Last week, we had the opportunity to attend an Activision preview event where we spent time with several of their upcoming games. Believe it or not, the game that really took us by surprise was Spider-Man: Web of Shadows on DS. Yes, I said DS.
The headline totally gave it away: Spider-Man: Web of Shadows is a sidescrolling action platformer, in line with other Metroidvania-type titles. Why didn't they think of this before? The rest of the Web of Shadows releases on other consoles (Wii, PS3, and Xbox 360) consist of 3D web-slinging and high-flying combat, but that wouldn't work as well on the DS. From what we've played, it seems that shifting things to sidescrolling action was a perfect choice for the portable title -- and maybe the franchise.
Web of Shadows DS sticks you into the same world as its big brother console versions. A symbiote invasion has rocked New York City, and Spidey has been phoned in to clean things up. You're still fighting the good fight in the DS version, but instead of swinging from buildings, you're running around exploring the inside of them and below them, in a 2.5D world.
The Metroidvania formula is alive and well in WoS, and its a nice fit for Spider-Man. During gameplay, I found myself crawling through corridors, finding my way through a series of rooms, and taking down baddies that got in my way. Sound familiar? One area was blocked by a mini-boss that took some time to beat. I used my newly acquired uppercut punch, a moved I earned through experience and battling, to finish this guy off. Believe it or not, there's even heart containers and save rooms. I'm glad to say that this sidescrolling d-pad-and-buttons action-adventure formula works.
It's not all totally familiar, though. There's plenty of Spider-Man in the mix to make WoS original. You'll get to sling webs and climb up walls, just as you'd expect. In WoS, the player has the ability to switch between red and black suits. The red suit makes for an agile Spidey, while the black one makes for a stronger one. These suits can be changed on the fly, and even in mid-combo, making for a simple but fun combat system. With some practice, I was able to pop an opponent in the air with the red suit on, jump up, and with a tap of the "L" button, continue hitting him in mid-air with the black suit on. And as you unlock more moves and powers, your ability to beat baddies down in epic fashion increases.
I'm glad to say that the basic control Web of Shadows DS avoids the touchscreen. In fact, it's only used in a revival touchscreen mini-game. After Spidey takes one too many hits, you'll see him laid out on the bottom screen, with red power orbs floating around him. Your goal is to use the stylus to swipe these orbs toward him before time runs out. If successful, Spider-Man will live to continue the fight.
We were told that both Nightcrawler and Green Goblin will play roles in the DS version of Web of Shadows. It may turn out that you'll make alliances with them.
After spending time with this title, we have to salute developer Griptonite for the polish on Web of Shadows DS. From what we saw, it played fantastically. We'll salute again for the choice of sidescrolling platforming action over a watered-down version of the console games. We can't wait to get our hands on the final game.
We'll say now that if you enjoy this Metroidvania style of game, you'll likely be pleased with Spider-Man: Web of Shadows on the DS. Check it out later this fall.