Spider-Man: Friend or FoeESRB:
Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Category: Action Games
Developer – A2M (Artifical Mind and Movement)
Publisher - Activision
Wireless DS Multi-Card Play
Having just recently reviewed the Wii version of Spider-Man: Friend or Foe, I was quite interested to see how the game would be shrunk down to fit into the confines of the DS hardware. After playing through the game on Nintendo’s handheld I would have to say that like the bigger home console versions of this game there are both good and bad points to Spidey's latest adventure.
Spider-Man: Friend or Foe has an art style all its own. It definitely takes a comic book approach as the visuals have a cel-shaded look to them. Each level does have a good amount of detail too and they manage to convey the land that you are currently exploring. As well, each level has on-screen items that are breakable (e.g. boxes or trashcans) which is further testament that they put in some work into the graphics engine as they did not make each level just a static environment. Something that was noticeably different on the DS version of Friend or Foe as compared to the home console versions was how A2M utilized the dual screens of the DS. When exploring various levels on the street or underground your actions take place on the lower screen, however should you have to climb some stairs or scale a wall, the action then shifts to the upper screen. This is a simple implementation of the DS’s dual screen set up, but it was kind of cool and actually worked well.
The focus on Spider-Man: Friend or foe is on the characters that are used to do battle, and I thought that A2M did a pretty good job of modeling each character. The DS is not a particularly powerful piece of hardware but the characters managed to have more then enough detail to be quite recognizable. Heck, I was even amazed to see that there was enough detail to render Doc Ock’s robotic arms individually. Each character manages to animate pretty well too, and although some of the attacks of the various characters can be choppy now and then, overall everything is quite smooth. This game may not be the best looking game on the DS, but overall it manages to look pretty good and the art style really helps bring the gamer into a comic book world.
When I reviewed the Wii version of Friend or Foe I was impressed by everything from the voice acting to the sound effects. When I switched my attention to the DS version I was somewhat pleasantly surprised by the attention to its’ sound as well. What really did impress me was that there was a lot of voice acting implemented in this handheld version, both in-game as well as in the cut scenes. It was a pleasant surprise to hear voices come out of the DS’s stereo speakers and it added to the experience of the game. As for the rest of the sound the music is very suitable for each level while the sound effects from the punch of an enemy to the ‘thwap’ of spidey’s web were well implemented. I don’t think the audio will win any awards, but it by far from disappointing, especially given the storage medium of the DS.
Spider-Man: Friend or Foe is, for a lack of a better term, a beat'em up fighting game. Developers A2M kept the original story of the home console version though. Spider-Man is recruited by Nick Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D. The reason for this is that many of Spider-Mans enemies of the past (e.g. Sandman or Dr. Octopus) are being brainwashed by an unknown villain who does so by using shards from the same meteor that spawned the symbiotic suit that Venom wears. These shards are also being used to create an army which Spidey must defeat while he gathers the various shards, reaches the end of each level and eventually faces of against one of the many enemies of his past. Although the premise of the story does sound kind of crazy, I really did enjoy it given that I had that chance to fight with characters that have been a thorn in Spider-Man's side for oh so long. Being able to team up with the likes of Doc Ock, Green Goblin, Sandman and even Venom was pretty cool and added some charm to this game.
The actual gameplay in Friend or Foe is very basic and not as engaging as one may hope, given the premise of saving past villains and making them your allies. You traverse the globe to various exotic locations (e.g. Tokyo, Paris and New York to name a few) in your effort to beat the heck out of the hordes of henchmen while doing other sub-tasks like deactivating bombs or freeing hostages. As I played through the DS version of this game, I had a lot of similar feelings I had when playing through the Wii version, that being a feeling for more. I had hoped there would be some platform centric sequences, or some need to explore the levels in detail, but Friend or Foe is, as previously mentioned, a beat'em up, get from point A to point B style of game.
Similar to the Wii version, as I ventured through the various locales in the game I found that the challenge of each level was pretty much the same. I was able to rely on just a couple of styles of attack which worked the same regardless of what level I was on. Sure, the there were a few additional mini-games involving the touch screen, and the boss battles introduce some familiar enemies to Spidey, but the core of the gameplay the same throughout as my main goal was to fight through each level in an effort to finish it.
Controlling our superhero, and his sidekick, is somewhat simple. The buttons on the DS, as well as the touch screen, are used for various methods of play. The game is a traditional button masher a lot of the time, so this should tell you where the focus of the controls lies. I did find myself relying on a simple series of button presses, something I think kind of takes away from the game and the hardware it was published on, as A2M could have done so much more with the DS’s specific abilities. It is my honest belief that many hardcore gamers will find this game to simple in terms of the control department and may wish for more in this area.
In terms of challenge, or lack there of, this game will take you anywhere from 5-7 hours of play. The length of play cannot be expanded on either as there are no bonus missions nor is there any incentive to play again. Once you go through the game you have pretty much completed everything. In terms on multiplayer modes, the cooperative nature of this game is where there is some positive. You and a friend can play some wi-fi coop in either individual levels or the entire story should you choose. The ability to do so, and have a friend beside you chatting it up as you go through each level is cool as you can team up for some pretty slick moves, as well as brag about how you just took one of the enemies down.
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