April 7th, 2007, 01:55 Posted By: wraggster
- When a system's only a little more than two years old and there are already three games in a particular franchise, when you're set to release a fourth game in a series you're going to have to do something to really make it stand out. And that's what Vicarious Visions is setting out to do with Spider-Man 3 on the Nintendo DS. The studio kicked the franchise off onto the Nintendo DS as a launch title in Spider-Man 2, and then followed up a few months later with Ultimate Spider-Man. Handing the reigns over to another development studio for last Christmas' release of Spider-Man: Battle for New York let Vicarious relax a bit and rethink a few things in prepararation for the huge push for Spider-Man 3.
The team's working on all sorts of Spider-Man 3 games: designs for the Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, Game Boy Advance, and, of course, the Nintendo DS. Just last week we had the opportunity to sit down with the dual-screen edition due out at the end of April, and so far we like the direction the game's going.
If you're familiar with the Nintendo DS version of Ultimate Spider-Man, you'd remember that, while half the game played like a traditional side-scrolling Spider-Man experience, the other half went in a new direction with full touch-screen support. Using the stylus, players needed operated Venom's tendrils, giving players precise control over attacks and specific actions. This design direction was a sound one even with its little quirks, and it's pretty much a part of the foundation for what's been built for Spider-Man 3.
For the upcoming movie tie-in on the Nintendo DS, the entire gameplay is touch-screen focused. With the D-pad under one thumb and the stylus in the other hand, players now take control of Spider-Man in a whole new way. The gameplay is very similar to the previous two Spider-Man games from Vicarious Visions; though the designers opened up exploration with a more free-form level structure, don't expect the same "go anywhere" city exploration of the console games. The same on-rails 3D design from the previous DS games is being employed in this sequel. The difference is in how players command Spidey.
In screenshots, the lower screen seems a little bare. Nothing but a bit of graphical webbing on a black screen. There's a reason for that: all of the action takes place on the upper-screen, with the lower touch-sensitive display handling all of the player's inputs. Spidey's attacks are all handled by swipes of the stylus: quickly slide the stylus in the direction of the enemy will have Spider-Man punch or kick the enemy in that direction. Swipe the stylus upwards for an uppercut, downwards for a lower attack. Double-tapping the screen will have Spidey shoot off a bit of webbing in that relative location on the upper-screen, so now you have absolute precision on where you'll be able to thwip some thread. Entangle an enemy and you can draw a circle on the touch-screen to "rodeo throw" the enemy.
All this might sound "clunky" in text, but believe it -- after a few minutes in the game, you'll find this control scheme actually works. The developers added a decent combat system that encourages players to string together attacks using the touch-screen swiping control. You can pull off some pretty slick and satisfying moves: punch an enemy then uppercut him into the air, and while he floats helplessly in a lazy arch you can either leap up, catch and throw him to the ground or whip some webbing and pull him back down for some additional damage. While this is going on, a combo counter's keeping track of how many hits you're getting in.
Even with action buttons out of the picture, you still have the same control over Spider-Man as you did in the previous DS games. Pushing up will have him jump...his webswinging's automatic now as players move left or right in the environments. There's still plenty of wall-crawling through internal and external levels, all handled through tight D-pad control.
The visuals return to Spider-Man 2's more "realistic" look versus the team's toon-shaded look for Ultimate Spider-Man. In Spider-Man 3, though, cityscapes look far more detailed with more attention paid to background elements as well as a more dynamic camera. Even though the levels follow a rigid side-scrolling path, the camera gives the action more flow and the illusion of freedom as it swoops high, low, and everywhere in between as Spider-Man moves through the environments. Even the characters have been given an extra jolt of life -- Spider-Man in particular leaps around with incredible grace and style in fresh animation cycles.
The final version of the game will feature some multiplayer competition mode between DS systems, though in our early playtest this mode wasn't functioning. We did get a chance to see and play as Spider-Man in his new black suit, which gives him additional power and techniques when he changes into it.
Check out new screens of Spider-Man 3 running on the Nintendo DS by hitting the link below. And don't forget to check out our video interview with Karthik Bala of Vicarious Visions, who talks about the trials and tribulations of the Nintendo DS project.
We'll have more on the game as we get closer to the game's release date.
For more information and downloads, click here!
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