Developer: Gameloft
Price: $6.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

Based on the alternate-universe version of our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, Ultimate Spider-Man: Total Mayhem impresses from the get go.

Let’s dispense with the obvious and cliche criticism right off the bat, however: real buttons are important. Virtual D-Pads, Analog sticks and buttons are not the same as real physical buttons. That is the handicap that all console-level video games must contend with when created for or ported to the iOS platform. The precision of a real honest-to-goodness button or analog stick goes an exceptionally long way in making games like Ultimate Spider-Man: Total Mayhem work on portable consoles like the PSP or the DS.

It’s surprising, then, how well this Gameloft video game plays on the iPhone. Aside from a slipped thumb or two during frantic gameplay, the controls weather their virtual existence well, allowing for solid 3D platforming and beat-em-up gameplay. Fighting through hordes of baddies en route to the big boss — in the shape of a well known villain from the Ultimate Spider-Man universe — rarely feels tiring, instead allowing the gamer to become one with the console and the game in a way most iOS games rarely do.

The game plays out as a typical in media res comic-book story, complete with snappy patter voiceovers as Spider-Man is tasked with both figuring out what the heck is going on in his city as well as beating up an endless array of minions both large and small on his way to larger boss battles with the likes of Electro, Rhino, The Sandman, and Green Goblin, to name a few. While the story isn’t going to win any awards for originality or pathos, it serves as enough of a backdrop to explain the gaming goings-on just fine.

What sets this game above many other iOS beat-em-up games is the solidity of the fighting mechanics. The animations are solid, smooth, and incredibly quick. Spider-Man punches, kicks and — better yet — avoids injury from the bad guys around him with nary a stutter or frame rate drop. Here is a clever system for anticipating offensive damage from foes: a Spider-sense icon appears, allowing players to tap and avoid the damage, sometimes even concluding the dodge with a fully animated counter-attack that’s all Spider-Man. The developers obviously thought through the thematic elements of Spider-Man’s fighting style and adapted it to the smoothly rendered battle animations made possible by the faster processor speeds in the newer iPhone and other iOS devices. Another very welcome mechanic is an auto attack focus; in other words, when players tap the fist/attack virtual button, Spidey goes straight for the nearest bad guy, wihtout the need for a cumbersome aiming or camera mechanic.

Speaking of camera, the game does fall prey to similar and typical camera issues. It’s a game-controlled camera, rather than player-controllable, which lends itself to a smaller portable title like this, but can create some awkward moments when platforming or attempting to attack specific targets. It’s not a deal breaker, as it’s rather infrequent, but the awkward camera angles can take a player out of the moment at times, making for a less than optimal immersive experience.

Add to the above a solid experience point upgrade system (collect red dots for XP, turn in for various ability upgrades), high quality voiceover and menu UI systems, and plenty of extras and achievements (collect comic books in game for artwork un-lockables, earn trophies for higher point scores). iOS gamers now have a serious superhero game that can compete with the best that the game-only devices can offer without breaking a Spider-sweat. Players will forget that they are playing an iPhone game, and instead concentrate on the fact that they are playing a Spider-Man game, as long as those same players can handle the virtual button system and ignore any quirky camera issues or low-interest storyline — three critiques that have been leveled at many other games on both iOS and other gaming platforms. The fighting and avoiding mechanics are a delight to watch and effect as a player, while the high quality production makes the game a must-own for any gaming or Spider-Man fan.

Posted in: Games, iPhone Apps and Games, Reviews

Tagged with: , , , ,