Armagideon Time

If I had to pick a videogame that symbolized the concept of “a love-hate relationship, oncologist ” my hands-down choice would have to be Spider-Man for the Genesis…

…also known in some circles as Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin.

To fully understand my complicated feelings towards the 1991 Sega release, one must first grasp some historical context. While the relationship between videogames and superheroes dates back to the Atari 2600 era, licensed products that bridged both camps tended to either be arcade releases or hastily coded drek capable of making even the most dedicated bottomfeeder flinch with revulsion.

Considering that the previous benchmark for “getting it right” was an 8-bit Castlevania clone with so-so gameplay and nonsensical namedropping, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the prospect of a next-gen title that captured the look and feel of Spider-Man — as portrayed in the funnybooks — was so eagerly anticipated by my peers in adolescent geekiness.

The game did succeed on that front — at least, within the parameters of a hybrid side-scrolling beat ’em up/platformer hybrid.  In sharp contrast to the reductive approaches pursued by other developers (where Superman fired laser beams from his fists and so forth), the folks at Sega made an effort to incorporate as many of Spidey’s  signature gimmicks into the game as possible.   Web-slinging, wall-crawling, and spider-sense all played prominent parts, as well as a sound-in-theory-but-irritating-in-practice photography mechanic used to fund the player’s web fluid reserves.

My fanboy excitement over these crucial little details was dampened by the structure of the game itself, which was essentially a reworking of Sega’s E-SWAT, right down to the cheap hits and punishing level of attrition.

Having been given control of a beautifully animated and accurate rendition of the title character, the player soon discovers that with great power comes the even greater possibility of being slowly bled out by rogue Alsatians and sewer rats before even making it to level bosses like Venom, Hobgoblin…

…or the dreaded Forklift Dude.

Granted, that type of punishing gameplay was par for the course for the era, but the Genesis Spider-Man took it to a whole ‘nother magnitude for the final boss battle with the burly Kingpin, which layered a frustrating exercise in pattern memorization over a timed Perils of Pauline deathtrap mechanic.  More cheap than challenging, it’s the videogame equivalent of the resentful dungeon master who tosses in a tarrasque out of spite after the players figure out an “impossible” puzzle.  (Once a geek, always a geek.)

I think my little brother (who has always been the more patient and persevering Weiss sibling) was finally able to beat the game after much trial and error, but life was too short and replacement controllers were too expensive for me to make the effort.


3 Responses to “A Blast Processed Life: Hard luck hero”

  1. Paul

    Wow. I had totally forgotten about this game. I definitely never had the patience to beat it.

  2. Steve

    If they ever kill Spiderman off for good, the cover should be that picture of him being crushed by a forklift. I especially like that he has his fist clenched as if punching the ground and saying “Goddammit!”

  3. Tanzim

    I was around 5 when I first played this game. I poured hours and hours into it, and made steady progress. That was until I finished the sandman level, and learned that you can’t go any further when playing in the easy mode! I scared my mom with the scream I let out after seeing that message.

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