Review: With great portable power comes great mediocrity.
There must be some sort of rule now that requires the release of a Spider-Man game for a new portable system. Last November when Nintendo released the DS, a version of Spider-Man 2 was there. This past March, the Spidey-presence was two-fold; not only was the PSP originally packed with the Spider-Man 2 movie on UMD, Activision had yet another version of Spider-Man 2 in video game form. Essentially a stripped-down, focused version of the Spider-Man 2 game that released last summer for the home systems, the game is sure to make Spidey-fans happy, since it manages to let Spidey do all the things a spider can do, but for the rest of us, the short playtime and lack of difficulty makes for a game you can almost beat in one sitting, without stopping to recharge the PSP at that. With far better PSP games out there for less money, this is one for the bargain bin or hardcore Spider-Man fanatics that need more of a Spidey-fix on their new portable ? once they get tired of watching the UMD movie a thousand times.
Spider-Man 2 is loosely worked into the movie, though it eventually ties onto the movie story of Doc Ock and his evil doings. Unlike the PS2/Xbox/Cube version of the game, the huge city has been removed, instead splitting the game into 19 levels of action that actually take place in the free roaming city. It's kinda like a free-roaming city, yet you can't actually roam in it. Bizarre. In addition there's an extensive training mode that teaches you all the basics of the game. I went through this seeing I never played the console version, and quit early simply because your narrator guy was far too sarcastic and smart-assy for me, there can be only one sarcastic, smart-ass behind the wheel of my PSP, pally. Worse off, Mr. Smarty Pants appears throughout the game to lend hints if you're stuck or otherwise suck, though you can at least ignore him in that circumstance.
The 19 levels scattered around NYC take place on either the rooftops of the city or inside buildings, though the latter is a bit more predominant. Throughout each, Spidey has all his abilities to use ? climbing walls, shooting webs to fly around or trap enemies before he punches their lights out, hanging upside down, etc. It's all there and the PSP controls manage to do everything easily without many hiccups. Play itself is fairly pedestrian ? you punch people out, use your webs to chase after stuff, beat people up, climb buildings to chase after stuff, etc. We're not looking at anything revolutionary here folks, it's a traditional beat 'em up only this time you're playing as Peter Parker. Thankfully it's all really well done, and actually fun to play, for a while anyway. Like any game in this genre it has a tendency to get repetitive, and by about the 15th level it will. The mix of level types breaks things up, but the lack of a free-roaming city means the chance of added, impromptu gameplay is gone.
Two things really drag the game down though. While I don't mind short games, Spider-Man 2 can be beaten in just a few hours, without actually stopping to charge up the PSP's battery. And considering you can get up to 5 hours max typically, you put two and two together. Perhaps it could have felt longer if the game was more challenging ? instead, unless you're playing on the hardest difficulty setting, the game just doesn't offer much challenge. Baddies let you kick their asses and bosses go down with little hassle. It's a shame because the game itself is a playable, fun game, but ultimately unsatisfying and not worth playing through a 2nd time. As mentioned, a Spider-Man fan won't mind this since it lets them play as their favorite superhero, but from the perspective of a gamer, if you're going to charge $50 for a PSP game, it better last more than a few hours.
Visually the game looks quite nice and is faithful to the visuals of the console versions. The levels out in the city are huge and detailed fairly well without a lot of popup and draw-in, always a plus in such a case. Once again though, the game seems smallish due to its port nature; on-screen characters are tiny and there's no real zooming for a better view of the action. With the wide screen of the PSP, there needs to be some way for a zoom-in of PS2 games without sacrificing anything else to make the games far more viewable ? or, hey, stop with direct-to-UMD ports! At least there's no slowdown or control issues unlike the other Activision PSP game, THUG 2. The audio consists of tunes from the original soundtrack that sound good, and voice overs from the stars of the movie, though not as plentiful as I would have liked. The sound effects are also nice and fit the comic-book like nature of the Spider-Man franchise (since it was of course a comic book originally, duh).