The lights are on
Beenox's first effort, Shattered Dimensions, was a triumphant return to dignity for Spider-man, a superhero about as maligned as Batman when it comes to videogame history. Spanning a rather nostalgic tale implementing four parallel universes with their own gameplay and art styles, Shattered Dimensions turned out to be a surprisingly tasteful breath of fresh air with only minor weaknesses that kept it from becoming a classic. Still, it was a step forward for everyone's friendly neighborhood spider, and its indirect followup, Edge of Time, looked just as promising.
However, I had my skepticisms, given the announcement that the entire game would be focused inside of the evil Alchemax corporation's base. Of course, Beenox could've taken notes from Arkham Asylum and made a game that, while slightly confined, would still allow players to maximize their environment's potential. Adding depth and complexity could always present the illusion of sandbox entertainment.
Sadly, this isn't the case with Edge of Time, a game that not only restrains the webslinger but also compensates by bombarding the player with repetitive activities and enemies with little variety or innovation to boot. Ultimately, it's a game that feels about as rushed as it's convoluted story. The few positives (collectibles, great voice acting) spare this otherwise uninspired game from becoming a eulogy for Spidey.
The basic premise is just what you'd expect from a story that draws on classic comic tropes: an evil genius creates some time traveling technology to head back in time and establish his diabolic corporation, Alchemax, which in turn creates an alternate dimension in another timeline. This leads to the original Spidey being killed by my favorite antihero - currently an arch villain in this game- Anti-Venom, and as a result, yet another timeline being created somehow, with Spidey 2099 trying to rectify the past. The story's logic makes the Halo series look like a dissertation in comparison, especially as it draws toward the end and the plot becomes even more ridiculous.
Continuing, just interchange a bunch of scientific mumbo jumbo, obvious plot twists, and you eventually get the two stuck in opposite timelines, doing events that are sold as dynamic and time-altering. In reality, these are simply scripted segments with no alternatives. This perhaps was my biggest disappointment with Edge of Time, given the potential it had to maximize the game's longevity and immersion. Unsatisfying story aside, where Edge of Time also fails is in its blatantly streamlined combat system with little variation or diversity.
It's inevitable that comparisons to Shattered Dimensions will be made, and in this respect - seeing as the story is still one with two converging interpretations of Spider-Man- Edge of Time fails. There isn't much that's fairly distinctive about either character, aside from a couple limited combat features and some unlockables that don't fill the glaring rift in the combat system, which now ditches the countering feature and the chance to vault opponents. Add to this a seemingly never-ending barrage of enemies, an equally streamlined art style, and the limited complexity is rendered useless.
At times, Edge of Time feels more like an RPG than an action-adventure game, considering the level of tedium that comes with this game. You'll find yourself destroying tons of generators and finding keys, among other mundane events that stretch out a relatively short campaign further than it needs to be as an excuse for narrative progression. The only positives are the rewards you can unlock in replays, but with these obstacles in your way, Web of Challenges feels more like Gauntlet of Challenges.
In closing, there's signs throughout Edge of Time that it's rushed, or at the very least, a rough draft of a larger game with a lot of wasted promise. Ultimately though, it's worth a glance, if nothing more. While it leaves much to be desired, the game remains a decent if not underwhelming sophomore offering. Here's to hoping that this will be a chance for Beenox to rectify their mistake with a superior follow-up. No time machines or botched quantum entanglement theories are needed.