It’s hard not to admire the ambition of a game like The Amazing Spider-Man 2. While still closely based on the last iteration, it’s a huge, open-world game with hours of gameplay, and some of the best graphics we’ve seen on the platform. It’s essentially an effort to realize a full-fledged console-style superhero action game on Android for a paltry $4.99 asking price. You’d think I’d be a happy camper, but you’d think wrong. Spider-Man 2 makes a very good first impression. Although it doesn’t seem particularly connected to the new film it shares a name with, it features an excellent presentation with some surprisingly great voice acting. Right off the bat, you’re given access to the entire city, with no restrictions, and it’s a beautiful city at that. New York, while not realistically modeled out of a couple landmarks like Times Square and the Empire State Building, is lushly detailed and huge, full of pedestrians and traffic that make it teem with life. You can swing anywhere you want (your webs magically attach to the sky), and you can traverse this city with easy. Swinging is loose and the camera stumbles at times, but with some practice, it can be a lot of fun to swing around Manhattan’s skyscrapers. Combat is a simple-but-effective button-mashing affair. You’ll alternate between a punk/kick button and a web button to bang out simple combos. Every now and then your spidey sense will alert you to another foe’s attacks allowing you to hit a third “counter” button to fend him off. This allows you to juggle multiple enemies without the need to worry about maneuvering. Combat is snappy and fun to watch, but there isn’t a great deal of depth or technique, which can make the game feel repetitive. Of course the missions themselves don’t do much to alleviate this. Beyond the game’s story missions, there are always randomly generated events to complete, mostly involving rescuing citizens and thwarting minor crimes. Most of these boil down to simply going from Point A to Point B or beating up a group of thugs, and some involve little more than simply showing up. You’ll have to complete plenty of these events in order to open up story events that actually progress the story. While the story events have a little more variety, it’s often not much more, as the game lacks interiors and still has you fighting a lot of the same enemies in the same sorts of locations. And then there are all the small frustrations that seem to reflect some negative changes in the mobile market. Like many games, Spider-Man 2 requires a data connection to play, which is frustrating enough for a single-player game, especially on a Wi-Fi-only tablet, but it checks for a connection every single time you complete an event, and won’t allow the game to progress until it’s finished. To make matter’s worse, this is spotty at times, even with a solid connection, and the game will occasionally get stuck for minutes at a time. There’s also the ever-present issue of in-app purchases. The worst offenders here are costumes, most of which can be unlocked in-game, but require such ridiculously high amounts of tokens, few will want to bother. This can be overlooked, and the rest are mostly innocuous and moderately priced boosts, but the game features some design dead ends that make these the biggest problem. Throughout most of the game, you can complete easy side quests, which grant you a small health boost and some currency upon victory, ensuring you never get stuck. But once you hit a boss fight, you better hope you’re ready. Not only can these be sudden spikes in difficulty, but they remove all side content, and upon failure only refill a small amount of health and no money. If you spend your money on healing items and find yourself broke, you’re left with little recourse but to pony up money, or try your luck in one of the game’s daily events (which yield items but not money). Even in a free game this sort of dead-end design would be unacceptable, but in a paid app, it’s downright insane. As the game progresses, the thugs you fight will grow stronger and take more punishment, but they never get smarter or more nimble. This means you’ll just be dealing with increasingly long, tedious and unforgiving fights, without necessarily a greater challenge. This is a meaty, fairly lengthy adventure, but it sadly outstays its welcome. There’s a solid foundation at work, here, but Gameloft is going to have to do more to get this series back on track. *
The broad strokes are all here, with a huge, beautiful, open world, and solid gameplay mechanics, but a lack of variety and troubled pacing eventually drain this game of all its super powers.