When I was a kid I had a jumping-jack toy that looked like a dancing cossack. He was a little wooden man with a pull-string dangling between his legs, and when you tugged on the string his arms would move up and down, as if he were jumping, or dancing. Every Christmas he’d get pinned to the coat closet, and I’d spend way too much time making him dance to the hummed tune of the Tetris theme (I was obviously not a very politically correct child, growing up on a farm in rural Virginia).

After a minute or two of this shameful deed, I’d grow weary of simply making him dance. I’d yank at his string, causing him to wildly flail about, hyperextending his legs over his head, smacking him in the face with his own tiny fists. The bored kid that I was, this mindless savagery would continue until one of my parents yelled at me.

The small amount of joy I could wring from Gameloft’s The Amazing Spider-Man [$6.99] was found in frantically pulling his string or, in this case, webbing. Every few minutes I’d break from the tedium of whatever the game had tasked me with, and start goofing off. I’d spam webbing while simultaneously spinning in a circle, sending Spidey into a spastic, airborn contortion. Or I’d find the tallest nearby building to scale and swan dive into the pavement, somehow coming out unscathed. As this really stupid toy, The Amazing Spider-Man succeeds, and even then it’s held back by technical issues.

The camera rarely ends up where you want it to, so you’re stuck readjusting it with a quick swipe across the screen, which isn’t nearly as intuitive as it sounds when you’re in-flight, or in-fight. The frame-rate often drops to View-Master single digits, making the simple act of twisting and turning quite the challenge, and transforming my much-loved web-spasms into a crippled breakdance under strobelight. There’s also some pretty nasty draw-in, which actually didn’t bother me all that much by comparison, given how large the open-world city is. Well, “open-world,” in the sense that it’s large and you can travel nearly anywhere, but it’s also mostly wasted.

Largely empty and kind of dull, the city serves primarily as a jungle gym, built for tiny bits of genuine fun between chores where, as described above, it’s easy getting distracted trying to break the game. Think of it like this: you’re smashing a SuperBall against your bedroom wall just to watch it go, wondering if that small piece of rubber will break a lamp, or worse, a window. The entire time you’re also procrastinating, putting off that math homework you know has to get done.

The math homework in this case are the game’s largely instanced missions. Usually assigned by NPCs, missions are delivered via the most wooden voice acting I’ve heard since early Resident Evil. Particularly offensive is your own, friendly neighborhood Spider-Man’s gee willikers delivery. Equally cheese, and just as tedious, are the mission objectives. An early example had me arriving to the scene of a fire an anarchist group had set at Oscorp. Perhaps I’d be saving pencil-necked scientists from the raging inferno? Or maybe I’d simply round up and bring the arsonists to justice? Nope. My objective was to protect a fire truck from the anarchist group, who were beating upon it with baseball bats.

Nevermind that the perimeter of the little area this challenge took place in was surrounded by other, unbothered fire trucks. I had to protect this one fire truck from the arsonists who had decided to stick around and bludgeon it to death, instead of fleeing the scene of their crime. This fire truck’s life was in my hands. So, with great power truly does come great responsibility.

Another mission was comprised of challenges that saw Spider-Man performing great physical feats to impress sometimes love interest Gwen Stacy. One of those feats included vaulting ten objects. Vaulting occurs automatically, when sprinting toward small, easily scalable obstacles. I decided I would vault cars. Unfortunately, the city is so sparsely populated that once I found a car, I figured I’d have to vault it ten times. So I chased a car down the street, vaulting back and forth across its hood as it drove on, completely unaffected by the spandex-clad teenager doing cartwheels over it. “Golly gee, I sure hope Gwen can see this from five blocks away,” I thought.

It’s this absurdity and laziness that makes both the combat and upgrade system largely meaningless. Combat is clearly inspired by the slow motion empowerment of Rocksteady’s Batman series. Webbing lets you entangle enemies, or attracts you to them like a magnet. A spider-sense button enables you to dodge attacks. Actually striking your opponent is a dull, one-button Tekken-like juggle-a-thon consisting mainly of kicks. “Spider-Man sure does kick a lot,” my girlfriend observed. Apparently. This sloppiness of play combined with the poor camera means that most battles are only as engaging as the struggle to see just what the hell is damaging you from off-screen.

It also means fights are way more difficult than they need to be. This is somewhat mitigated by the upgrade system. As you progress, you slowly level, giving you access to a variety of talents in five trees. I found the “Combat” tree most unhelpful. “Uppercut enemies into the air,” one talent reads. But why place my points there when I’ve been kicking them into the air just fine all this time? Kick, kick. When I did acquire “Combat” upgrades, they felt like largely ineffectual upgrades to an already broken combat system. My points were better spent in the “Strength and Speed,” “Body,” and “Bonuses” trees, allowing me access to talents which increased my HP, or the rate at which I gained experience.

It might sound like a cynical laundry list of complaints, but that isn’t my intention. I mean, I derived entertainment, if not enjoyment, from the game. Several times I caught myself web-slinging about the city, or trying to dive into the pond in Central Park from afar (which, by the way, does injure you), for a good deal of time before realizing, “Crap, I need to play through this thing.” But that’s not the mark of a successful superhero game. In a time when the comics Marvel and DC put out are ghoulish trash built from the remains of brilliant men like Jack Kirby, it’s fallen to these other mediums to carry the torch.

Nobody could’ve imagined it twenty or even fifteen years ago, but in 2012 if you want decent, mainstream superhero stories you turn to film, or video games. We have higher standards now. For seven bucks you could purchase a handful of objects that instill the same sense of simple, gleeful play that The Amazing Spider-Man evokes at its very best, without any of the baggage. Like a an action figure. Or a jumping-jack.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarNoneNoneNone
  • Words of Ivory

    Nice to see Touch Arcade actually being critical with its reviews for a change.

    • MidianGTX

      I didn't think they'd risk it after the floods of butthurt the last one caused.

      Gamer protip: Review scores don't really matter. The reason there's more than one person doing the job on this planet is because they don't all have exactly the same taste in games. This is also the reason sites like Metacritic exist. You may not agree with the final rating, but the text will (hopefully) have informed you of the major pros and cons and you'll be better able to form your own desicions. So stop crying.

    • http://twitter.com/woodesh matthew wood

      heres to hoping they continue making the most of all the stars, i'm glad there critical because big sites like IGN and gamespot are often afraid of scoring big name games low scores. TA finally got some balls.

    • Mj1ggy

      I was going to say the same thing

    • ManuD

      Yeah one of those weeks, when sanity prevails for review scores. ;)

    • http://twitter.com/EightRooks Matthew Lee

       Amen to that. I like this website quite a bit, but I've always thought Touch Arcade were a little too ready to throw five stars at everything under the sun... the Dead Trigger review and now this have me thinking maybe not so much. This was some damn fine writing - I can't say exactly how accurately it reflects the game as I haven't played it myself but it's convincing enough I doubt I'll ever want to drop the $7. Well done.

    • sta67

       great review. glad to see some honesty. a review like that would have saved me a few months ago from purchasing the garbage known as arkham lockdown

    • sta67

       great review. glad to see some honesty. a review like that would have saved me a few months ago from purchasing the garbage known as arkham lockdown

    • sta67

      no kidding, so glad to see some negative comments in a review. a review like this would have saved me from purchasing the garbage that is arkham lockdown

    • sta67

      no kidding, so glad to see some negative comments in a review. a review like this would have saved me from purchasing the garbage that is arkham lockdown

    • sta67

       no kidding. so glad to see some honest comments in a review. a review like this would have saved me from purchasing the garbage that is arkham lockdown

    • sta67

       no kidding. so glad to see some honest comments in a review. a review like this would have saved me from purchasing the garbage that is arkham lockdown

  • Drewskii

    Glad I didn't buy this. I'll wait for a fix.

    • bigred447uk

      It will take more than a fix to fix this ! As soon as I'd experienced 1/ being able to web sling the clouds and swing anywhere with no skill at all needed, except across bridges that I inexplicably had to run across, cruelly grounded for no apparent reason ! 2/ Taking no damage at all from even the highest fall in the most unrealistic way possible 3/ Tackling the story for a couple of missions and experiencing the same mind numbing tedium that the reviewer accurately describes.

      Deleted !

      • Drewskii

        Well thank you then. This really disappoints me because I like Spider-Man. I hope Gameloft doesn't screw Batman over in the same way. Thanks again do the heads up.

      • Drewskii

        Well thank you then. This really disappoints me because I like Spider-Man. I hope Gameloft doesn't screw Batman over in the same way. Thanks again do the heads up.

      • Drewskii

        I meant thanks for the heads up.

  • Prab

    Entertaining review :)

  • BruteOutlawz

    I can't take any review seriously that uses the word "spastic". But offensive don't you think....

    • Michael O'Connor

      "Spastic" is not an inherently offensive word. It simply gained negative connotations along the line.

  • evilsearch

    smell something fishy here. 2 stars just to close the gap.

  • http://www.onebagtravel.com/ OneBagTravel

    Game could really use some more time optimizing. The frame rate is horrible and there's zero fluidity in the combat.

  • BulkSlash

    I can't disagree with any of the negatives listed in the review but I definitely enjoyed it a lot more it seems. While it is annoyingly flawed, I got quite addicted to all the challenges it randomly throws out. Sometimes I need to collect things, sometimes I need to beat enemies with a certain move, sometimes I need to run without slowing down for a specific period of time, etc. The story missions were OK too, giving it a bit more variety.

    My biggest gripe is the shoddy framerate and terrible draw distance, and this is on an iPad 3! I've yet to see a Gameloft game that doesn't suffer from an awful framerate, it's like they've got one game engine that they use for everything and they haven't bothered to improve it since they first wrote it. I've never seen them bother to fix their games either, so I'm not holding my breath for an update.

    Also annoyingly you can't earn EXP once you hit level 50 so you're left a few points short of being able to afford the final upgrade and I opted for the EXP boost upgrades early in the game too! I guess Gameloft want you to hit the old "Buy" button and pay your way to the top...

    Still that said I enjoyed it enough to finish it and I still go back for the occasional swing though the ol' concrete jungle. It would be great if it had a game+ mode!

  • http://twitter.com/mymac Tim Robertson

    "ghoulish trash" Really, dude? Some of the comics coming out now are the best ever. And I have been reading them before you were born. 

  • Matthew Rossman

    I like the review, but the rating is way too harsh. Only 2 stars? I give it at least 3, probably 4. Despite it's issues, it's a really fun game.

  • lancheta

    I toggle between touch arcade and youtube reviewer called crazymikeapps...he had negative review of this game as well. Its a shame how a game with so much potential had so many technical flaws

  • http://twitter.com/Rage_boi Vince

    What a hilarious review! Was pretty fun to read through

  • JJE McManus

    Kirby didn't do SM. it was Ditko and Lee.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1525634698 Willem Castillo Blanco Blanken

      SM? You may be right, considering that these guys based their whole careers on people in tight outfits hurting each other.

  • shaundan85

    Totally agree, I started the first mission and deleted the game before I even finished the mission! Thanks to the crappy camera and controls, its just awfull!

  • 12yam

    Very very well written review! It felt a bit like a cracked.com article to be honest! (not a bad thing)

  • himanshu modi

    all right... got to hand it to you here... this was a hilarious review. Had me laughing. i can't verify the accurateness not having played the game... but it made a great read!

  • jcifrit

    " In a time when the comics Marvel and DC put out are ghoulish trash built from the remains of brilliant men like Jack Kirby, it’s fallen to these other mediums to carry the torch."

    Well, I definitely won't be reading or listening to anything this Glover character has to say after this clearly uninformed, ignorant statement

    • Michael O'Connor

      As a fan of both Marvel and DC... I couldn't agree with Glover more.

      Their current output right now is absolutely bloody terrible. Marvel has been destroying the Spider-Man comics especially for the past few days, thanks to the whole Brand New Day crap.

  • Furtin

    Gameloft is awful and hindersome for the next generation of games on portable devices. This game proves how they keep milking their assets and obviously hate their game developers. Uninspired is the premise of Gameloft games, fast cash is the rule.

  • bigred447uk

    Thanks for the pro tip ! I'm downloading Crazy Mikes app right now. Seriously thanks it looks good !

  • bigred447uk

    Thanks for the pro tip ! I'm downloading Crazy Mikes app right now. Seriously thanks it looks good !

  • http://twitter.com/back2this Sean Yuan

    Spot-on review. My list of complaints about the game were endless when I tried it out last week. Deleted it within 10 minutes. 2 two-star reviews in two days? That's a record.

    @back2ths:twitter 

  • http://www.googlepants.com/ Wizard of Odyssey

    $6.99 seems like a fair price for a digital Hampelmann. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jumping_jack_(toy)

  • Words of Ivory

    The word spastic isn't offensive. It means something with involuntary, spasmic movements. The negative connotations given to the word came around later.

  • jchamplain

    What comics are you reading?

  • http://profiles.google.com/fleshman1992 Laszlo Tuss

    Just another gameloft crap, why i dont surprize at the 2 star?

  • Lomyr

    This was a great review, entertaining and genuine. However, like a few other posters, I can't agree with your statement about comics... If you're referring purely to superhero comics then I can't contest much, not being a big fan of the superhero comics (I read all-star superman and rate it, that came out around 2008 I think, but I have been to comic stores and seen reams of TPBs with bizarre cross-overs and silly plot premises) - but if you're talking about comics in general, I think that's a rather brash statement.... What about Fables? The Walking dead? And Chew only started about two years ago... All excellent ongoing comics as far as my opinion goes.

    • jonglover

      Oh, I love comics. Old newspaper strips, art comics, genre stuff like the Ditko Spider-Man someone mentioned above, or pretty much anything EC put out. And I once had a sizable collection of Fables, but they were, um, borrowed. It's just the modern superhero stuff I can't get into, not that I haven't tried. I think those companies have very little respect for creators and their creations, and it shows in the modern output.

      Which isn't to knock anyone who enjoys those books. It's just not for me. : )

  • jclardy

    I bought this, unfortunately, not realizing it was a Gameloft masterpiece. I opened it, saw the logo and immediately regretted the decision.

    The only reason I wanted it was for the open world web slinging, which I enjoyed on the old console versions. This one is more reminiscent of the first game which let you grapple on to thin air. They do seem to limit your ability when there are no tall buiildings around, but it is a far cry from the last console version I played (2? Or maybe 3?)

    The worst part is the graphics. Spiderman looks great, tons of detail, but 10 feet away the building is compromised of about 12 polygons and a super low res texture. Get a little closer then you get a bit of detail, but things are popping in everywhere.

    And combat is extremely boring.

  • paco74

    I agree: 2 stars

  • http://twitter.com/Swampthing Swampthing

    Gamer protip:  uh... that's common sense.

  • PeterTK

    One of the many problems I have with this movie, aside from the fact that Sony wants us to forget that three Spiderman films were made over the last decade, is Andrew Garfield being cast in the lead role. I mean, Andrew Garfield? C'mon. Is this an actual reboot of Spiderman, or of the Movie "Rent"?

    • repapermunky

      It was never a reboot, you twit. It's a different Spider Man universe. Educate yourself.

  • 11liker99

    This is why I gave up on spiderman years ago

    Go Batman

The Amazing Spider-Man Reviewed by Jonathan Glover on . Rating: 2