(Activision; Xbox 360, PS3, PS2; Teen)
That unsettling sensation you experience while playing this video game? It’s not your spider-senses — it’s vertigo. Spider-man, as that nifty theme song tells us, does whatever a spider can, which means battling crime will necessitate climbing up walls and crawling along ceilings. And because the game orients the screen relative to Spidey’s position, up is sometimes down and down is sometimes up — hence the need for Dramamine. Even with two feet planted firmly on the ground, the action can be disorienting, especially the fight sequences, which occasionally suffer from a herky-jerky frame rate.
To its credit, the storyline in the game isn’t nearly as infuriating as the one in the movie. The game dispenses with many of the movie’s lame subplots and lets you put the alien black suit through its paces (it turns out it can do more than just improve your piano-playing and dancing skills). In addition to Sandman and Venom, there are a slew of formidable adversaries tossed in here who don’t appear in the movie, including Kraven, Rhino, Lizard, and Nausea. (Oh wait, the last one is what we encountered climbing up that skyscraper.) And the game’s open-ended ”sandbox” world — very trendy these days — is an ideal format as it allows you to set your own pace with achieving the various missions and side-quests. We’ll always love the exhilarating rush of swinging down New York City’s steel-and-glass canyons.
But overall, Spider-Man 3 is a sloppy, choppy affair. One day, we hope, some developer will realize that with great power comes great responsibility…to make a game that’s worthy of our favorite web-slinger. C —Gary Eng Walk
Pokémon Diamond / Pokémon Pearl
(Nintendo, DS, Everyone)
Now entering its second decade, the Pokémon franchise shows no sign of aging. Not that anyone at Nintendo is ready to pull the plug: the company has sold in excess of 155 million Pokémon games. Which, by my admittedly unscientific calculations, must come out to at least four billion dollars in revenues. (If someone has official numbers, please send them our way.) And certainly key to the series’ long-term success is that the developers have never strayed from the basic premise of the original games (which is, of course, the capture, training, and battling of these cutesy little critters). On the negative side, neither have they strayed much from the original when it comes to looks and features: subsequent graphical and gameplay enhancements seem minor at best.
Which is why the latest iterations in this series, Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl (sounds like someone is a Prince fan) represent major advancements in the franchise. First is a cool new interface that makes full and clever use of the DS split screen. Second, and most significant, is the feature — which takes advantage of the DS’s WiFi capabilities — that lets you (finally!) compete against friends in online matches. The networking isn’t perfect (you can’t play random opponents) and the graphics aren’t even close to cutting-edge, but these two new titles should have Pokémon fans drooling like a bunch of hungry Glooms. B+ —Wook Kim