Spider-Man: Edge of Time ReviewJames Pugh
Last year developer Beenox gave the fledgling Spider-Man franchise the proverbial shot in the arm it so desperately needed with the highly successful, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. Just one year later they are trying to continue that success with Edge of Time, and while it is hard to see this entry as anything other than a step backwards, the game is still interesting enough for web slinging fans.
This year the game focuses on just two of the versions of Spider-Man: The Amazing Version, or the one we are most familiar with, and the 2099 version. As it always seems to be the case with comic books, an evil doer is attempting to use his power to make the world in his image, and in this adventure are manipulating the time stream. This puts our hero from the 2099 universe, Miguel O'Hara in contact with the Amazing version, Peter Parker. The two have a standing report as it seems the events of the previous game are in continuity. The rest of the game jumps back and forth between the two characters as you try and right the timeline, and save the people Spider-Man holds most dear. The set-up is intriguing and contains a few interesting plot twists. The story is worthwhile and is what will most likely drive you towards completion.
The biggest problem with the game however is repetition. While combat is generally fun, the same half dozen or so enemies are constantly thrown at our Spider Men and eventually the combat becomes somewhat of a chore. This problem is compounded by that fact that your combat moves do not change that much from the beginning to the end. You collect orbs and golden spiders, from exploration and combat, that can be used to purchase upgrades. Most of them are simply combo augmenters and those few that aren't do not really have any utility.
Both Spider Men have almost identical move sets that only differ is subtle ways. 2099 seems to be a bit more powerful while Amazing is quicker and has more crowed control. This would seem to lend itself well to some fun encounters, yet the enemy types rarely change. There is no need to capitalize on these differences even as small as they are.
Almost as damaging as the bland repetitive enemy types, is the environment in which the game takes place. The entirety of the adventure is confined to the inside of one building, Alchemax, or to those not clued in on the comics, big evil company number one. While there is slight variation in the complex the majority of the game funnels you through narrow passageways occasionally placing you in deceivingly an open yet equally constraining series of rooms. Linearity is the rule of the day, and while linier is not always a bad word, in this case it is to the games detriment.
Shattered Dimensions was also a very linier game but the monotony was broken up by constantly changing settings and mechanics. Edge of Time gives you the mechanics and environment that will stay until the end of the game within the first ten minutes. I said before that your perspective is changing between the two time periods yet if the game didn't make it clear who you were controlling there would be no other way to tell. I find it odd that Alchemax looks almost exactly the same a full century into the future.
The game relies heavily on the concept of 'Quantum Causality' that while sounding really cool, devolves quickly into a series of small fetch quests that somehow affects the future. This is another concept that sounds promising yet is used very poorly. What actually effects the time streams are so narrow and scripted and feels so contrived. If I destroy a single test chamber, one enemy in the future will vanish, now three enemies in the future will disappear in a cut scene which is convenient seeing as how we needed exactly three less in order to complete the next goal, it just doesn't really work all that well.
Visually the game strikes an interesting balance between the two time periods. While on the macro level they look pretty much the same, on the micro level there are enough subtly artistic differences that make them nice to look at. The character models are very well done, both Spider Men look great in their respective costumes and even the smaller characters and villains are visually interesting. I didn't know who Anti-Venom was before this game but now I may have to look into him.
Spider-Man is not voiced by Neil Patrick Harris this time around and while missed, the new voice actor does an admirable job at the Amazing version. There was a weird sound bug I found towards the end of the game in which the music and voice over sound became disabled yet the sound effects stayed. I tried to replicate the bug a few times but couldn't so it was most likely just some fluke.
It may sound like the game is a complete waste but... that is not really the case. I still had a good time playing through and new objectives, as similar as they all may be, are constantly being given to the player.
A really nice touch is the challenge system and how it functions in game. Almost every area has particular challenges associated with it. An example would be in a combat area to take out X number of guys within a time limit or without being hit. There are constant pop ups telling you that a new challenge is available and from a simple menu you can turn on a tracker that shows your progress, if you fail the game keeps going. If you succeed you are rewarded with one of the aforementioned golden spider for upgrades. The biggest issue with this system is that if you pass a challenge and want to go back to it you can, however afterwards you are brought back to the main menu and have to reload you game. It pretty much makes you try on your first go and pass of not move on as you do not want to upset the flow of the game.
Edge of Time is not a bad game; it is just an average and slightly disappointing one. I was a big fan of the last one and I just couldn't help but feel that Beenox either ran out of time or ideas. It's a foregone conclusion that a new Spider-Man game will hit next year and I only hope they can put out a better showing. Still Edge of Time is worth your time if you are a fan of the web head or superhero games in general.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.