The video game version of Spider-Man: The Movie ties loosely with the feature film. To avoid spoiling the movie's plot, Digital Eclipse and Activision have taken the basic elements of the script and formulated an original adventure that includes many of Spidey's comic book foes. It seems that someone has hired all of his enemies--Vulture, Kraven, Shocker, Scorpion, and Green Goblin--in an attempt to terrorize New York City. Across 12 huge levels, you'll assume the role of the red-and-blue webslinger as he uncovers the mastermind behind this deadly scheme.
As far as the character itself, Digital Eclipse brings Spider-Man to life in magnificent fashion. Spidey is large enough so that you can admire his outfit, as well as view the humanlike detail in his actions--such as breathing and strained muscles, but he is small enough that you can actually see a good portion of the environment. Attacks are accented visually with campy exclamations, such as "thwap," "bam," and "pow," as well as a number of painful digitized sound effects. Between levels, there are cutscenes that resemble comic book panels, complete with thought bubbles and whimsical dialogue.
In terms of controls, you can jump, attack, and webswing with the main buttons, while the L and R buttons trigger a number of web attacks and grapple abilities. After some practice, it's rather neat to be able to swoop through the air and alter Spider-Man's course with a quick web line. Power-up items are limited mainly to webbing upgrades, such as sticky webs and web bombs, but they generally fit the comic book origins of the character. At times, there is a hint of questionable collision detection, but the greatest problem with controlling Spidey is that his animation dictates his movement. Even basic actions, like crawling around a corner or running have recovery delays, which can be frustrating in areas with many enemies.
It doesn't help that the majority of the game's levels are uninteresting. The locations--which are primarily skyscrapers, docks, subways, and city neighborhoods--look awesome, but they contain an excessive amount of linear left-to-right movement and backtracking. Unlike previous Spider-Man video games, which featured many secret passageways and tunnels, Spider-Man: The Movie doesn't attempt to be anything more than an action platform game. Repetitive enemies and woefully easy boss battles also dilute the enjoyment of various levels.
There are times, however, when Spider-Man: The Movie displays moments of pure video game genius. The 3D webswinging bonus stages are one such example. These levels send Spidey to the rooftops in search of the Green Goblin's gas bombs, and they're rendered with a rudimentary 3D engine that scales and rotates the upper portion of the city. Although the draw distance is laughably short, these webswinging stages give the game an excellent sense of comic book swashbuckling. The game's 10th stage, carnival of terror, is also excessively amusing--it is literally a carnival full of knife-throwing clowns, amusement park rides, and ticking time bombs.
Like most action games, Spider-Man: The Movie doesn't have much to offer after you've beaten it the first time. Bonus power-ups and a photo gallery are unlocked by collecting golden spiders and photo opportunities within the game, but they don't affect the overall outcome. This lack of bonus goodies makes the subtle lack of polish exhibited by the game's other aspects--namely controls and level designs--somewhat more significant.
Despite the rough edges, however, it is the Spider-Man character itself that makes Spider-Man: The Movie fun to play. No matter how boring it gets, hunting for that last bomb or fighting that next goon, you can easily waste hours just webswinging above the city or crawling around walls and rooftops. It's not one of the GBA's 10 best, but Spider-Man: The Movie will no doubt please filmgoing audiences and fans of the comic book superhero.