With teaser trailers for much-anticipated movies The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man posted online within mere days of each other last week, it got us thinking.
Which of these comic book heroes boasts the best library of games on portable formats, and who fits into the interactive format best?
We’ve selected what we consider to be the best outings for these crime-fighting legends on six different platforms – Game Boy, GBC, GBA, DS, PSP, and iOS – to determine which of the pair is the definitive superhero of pocket gaming.
Let the virtual batarang barrages and web slinging begin!
Round 1: Game Boy
Batman: The Animated Series vs The Amazing Spider-Man
No contest here.
The Game Boy is actually blessed with two top titles starring The Dark Knight - Batman: The Animated Series and the licensed version of the 1989 Tim Burton movie Batman.
The former is marginally better due to its superior graphics, varied levels (nearly every main villain makes an appearance aside from Two-Face), and easy-to-grasp controls, including the ever-useful wall jump.
Spider-Man isn't so lucky on this format, however, and has the misfortune of starring in one of the worst video game trilogies of all time. On any platform. Period.
All three entries in The Amazing Spider-Man series on Game Boy are cursed with unresponsive controls, sky-high difficulty, and woeful level design. When you realise that infamously diabolical game publisher LJN was involved in every single one of them, this comes as no real surprise.
Winner: Batman (1-0)
Round 2: Game Boy Color
Batman: Chaos in Gotham vs Spider-Man: The Sinister Six
Thankfully, this is a much closer fight.
Both games benefit from the addition of colour, with Chaos in Gotham boasting an intriguingly pared-down art style and some top-notch animation.
The addition of vehicle sections also helps to break up the occasionally frustrating side-scrolling sections.
Spider-Man actually starred in two solid side-scrolling fighters during the GBC era, the best of which is The Sinister Six.
Although a little repetitive by today's standards, it offers up some satisfying scrapping, helped no end by the use of speech bubbles such as ‘biff,’ ‘boof,’ and ‘shap’ (no, me neither) to accompany your punches and kicks.
These kind of 'colourful' presentational quirks meant it was a big step forward from the Game Boy Spidey outings. Both Chaos in Gotham and The Sinister Six aren’t masterpieces, but acted as decent fan service at the time.
Winner: Draw (1-0)
Round 3: Game Boy Advance
Batman Begins vs Spider-Man: Mysterio's Menace
Batman Begins on GBA echoes the film of the same name in quite a few ways – murky, slow-paced, and occasionally just dull.
It’s solid fare, alright, but feels like a stripped-down GBA-style Splinter Cell at times, and struggles from a schizophrenic personality. It can’t decide whether to focus on scrapping or stealth, and ends up pleasing no one as a result. Two-Faced, indeed.
Spider-Man, on the other (web-firing) hand, got the criminally underrated Mysterio’s Menace on GBA. Despite being a 2D title, there’s a great feeling of freedom throughout, with multiple routes and the ability to crawl on nearly any wall or surface.
With comic book quality cutscenes breaking up its action, Mysterio’s Menace remains top web-slinging fun today. Even if it is as short as a Bruce Campbell cameo.Winner: Spider-Man (1-1)
Round 4: DS
Batman: The Brave and the Bold vs Spider-Man: Web of Shadows
A light-hearted Adam West-style romp, Batman: The Brave and the Bold is a satisfyingly robust title. Possessing chunky but detailed animation, weighty combat, and a wide range of locations, the game is only undone by its utter lack of difficulty.
Taking roughly two hours to bish, bash, and ka-pow your way through it, Batman: The Brave and the Bold poses a 'challenge' even kids would find insulting.
Web of Shadows, meanwhile, presents us with one of those rare cases in which the DS version of a game is actually better than its home console counterpart.
The ability to switch from regular Spider-Man to his black-suited ringer lends combat an interesting twist, whilst the Castlevania-esque labyrinth levels are an interesting deviation from the norm.
And it’s all delivered in a highly slick and confident fashion.
Winner: Spider-Man (1-2)
Round 5: PSP
Lego Batman: The Videogame vs Spider-Man 2
Lego Batman: The Videogame is an impressively accurate port of the PS2 version of the same name - that is, aside from the crippling lack of co-operative play.
That’s like Batman without the Joker. Unthinkable.
If you can somehow overlook this flaw, then there’s a dependable enough title to enjoy here, with showers of Lego studs to collect at every turn, a huge cast of villains and heroes, and charming cutscenes.
It’s just that without a human-controlled sidekick working with you, it all seems a little redundant.
Equally flawed is Spider-Man 2, which sadly doesn’t get anywhere near matching the quality of the film it’s based on.
It has its positive points, sure, such as a faithful adherence to the movie’s plot and the use of the PSP’s extra graphical muscle (swinging from building to building is exhilarating for example), but it suffers from some overly restrictive design.
There’s too much repetition in fights, not enough opportunities to explore, and a needlessly irritating camera.
Winner: Draw (1-2)
Round 6: iOS
Lego Batman: Gotham City Games vs Ultimate Spider-Man: Total Mayhem
Batman is curiously underrepresented on iOS, with the shallow Lego-licensed Gotham City Games the only title available.
A collection of simple challenges, it’s a real Joel Schumacher of a game. The fact there was a superior Lego Batman platformer released on J2ME mobile phones in the same year makes this bland compendium an even more bitter pill to swallow.
Batman can take some consolation from the fact he probably would have lost this round regardless of his efforts, since Gameloft's Ultimate Spider-Man: Total Mayhem is one of the best action-platformers available on iPhone and iPad (and, yes, Android).
With deep yet accessible combat, a wonderfully colourful comic book art-style, and a large variety of challenges, Total Mayhem draws you into its web and makes sure you stay there.
Winner: Spider-Man (1-3)
Overall Winner: Spider-Man
So, there we have it. It seems as if Spider-Man is generally better suited to the portable gaming scene, with his unique blend of fighting, swinging, and web flinging a perfect match for portable systems. Most of the time.
That’s not to say Batman's handheld games are all bad, of course, but when it comes to embracing good old ka-pow comic book sensibilities, Spider-Man is your, er, man, err, spider.[Disagree with our final judgement? Please let us know in the comments section below.]
Want more? Check out our growing collection of Ultimate Spider-Man: Total Mayhem articles!