. And if Beenox puts out a Spidey game, that expectation is there as well.

But a movie tie-in game is a development challenge in and of itself, and the constraints of such a project are evident in ASM 2. The game does not in any way leverage the power of the new consoles (I’m playing on Xbox One), and there is a general lack of depth that suggests a shortened development cycle.

All that said, ASM 2 is still fun to play. Beenox has refined some of their mechanics over the years, and they have crafted a web-slinging system that in my opinion feels better than any that’s come before it. When swinging through the city, your web shooters are mapped to each trigger, and the physics of web-slinging are great. If you invest a little time in it, you can really get into the rhythm of easily navigating the streets and rooftops. You can also look horrible swinging around, since you can’t just blindly fire webs when there’s no building to attach to, and the different heights of buildings have to be factored in when you’re swinging around.

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The combat is a shallower version of the Arkham series, although its premise makes more sense here. Your Spider Sense warns you of incoming attacks, and by dodging and countering, you can chain combos together and execute finishing moves, which earn you more XP. Your XP unlocks upgrades and new abilities. It’s simple and effective, just not as robust as what we’ve seen in other games.

The stealth system is okay, and involved you using your Spider-sense to identify enemy locations and then taking them out covertly. It works decently enough and is a nice palette cleanser, but I’d rather be using Spidey’s acrobatics to combat the bay guys instead of sneaking up on them.

Boss battles usually involve some sort of quicktime events, but they are only a piece of the overall battle, so I wasn’t bothered by them.

I’m about four or five hours into the game so far, and I’m really enjoying it. I’ve just started unlocking new suits, and I will definitely keep playing until I at least unlock the Spidey 2099 suit.


Skylanders SWAP Force Brings Back Memories of Golden Axe

Yesterday I picked up the Xbox 360 version Skylanders SWAP Force for my seven-year-old. He had the previous version of Skylanders for his 3DS, and the nice thing about the series is that you can take the firgures into the next game. So, while the new version only came with two “SWAP Force” figures, he had enough to provide a lot of variety right off the bat.

As the name implies, the “SWAP Force” figures can switch their tops and bottoms with other figures, which grants new abilities to the figures. The more figures you have, the more combinations you can unlock. You can see how Activision takes the collectability of the game to another level, which is quite clever (and devious) on their part.

At the end of the day though, I think Skylanders captures the feel of games like Golden Axe, the side-scrolling arcade beat-em-ups. The added element of the figures leveling up and gaining new abilities adds a great element as well, and the ability to switch figures on the fly keeps the game fresh even when the gameplay is repetitive.

If you’ve got a young gamer in the house, the Skylanders series can be a fun co-op experience.