Polished look, varied styles stemming from the four Spider-Men, good use of waggle, Stan Lee's voice
Cramp-inducing button layout, too many glitches, camera problems
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is the fourth Spider-Man game to grace Wii. The first, Spider-Man 3, was an ugly sandbox title with wildly fun controls but boring gameplay. The second, Spider-Man: Friend or Foe, was a short (although generally clever) a mission-based two-player beat-em-up. The third, Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, returned to both the style and the overall quality of Spider-Man 3; it was an ugly, boring sandbox title. Shattered Dimensions is somewhat different than all of these titles: a single-player, mission-based single-player action game that revolves around four distinct Spider-Man incarnations. High on potential, the Wii version also suffers from a lack of polish in the areas that need it the most, although it still manages to outshine its forebears.
Gameplay is level based, and with a dozen or so missions total, the game is good for about 6-1o hours. The game revolves around four characters, played in alternate chapters: “Amazing” Spider-Man, the classic version; “ultimate” Spider-Man, with the famed Venom black suit; “noir” Spider-Man, from an alternate 1930s timeline; and “2099” Spider-Man, set in the far future. While the basics among them are the same, each Spider-Man plays a bit differently from the others — 2099 Spidey is a true brawler who can slow down time, Ultimate goes into a rage mode, Noir Spidey operates with stealth, Amazing is… well, pretty normal, actually.
Connecting the four together is a story about a shattered ancient artifact. Scattered across the multiverse, the artifacts have a penchant for landing with some villain, who then becomes embued with the artifact’s powers. The four Webslingers, then, must track the pieces down and get them back from a bad guy. In fact, the bosses are a centerpiece of the game, ever-present throughout each of the levels. It’s not uncommon for a player to engage a boss, have the boss retreat, and then re-engage the boss sometime later after an intermission of anonymous minions.
As a multiplatform title, Shattered Dimensions has the vibe of high production expenses. The opening CGI sequence, no doubt designed for all the consoles, looks excellent. The voicework, which includes narration by the immortal Stan Lee, is Hollywood-caliber and quite funny to boot. The musical score is pure, epic orchestra. The game’s upgrade system (like most games of this type, players accumulate points used to unlock special abilities) is well-thought out and well-realized. And the premise of four Spider-Men adds a lot of flavor to the gameplay.
How all of that shakes down on Wii is an uneven affair. The graphics, for their part, are not the problem; the game employs a “realistic cel” style (like Red Steel 2 and the forthcoming Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword) and it looks pretty good, with colorful characters and generally pretty level design. This is not the most beautiful Wii game ever made, but it looks markedly better than the two deplorable Spider-Man sandbox titles that have previously graced Nintendo’s console.
What is a problem are the controls… and, oddly enough, this doesn’t include motion or IR. Waggle is put to sparing use in this game, but when it is used it works quite well. Same for IR, which gets scant use but works perfectly fine when required. No, the problem lies in, of all things, the buttons. For one thing, the Z-trigger is used both for Web-zipping (a quick hop from pedestal to pedestal) and Web-swinging, but although the former requires a tap and the latter a hold, only the slightest of taps seems to consistently yield a Web-zip. It’s quite easy for a player to hold the button down just an instant longer than required and go flying off in some other direction. More irritating is the use of the Nunchuck’s tiny C-button for locking on to enemies; the button is a poor choice to have to hold down and players may quickly find their hand cramping up while looped over the little thing. This is all too bad, because in some cases Shattered Dimensions can be quite visceral to play, only to proceed into stretches — notably boss battles — where the button configuration causes a problem.
Another control problem intersects one of the game’s larger flaws: bugs. This game probably should not have escaped quality control, because the game has a few glitches that range from irritating to game-stopping. During different play sessions we 1) got “stuck” in the ground and remained there until an enemy beat us out of it, 2) repeatedly grabbed opponents only to be unable to attack them, and 3) at least once grabbed an opponent, only to be unable to either hit them or let them go, necessitating a restart of the level. Other irritations, like camera issues and problems pulling off special attacks, also conspire to make the game more of a hassle than it should be.
The control and QA problems are unfortunate, really, because this is easily the best Spider-Man game in nearly every other respect. The game looks better than any of its predecessors, and the use of four characters really diversifies the gameplay. The upgrade system is solid, the levels are nicely designed, and the bosses are all memorable. At the end of the day, though, a game is only as good as it is immersive, and the game has one too many problems that detract from the experience. If one chooses to grade on the curve that is Spider-Man games, however, this one is the best of the bunch thus far on Wii and is a generally decent game on Wii, although multiplatform owners may find the controls on other systems to be preferable.