Most likely, the main things you want to know about Spider-Man 2 for the GBA are whether or not it does a good job of retelling the events from the movie and how much it lets players cut loose with Spider-Man's superpowers. The answers are "Yes" and "Quite a bit." The game doesn't set new standards in graphics or game design--which is about what we've come to expect from side-scrolling action games on the GBA--but between Spider-Man's unique abilities and the way other enemies (besides Doctor Octopus) have been incorporated into the levels, developer Digital Eclipse has managed to put together a game that every Spidey fan can enjoy.
After a slick video montage pieced together from actual movie footage, the game opens with a couple of quick training missions. If you've already watched the movie, you'll recognize the openers as the pizza delivery and fusion lab scenes that occurred during the early minutes of the film. These missions are fairly uncomplicated and aren't difficult by any stretch, so some people may finish them wondering if the whole game is just as easy. It isn't. They're merely meant to get players used to the basic webswinging and attacking controls and to introduce the experience points system, which lets players upgrade Spidey's abilities as the game goes on.
The rest of the game's 30 or so missions vary in difficulty and structure. Like the console versions, the GBA game lets you pick and choose missions in any order you want by swinging around a 3D facsimile of New York City. The missions themselves use the same sort of 2D side-scrolling graphics that are pretty typical of most action games on the GBA. Every level is set up so that players can cut loose with Spider-Man's abilities. There are wide-open spaces for webswinging, buildings that you can latch onto using Spidey's webs, walls and ceilings that you can crawl up, secret ducts and tunnels to go into, and, of course, plenty of bad guys to pummel. Some missions involve hand-to-hand combat or searching around for keys and clues. Others involve chasing down a particular enemy, webswinging through a maze of obstacles, or escaping each floor of a building with flames following right behind you. The Doc Ock plotline from the movie is the main thread that the game keeps coming back to, but the developer made a wise move and expanded the story to include milestone events from the comic book as well. This adds to the variety of missions and introduces moviegoers to characters--like Rhino and the Lizard--that haven't been broached in the movies yet.
When you first start out, Spider-Man only has a limited selection of abilities. This is so that you can get used to the controls, which are fairly intuitive. The A button controls jumping (tap) and webswinging (hold), the B button activates kung fu attacks, the R button lets you latch onto walls and hooks, and the L button activates Spidey's webshooters. In between missions, you can use the experience points you've accumulated to buy additional attacks or to upgrade Spidey's existing abilities. New attacks include a slide kick, a splits kick, a web net, a web whip, and various martial arts combos. Upgrades generally improve Spidey's speed and strength, or they extend the amount of web fluid and armor that you start each level with. For the most part, the controls are responsive, although Spidey does tend to take forever to change directions when he's crawling. Otherwise, the game is about what you'd expect from a side-scroller. The enemies are generic and plentiful, and you'll come across the same obstacles and puzzles level after level.
The graphics and audio aren't the best the GBA has to offer either, but there are all sorts of slick details that nonetheless make it easy to crack a smile while playing. Spidey's basic movements--walking, webswinging, and muscle-flexing--are fluidly animated, and he has a fair number of wacky, comic-inspired attacks, such as backflips, uppercuts, and splits kicks. The feeling of comic-book bravado is further heightened by the campy visual exclamations that go along with most attacks. A healthy variety of sound effects and voice clips accompany the action, which is good since the music is overly dramatic (at best) and is oftentimes obnoxious. Between levels, the story is told through a combination of movie stills, custom 3D rendered artwork, and text dialogue.
Even though Spider-Man 2 doesn't break any new ground, it has a leg up on many other action games because of what the character brings to the product. Whether you're strictly a movie buff or have followed the comic book for years, you're going to easily be able to identify with the characters, stories, and missions that the game serves. Furthermore, it hardly matters that the same enemies and puzzles are reused over and over again, because Spidey's superpowers give the game all the variety it needs. Turn it on and within 30 seconds you can be swinging through the air or kung fu kicking the bad guys just like Spider-Man.