After the unanticipated achievements of Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City, you have to feel bad for other comic-book franchises. Where old superhero titles could coast by on average graphics and rudimentary gameplay, now gamers expect a higher polish when they suit up as their favorite DC or Marvel character. Beenox’s Spider-Man: Edge of Time has the unfair weight of the Batman franchise on its shoulders, but also the developer’s fan-favorite Shattered Dimensions from only last year. A hefty chunk of what made that game a stylish and engaging adventure for Peter Parker aficionados is washed away like a dusty cobweb here.
Thankfully, the visuals are still deserving of the franchise and the vocal talent has been improved as well. Christopher Daniel Barnes, who voiced Parker in Spider-Man: The Animated Series and Spider-Man Noir in Shattered Dimensions, steals nearly every scene. Josh Keaton (who voiced the Ultimate Spider-Mam character in Shattered Dimensions) also turns in a stellar performance as the present-day Parker. The secondary and tertiary characters are well done. Even Val Kilmer makes a cameo appearance as Walker Sloan.
The inane sci-fi plot is a head-scratcher though. The tale begins in the year 2099 as a dastardly scientist named Walker Sloan screws up the time stream. Instead of Shattered Dimensions’s four Spider-Men, we get two here, as a Spider-Man from the year 2099, named Miguel O’Hara, desperately tries to prevent Parker’s death in the alternate timeline created by Sloan. In that world, Parker works for the shadowy Alchemax Corporation instead of The Daily Bugle and the country is in a state of dystrophic collapse.
It’s a neat concept for a game, but Edge of Time is riddled with niggling plot holes, and the sci-fi mumbo jumbo that spews from the characters’ mouths can be hilarious. Bits of dialogue about a DNA chronal device, “quantum causality,” and “chronal energy polarity” are bandied about by Parker and O’Hara like they’re simple concepts to grasp. On occasion, they even poke fun at the time-traveling shenanigans. These are strong, funny characters that are given some really awkward tasks, even by video-game standards.
The story barely passes, and mos of the game’s combat also pales in comparison to that of Shattered Dimensions. The new chronal attacks you use are enjoyable, but are also overpowered. It’s easy to rack up huge combos by button-mashing. After knocking together some domes in the past, you will switch to the future, and the way that you’re shown how the past changes the future is a smart gameplay mechanic. As Parker defeats baddies and opens up new areas, a picture-in-picture portal into O’Hara’s world appears in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen. Once you’re done, O’Hara’s screen will expand to full-frame and you can take control of the 2099 hero.
You can brawl familiar baddies, such as Doctor Octopus, Black Cat, and Anti-Venom, throughout the extremely short campaign. (Prepare to only dedicate around six hours for the main story.) Unfortunately, during most of the game you battle against generic Alchemax goons that teleport into combat areas in droves. Some bosses are also needlessly difficult. During one particularly maddening boss fight, Spider-Man has to collect the big baddie’s DNA three times in order to complete a strand and eliminate him. (Yep, the ’ol video-game cliché is all over this game, especially during the banal tasks you have to deal with, and as such replay value isn’t high.)
There’s also little exploration in Edge of Time aside from unlocking an endless string of doors, and the web-slinging sequences are kept to a minimum. This could easily morph into an Iron Man or Superman video game and I wouldn’t bat an eye. The lack of identity is a shame, because previous Spidey games held such promise for the license.
All of these bothersome concerns add up to an inadequate experience. This is a moderately polished game when it comes to its graphics, textures, and sound design. It’s a shame that Beenox muffled a pretty engaging Spidey yarn with lackluster combat and insipid missions. There are thankfully more quality games being made for comic-book fans these days. Shattered Dimesions proved that. Edge of Time is just a washed out duplicate and an aide memoire of the genre’s rubbish track record pre-Arkham Asylum.