when good meets bad
with James Whittle
Swing into action with your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man in his new 3D video game on Sony's PlayStation Portable (PSP) system.
Spider-Man: Friend or Foe is inspired by the three Sam Raimi-directed hit movies about the superhero - arguably Marvel Comics' most popular character. Released last month, the action-adventure fighting game is published by United States-based Activision and was created by Canadian game developer Artificial Mind and Movement. It takes its cue from Marvel's Team-Up and What If comic books, which paired Spider-Man with other superheroes and took the web-crawler out of the mainstream Marvel universe.
Spider-Man, the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Sandman and Venom look like their movie counterparts in the game. Other Marvel characters to make an appearance - including super-spy Nick Fury, martial-arts hero Iron Fist, vampire-hunter Blade and villains the Rhino, the Lizard and Scorpion -are rendered as they appear in the comic books.
The game starts with Spider-Man in the middle of a super-smackdown against the Green Goblin, Venom, Doctor Octopus and the Sandman. Suddenly, Venom clones appear from nowhere and kidnap each of the villains. About to be snatched, Spider-Man is swiftly teleported onto the Helicarrier, a massive flying aircraft carrier that serves as the headquarters of espionage agency the Strategic Hazard Intervention, Espionage and Logistics Directorate (Shield).
Spider-Man is drafted by agency commander Fury to retrieve shards of the meteor that brought Venom to Earth. The shards are being used by a mysterious villain to build an army of powerful soldiers - 'Phantoms' - to take over the world.
The game challenges a player to team up with other Marvel superheroes and anti-heroes, thus Spidey has to work for the greater good with some of his most bitter enemies.
Players can switch control between characters by pressing the PSP's right-shoulder button. The characters must go through a number of sub-levels, beating enemies blocking the path to the boss character. Tokens found on each level are used to upgrade Spider-Man's powers. Spidey must also convert beaten enemies into sidekicks, who are then used to fight a boss character. The downside is a player cannot upgrade the sidekick's powers.
And that is all there is to the game, level after level, until you reach the boss. The strategy is simple: the superheroes throw objects from a safe distance while the artificial-intelligence-controlled sidekick fights the boss character up close.
Controls consist of two attack buttons (strong and weak), a jump button and a pick-up/web-shooter button while the D-pad or analogue stick manipulates direction. Holding down either of the attack buttons enables an impressive but impractical special move.
Spider-Man: Friend or Foe falls short of its promising concept. Its simple game play is reminiscent of old beat-'em-up favourites such as Final Fight and Double Dragon. The game is also available for the Xbox360, PS3 and Nintendo Wii.
Pros: As many as 11 Marvel characters can be played.
Cons: Some of the game play is repetitive.