Perhaps the most forgotten Spider-Man video game, this cart was produced by Sega in 1991. Obviously, you play as Spider-Man, as you go through seven levels of mayhem and chaos, trying to stop a bomb that the Kingpin plans to use to blow up New York — And accuses you!
After a brief intro level so you can get used to the controls — “A” shoots web, “B” punches, and “C” jumps — You’re dropped into a warehouse level that houses Doctor Octopus. Defeating Ock, he hands over a key to the bomb, and explains that the Kingpin has hired plenty of Spider-Man’s old enemies, including The Lizard, who have the rest of the keys. So it’s down to the sewers for Spidey.
After that, you’re off to the power station to confront Electro and some weird lightning bats. And then Central Park where you’ll be shot at by SWAT cops, and attacked by an escaped gorilla before confronting The Sandman.
Sandman escapes, so Spider-Man decides to just stroll around downtown, back to an extended version of that intro level at the beginning of the game! Right outside the Daily Bugle building, J. Jonah Jameson gives Spidey what for as you escape muggers, police, and fight a crazed biker chick all before you take on the Hobgoblin.
And then Venom kidnaps Mary Jane.
After acquiring all the keys, you travel to Kingpin’s underground lair where a bunch of henchmen and robots will try to stop you at every turn — this level always gave me the most trouble as a kid, and was often the end of my journey. If you’re able to get past it, though, you’re off to a sewer maze, where you need to fight most of the bosses all over again. Then you get to use the keys to diffuse the bomb before taking on the Kingpin himself and try to rescue MJ. Can Spider-Man succeed? YOU DECIDE!
For a first-generation Sega Genesis game, I think the graphics look pretty great. Everybody is bright and colorful, and clearly looks like the comic book characters they’re supposed to represent. This game came out during Todd McFarlane and Erik Larsen’s runs on the Spider-Man comics, so everybody kind of resembles their designs of each character.
The music is simple, but effectively atmospheric. The warehouse stage theme starts slow but feels like you’re in a vast open area. The sewers theme is murky and gross. The power station theme just rips with a hard-rockin’ electric guitar. Central Park is quiet and kind of jazzy, which feels appropriate for the night time scene. The streets of New York is looming and ominous, like you don’t know what’s coming but it’s going to be bad. The underground cavern is sci-fi weird, and the final stage is the epic title theme. And when your health meter depletes, the first note of that death tune just BLARES out of your TV speakers, letting you know you done messed up.
The game actually doesn’t have any lives, and instead gives you a 24-hour time limit (which runs a bit faster than real time). When you “die,” Spidey is taken to jail since the cops believe Kingpin’s bomb is the old web-head’s fault, and two hours are taken off the timer. So if you can play the rest of the game fast enough, you get about 10 or 11 lives, total, which is pretty cool.
Another neat feature is the webbing meter. As you use Spidey’s web for subduing foes and swinging around, the meter depletes. Using the camera found in the pause menu, certain enemies and all the bosses will net you photos that Peter Parker can sell for cash that will be used to pay for new web-fluid. It’s a cool way of fitting in Parker’s job as a Daily Bugle photographer AND the constant need to conserve webbing into a game that otherwise could have skipped both aspects, as many other Spider-Man video games do.
The controls are as responsive as anything on the Sega Genesis (or Mega Drive if you’re not in North America) would have been in 1991. Sometimes the webbing button isn’t QUITE as responsive as you’d want it to be while swinging through the air, as tapping A will shoot web blasts, but holding A will cause Spidey to swing on a webline. Mastering the difference there is the key to maneuverability. Also, since “C” is the default jump button, having to tap-and-hold the same button to wall-crawl can lead to a few imperfect climbs. But, overall, I think the controls hold up decently, given the original 3-button Sega Genesis controller layout.
Personally, I think this game is a blast. A lot of the later Spider-Man games have more features, more characters, more content. But this is definitely my favorite Spider-Man game from the 1990s. It wouldn’t be until the Spider-Man 2 video game, based on the second Sam Raimi film, that a truly better game based on the wall-crawler would be released — The 2000 game on the Playstation was good and had a lot more stuff, but it hasn’t aged as gracefully as this 16-bit classic.
So if you’re into Spider-Man and 1990s video games, I highly recommend checking this one out. A quick check on eBay shows that you can get just the cartridge for under $15, and the game complete with box and manual for around $30, after shipping.
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