When it comes to run-and-jump platformers on cell phones, mobile gamers have a wide variety of choices, from wireless interpretations of console games to movie-licensed titles. Mforma's Ultimate Spider-Man shares a name with a recently released, highly stylized console adventure, but that's about where the similarities end. This game runs well and is fun to play--for about an hour. After that, you'll likely wonder how the developer ran out of ideas so quickly.
Archrivals Spider-Man and Venom share two things: special powers that grant them superhuman strength and agility, and a passionate hatred for one another, born of their mutual link with Venom's symbiotic alien costume. You can play as either Spider-Man or Venom in Ultimate Spider-Man, and each character operates on the opposed side of the law. On each level, Spidey has to try to defeat Venom before he consumes too many innocent civilians, while Venom must beat up Spidey before Venom's "other half" runs out of energy (he can stave the hunger off for a bit by eating city dwellers). Whether you're playing in Spider-Man's red costume or Venom's black one, the action takes place in the same handful of locations--the streets, office buildings, and construction sites of New York City, by day and night. In addition to the hapless civilians, several different types of characters wander the thoroughfares and girders of the city. They all have different loyalties: Street toughs will attack both Spider-Man and Venom with bludgeons; cops will only shoot at Venom; and The Shocker and The Green Goblin will only go after Spidey. These guys are basically irrelevant because you need not fight them, and they're easy to avoid with either character. Ultimate Spider-Man's real objective is to track down your nemesis as quickly as possible and beat him into unconsciousness. If you're lucky, the game's rudimentary artificial intelligence will lead him right to you, letting you beat any level in a matter of seconds. If not, you'll have to track him around the multiscreen maps. This isn't difficult, because both characters have a "sense" power that'll cause the camera to pan across the screen and onto the enemy, or onto the entrance to their hiding place in a different part of the level. This feature's sort of neat, but it also takes most of the challenge out of the game. The game's high point is definitely the character animation and movement, although combat rates as a relative disappointment. Spidey's webslinging works great, because the developer got the speed and trajectory of the motion just right; Venom's a little less interesting to play, but he has a chargeable high jump that gets you where you need to go. Both characters can climb fluidly up walls and stick to ceilings, to traverse the levels and avoid enemies as long as necessary. Fighting is generally managed by mashing a single button, which unleashes a canned series of attacks that will, annoyingly, carry you right past your target.
Ultimate Spider-Man has a pleasantly clean look on the LG VX7000, but it doesn't really impart much of the personality of the comic book. The sprites are well-defined and move quickly, but they do so against a background that's completely devoid of interesting visual features. However, there's some good sound in this version of the game, including a title theme, percussive blows, and some limited voice-over.
Ultimate Spider-Man isn't a bad game; it's just not a very interesting one. The levels are all essentially the same, and even when the game starts to give you tighter parameters for saving or eating civilians, it doesn't feel any more difficult; nor are the differences between Spidey and Venom appreciable enough to add value. Most players will probably grow bored of the same old superhero/supervillain routine after an hour or two of play. Fans of Spider-Man may want to give this a look on a monthly subscription. Everyone else can do better.