The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and 2011’s Spider-Man: Edge of Time on the Nintendo DS, despite being unique experiences from their console counterparts, have a lot in common. Both failed to live up to the quality of their previous outings, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, though in the case of the DS game the development from Dimensions to Edge of Time had a developer change with Newfoundland based Other Ocean taking over from Griptonite Games which wasn’t the case with the console games that were helmed by Beenox. Other Ocean did carry over development duties for the last Spider-Man DS, The Amazing Spider-Man, and like Beenox, were charged with releasing two Spider-Man games in under a twelve month time-period. Whereas The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) saw a drastic shift in direction, going from two linear outings to Beenox’s first ever open-world Spider-Man game, the same could not be said of the DS game. The Amazing Spider-Man is a short, forgettable experience that arrived a time when interest in the then eight year old DS was starting to waiver, making it yet another case of Activision producing something to cash in on the Spider-Man property to make a quick buck, regardless of quality.
Like the console game of the same name, The Amazing Spider-Man is a non-canon sequel to the film where Oscorp continues the cross-species research of Dr. Curt Connors, aka The Lizard, under the guidance of Alistair Smythe. After an accident occurs at the Oscorp labs causing some of the cross-species experiments to get released to the public, it’s up to Spider-Man to break out the Dr. Connors from prison in order to contain the infection, work on a cure, and put things right. With dialogue cribbed straight from the console game, The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) on the DS doesn’t rework the plot of the console game like Edge of Time did to at least make it worth playing for some exclusive bosses and story pieces. What plot exists is serviceable, told via still image portraits of the characters with screen text, but lacks the presentation of either the console or even superior 3DS version.
Continuing the trend set in 2008’s Spider-Man: Web of Shadows on the DS, The Amazing Spider-Man is an open Metroid-Vania style game, but that’s only really in the map design aspect where you have to traverse between a map of New York to get to your next level. Unlike even Edge of Time, also from Other Ocean, which featured some clunky map design that made it hard to get around but still had some interesting ideas like the two-time periods that affected one another, The Amazing Spider-Man has none of that. There’s an open-world section that features a much more user-friendly and easy to read map, but it could have been removed from the game entirely and it would make no difference. There’s very little secrets to uncover, only a few daily bugle headlines, and there’s always a big arrow pointing to where you need to go next so there’s no sense of discovery or incentive to explore
Thankfully at the very least getting around is easy enough as Spider-Man is equipped with the usual wall-crawling, web-swinging and web-zipping abilities that have become staples of the characters repertoire since he made his debut on the Game Boy Advance. You can use these tools to venture off the critical path, but there’s never any reason to, nor is there any reason to back track unless the direction arrow tells you to. In the best of these games there’s always some area or secret walled off until you get a new traversal ability, but the only reason it feels like the map was designed this way was to artificially extend the game’s length. Clocking in at only an hour and a half or so total playtime, if the necessity to travel between stages in the New York City area was axed, you would be looking at a piece of software that would be under an hour-long.
The stages separate from the open areas have a similar design in so much as there’s winding paths, walls to climb and vertical areas that need to be reached with a well placed web line, but they’re also much more simplistic. In the levels the map changes to a series of squares where there’s no definition other than to indicate there’s a high exit and a low exit. This doesn’t create any branching paths that create replay value, instead it’s usually the case that one area will have a collectible and the other will show you where to go. Peppered within the stages are a small number of enemy types that you can avoid for the most part, that is until the game locks a door and forces you to beat the enemy that has the key. There’s no indication as to which enemy has the key, so you just have to fight all of them until you get it. This too like the open area feels like it exists to just pad the game out longer.
The Amazing Spider-Man on consoles took a twist on many classic Spider-Man villains like The Rhino, Vermin and the Scorpion, making them mindless animal/human hybrid creatures. Here only one of those characters makes an appearance, the Scorpion, who is the only other Spider-Man character you’ll battle other than The Lizard. Making up the rest of the boss encounters are some giant Spider Slayer robots that you start off fighting one of in one encounter and then multiple of in another. Neither the classic villains or the Spider Slayers make up any boss fights you will remember though because there’s no real strategy to use other than to hit them until they die. The same can be said for the regular stage enemies, which is why unless you absolutely need to collect a key or beat a boss to progress, avoiding fights is best. It’s not even an issue with collision detection in combat, it’s just simply that it’s boring as well as repetitive, and even with the ability to find new moves, hitting the attack button over and over will do you just fine.
Played on a strictly 2-D plane, The Amazing Spider-Man has a weird mixture of sprite based characters against 3-D environments which makes an unappealing contrast. The sprites look pretty good, especially Spider-Man, but they seem a little small and look out-of-place in the environments. The levels themselves are much less visually interesting than the sprite based characters with little going on within them detail wise and mostly being made up of rote areas like labs, sewers, and city streets. That being said, the console game also had this issue so it isn’t exactly unique to the DS version of the game.
In 2012 the 3DS had a much bigger install base and getting games of the caliber of what was also being done graphically on the Wii. At the same time, handheld games were starting to migrate over to smart phones and it makes you wonder why Activision even bothered with a regular DS edition of The Amazing Spider-Man. The map interface is much cleaner to understand than that of Spider-Man: Edge of Time, but that really means nothing when there’s no reason to explore the world as it only exists to make the game longer. Couple that with boring combat, empty levels, forgettable bosses and a short play length, not to discount the fact as well that this came out alongside the much better 3DS game, really make a case for this game having no reason to exist. Skip this and play any number of other good Spider-Man games on the DS, a piece of advice that was applicable back then as well as now.