Along came a spider ... whose banality bored me away


I remember some comedian joking, once, that people shouldn't complain about riding on uncomfortable airplanes. If he owned an airline, he said, its motto would be shocking: We can fly!

I sometimes feel that way about "Spider-Man" video games - that even though some are terrific, and some are hit-and-miss - every Spidey game lets you do a miraculous thing: You can fly!

In "The Amazing Spider-Man," I portray Spidey and I fly a lot, swinging on webs between buildings across the big city, landing on rooftops and climbing towers. That's pretty impressive.

The setting of the plot takes place after the events of this summer's film. It goes like this:

OsCorp uses science to make crazy cross-species creatures, but they escape. OsCorp creates robots to track down and battle the cross-species.

As Spider-Man, you fight both the weirdo creatures and the robots, because robots hate Spidey. You also battle boss villains from Scorpion to Rhino, Felicia Hardy, Vermin and others.

This is a Spidey game in which Peter Parker's crush is Gwen Stacy. (Plus, Peter gets spicy with a potty-mouthed journalist.)

The best things about "Amazing" are the cinematic scenes. They get us involved in general storylines.

It's also quite nice when Spidey (voiced excellently by Sam Riegel, star of many TV and game voice-overs) talks to us during crime fighting, web swinging and goofing off.

Alas, the game play is half-good and half-bad. It is a quintessential, workaday, average game if I've ever played one.

The first few hours are outright boring. (Crawling through ventilation ducts: Oy!)

Finally the game lets me begin to make adequate upgrades to fight villains - who mostly seem the same, as if they're from the jerk store.

During interior action sequences (the heart of "Amazing"), fistfighting and web-combat feel rote.

The only action that gets me juiced is hanging from ceilings so I can stealth-spin down atop a bad guy and pull him up to the ceiling into a web-cocoon trap. That's cool.

The occasional big bosses are stunningly confusing. A skyscraper-size snake (one-third into the game) was the moment I wanted to quit. (I have to do what, and to which part of the snake, and how? Awful.)

During the open-world portions, I fly through the city looking for side missions, but they are embarrassing:

A) Punching street robbers, snipers and crooks in cars (blasé); B) Transporting virus-infected civilians to hospitals (one of the dullest things in any game this year); C) Snapping photos of doors and stuff (snooze); D) collecting comic book pages scattered atop roofs (hate that).

So you see, it is OK to fault "Spider-Man" for not providing enough fun beyond flying, just as it is OK to criticize a plane's cramped ride - because flights of fancy shouldn't be a drag.

("The Amazing Spider-Man" by Activision retails for $60 for Xbox 360, PS 3; $50 for Wii; $40 for 3DS and DS - Plays average. Looks good. Challenging. Rated "T" for mild language, mild suggestive themes, violence. Two out of four stars.)

Contact Doug Elfman at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

NEW IN STORES

"Heroes of Ruin" (Square Enix) is a pretty big game for Nintendo's hand-held 3DS. It comes with a colorful solo mission, but it also has an online cooperative mode with voice chat.

All of the action-role playing is centered around a fantasy adventure full of voice-overs, comic-book tales and treasure chests.

You portray one of several characters, including a gun slayer and a swashbuckling slasher. You journey through a land of dungeons and magic potions.

The camera angle is typical fantasy-RPG-action: You always see your movements from third-person omnipotent, as the camera floats in the air about 20 feet above your head, looking downward.

You must talk with characters to uncover stories and missions.

You slay bad dudes, land sharks and monsters. You earn points to upgrade abilities, acquire magic health potions, and to upgrade your might, vigor and "soul."

The online cooperative mode fits up to four people. The game retails for $40 for 3DS. It's rated "T" for fantasy violence, mild blood and mild language.

"Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Collection" (Lucasarts Entertainment) bundles together two old PC titles - "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2."

It's priced to move at $20 because they're very old, whatever their upgrades, since that first one came out about a decade ago.

The game retails for $20 for PC. It's rated "T" for blood and violence.

(Ratings: "E" for "Everyone;" "T" for "Teen;" "M" for "Mature 17+")

- By DOUG ELFMAN

 

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