Superheroes have their work cut out these days. Ever since Rocksteady and Batman decided to kick some butt in a superhero game (for a change!), there's been a bit of a shakedown, where the standard staple of movie cash-ins such as rushed deadlines to meet the movie release date, uninspired replication of plots, and bland gameplay are rapidly finding themselves being booted out of the door in favor of original stories based on comic fiction and gameplay that accurately grasps the potential and abilities of the superheroes.

Amidst these rather refreshing winds of change, Beenox has brought not one, but four Spider-Men in their latest effort set in the Marvel universe – Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. Joining the Amazing Spider-Man are the Ultimate (symbiote) Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2099, and the stealthy Spider-Man Noir.

Tying in these four Spider-Men is an original plot penned by The Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott. Mysterio breaks into the New York City Museum in an attempt to steal an artifact called the Tablet of Order and Chaos, precariously poised to leave out the order and focus exclusively on chaos at the drop of a hat. Drop it does, from the hands of Mysterio when Spider-Man shows up to stop the robbery, shattering with a force that scatters its pieces across multiple locations in four beautifully designed dimensions, each with its unique cell-shaded art and vibrant colors. It’s up to the Spider-Man of each of these dimensions to find the pieces and bring them together to restore order.

That, of course, is easier said than done, because each of these pieces ends up conveniently falling into the hands of a super villain from the Spider-Man universe. Each level focuses on one super-villain, and Spider-Man has to chase down the super-villain across multiple boss encounters to regain the piece in his possession.

With such a heavy focus on bosses, it’s a good thing that these bosses are the stars of the show. Each boss has been designed with the utmost care, leveraging their unique strengths from the comic book universe, making each fight feel unique, challenging and fun. In fact, they do very well to cover up the fact that the game has very little variety among the standard enemies you face.

They also do a good job at hiding the lack of a story here. While four parallel dimensions may seem like the stage for a grand tale, you simply end up collecting the pieces in order to restore the tablet. The complete omission of the usual supporting cast such as Mary Jane, Aunt May or J Jonah Jameson leave no scope for a deeper story to be told, which is a shame really. However, the game finds its personality in its excellent script, voiced by Spider-Man veterans such as Neil Patrick Harris (of How I Met Your Mother fame). In signature Spider-Man style, the quips and chatter never stop even in the direst of situations, like the Electro level where Spider-Man is more concerned with his lack of pants than his increasing powers. The developers have paid a lot of attention to detail here when it comes to the Spider-Man universe, and the game is richer for it.

The richness extends to the wide variety of moves at the player’s disposal as well, though it’s easy to fall into the button-mashing trap on lower difficulties. However, doing the rather addictive challenges posed in each level to earn Spider emblems unlocks more moves, which if used well, really add to the experience of feeling like a superhero bad-ass. Despite being set in four distinct dimensions, the gameplay is largely similar, with the same moves replicated across dimensions. Variation in Spider-Man 2099 comes from accelerated vision, a fancy name for bullet-time, and a rage mode in the Ultimate Spider-Man, which enables the player to dish out meatier damage, hence allowing the developers to throw more enemies at the player in this dimension. Spider-Man Noir plays differently from others by featuring a stealth system, which is the bastard child of Splinter Cell: Conviction and Batman: Arkham Asylum. Unfortunately, it comes across as a little too easy, largely due to the simplistic enemy AI.

In the end, it all boils down to this – does Shattered Dimensions continue the trend that began with Batman: Arkham Asylum? Has the web-slinger found his sweet spot in interactive entertainment? While some issues hold it back from greatness, it’s safe to say that Shattered Dimensions is an excellent stepping stone towards it.

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