Some people might see a videogame rating of 5 out of 10 and immediately think the game is terrible. In actuality, Spider-Man: Friend or Foe from Activision and developer Next Level Games isn’t a terrible game, it’s just painfully average. Everything here falls in the “just okay” category.
First off, Spider-Man: Friend or Foe was made for and geared towards the younger crowd who also might be new to videogames. So, while I definitely don’t fit the targeted demographic, I did try to score the game on whether or not I thought the game’s intended audience would enjoy the title.
Friend or Foe has really dumbed down everything for the Wii owners. Pretty much besides moving your character, everything is handled with about two or three buttons. To move from an Xbox 360 or PS3 controller to the Wii’s SM:FoF, makes for quite a shock to see controls shifted to a minimalist’s viewpoint. The game is very easy to pick up and play. Being accessible to all types of gamers, no move, be it special or standard is too complex to pull off. Everything is relaxed, streamlined, and spelled out to an almost laughable degree, even dying doesn‘t end the game. Exploration of maps and levels is almost completely forbidden since all areas are made to be as linear as possible. Objectives are so clear that even kids with super ADHD will be able to pay attention enough to understand what needs to be done.
I get that Next Level Games was shooting for child/user friendly gameplay, but judging by my little brother who does fall into the game’s intended audience (from an age standpoint), kids these days are a lot more capable and advanced than I believe the developers are giving them credit. In the interest of fairness though, my brother has been into games for years so his personal videogame experience level may or may not be higher than the average child around the same age.
Friend or Foe starts with explaining that a meteor shower brought the venom suit to Earth. Now monsters, named Phantoms, made from extra symbiotic goo are appearing all across the planet. Your job as Spider-Man with the help of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury, is to obviously put a stop to these Phantoms. The trick to Spider-Man: Friend or Foe is that not only do you fight the Phantom goons, but you will also have to battle many of the characters from the Spidey comics. The roster of secondary characters in the game is actually one of the biggest pluses the title has to offer. Throughout the main campaign you’ll be able to fight along side the likes of Green Goblin, Sandman, Prowler, Rhino, Lizard Man, Scorpion, Silver Sable, Doctor Octopus, and Iron Fist just to name a few (all with their won set of powers).
As the title would suggest, once you defeat any of the secondary characters (all of whom are being mind controlled to be your enemy until you beat them) they become you ally. Upgrades are available for purchase for all selectable characters. If you don’t have a friend to take control of the sidekick it will be controlled by the CPU. The game does a well enough job assisting you in brawls, but one nice surprise in the game is that if you desire, you can switch playable characters. So if you’re jonesing to walk on the wild side with Blade and Venom or try out Scorpion’s projectile attacks for yourself, now you can, but overall, Spider-Man is still the best character.
Levels are full of your standard beat-’em-up combustible barrels, and destructible crates. Puzzles consist of standing on pressure sensitive floors and hitting switches. For the most part, to progress through the game all the player must do is defeat all the henchmen goons in a room and move on to the next. You can also find hidden rooms that you can then unlock as battle grounds if you and a buddy want to fight each other. It’s easy enough to find these “hidden rooms” because the game is so straight forward linear that if you do come across what looks to be a branching pathway you’ll instantly know you’re near an unlockable fighting arena. Problem is, as I mentioned earlier, the controls are so easy and bland, and the moves are so uninspired that no one could confuse any part of Friend of Foe as a real fighting game.
Visually, Spider-Man: Friend or Foe is a disappointment. Clearly the developers were going for a cartoony look for the kids, but the end result just feels dated. If you only saw someone playing the game without knowing the system, there’s a good chance you might think it was an early PS2 game (just to be clear, that’s two generations ago now). With older great cell drawn looking games on the market like, Jet Gring Radio, Okami, and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, there really is no excuse for Spider-Man not to look better graphically. Even forgetting the look, although areas and Phantom drones slightly change cosmetically, they’re still the same places and same handful of enemy types from beginning to end.
The dialogue is standard cheesiness for a mindless brawler. Parker has his trademarked corny one-liners. Pretty much all secondary characters are mute. They only really speak after you beat them and even then they only say things like “Where am I” or “What happened”. Cinemas can’t be skipped so you’ll have to sit through the supposed comic relief (like this game needs it) that takes place between Fury and his super computer. Only a very few parts are actually funny, a lot of older gamers (and I suspect a good deal of the younger ones) will be rolling their eyes at just how hit-and-mostly-miss the jokes are.
Spider-Man: Friend or Foe isn’t an awful game. It’s just a terribly forgettable game. Other than being able to fight as or along side some of Peter Parker’s long time enemies, the game does nothing worth remembering. And even that won’t matter much because the game has neither substance nor style, it’s purely superficial. Only children who are Spider-Man fanatics and who’ve just watched one of the Sidey movies will stick with this game through boring level after boring level. Friend or Foe could be a good weekend rental if that’s all that’s available. If you want a great brawler on the Wii though, buy some Wii points and purchase Sega’s excellent classic beat-‘em-up, Streets of Rage 2. It certainly not without it’s own flaws, but as far as pure brawlers go, it’s hard to beat Streets of Rage 2 without an M rating (that honor would go to Rockstar’s under appreciated PS2 and PSP game, The Warriors).