Game Reviews

Ultimate Spider-Man: Total Mayhem

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Ultimate Spider-Man: Total Mayhem

The Daily Bugle isn't the only publication trumpeting the arrival of Marvel's web-slinging wonder - supercharged superhero action will have you stuck on Ultimate Spider-Man: Total Mayhem.

It's fast, fluid, and fun - all the qualities you'd expect from a top notch action game. More than just a great comic book conversion, this is a title that outdoes the best in the genre, establishing a new standard for action gaming on iPhone and iPod touch that will be tough to beat.

Eye-catching visuals, levels packed with variety, and a killer combat system that will have you pining for just one more fight, Ultimate Spider-Man: Total Mayhem is one great game.

Action is his reward

Great action comes only as a result of great combat mechanics, and it's from this foundation that the game builds superb gameplay. Virtual buttons in the lower-right corner enable you to issue basic attacks, web attacks, and jump. Combining these in different ways yields a range of combos.

Mashing on the basic 'attack' button, for instance, sends Spider-Man's fists into a fury. Mix it up with a tap of the 'webbing' button and Spider-Man latches onto the targeted enemy, then pulls himself toward it for a bash attack. Jump while pummelling an enemy and Spider-Man kicks him into the air for a devastating aerial punch-out.

Special counterattacks and evades keep you on your toes, encouraging you to react with split-second timing as enemies try their own attacks. A lightning icon that pops up near the virtual analogue stick can be pressed to make Spider-Man evade incoming attacks or issue his own counter blows.

What a web he weaves

Evading whenever possible isn't always the best tactic, though. Each act of evasion or counterattack drains a small amount of webbing, as tracked via the white gauge beneath Spider-Man's health bar.

Since a special cyclone web attack can only be activated when the gauge is full, you're forced to evaluate whether evading enemy attacks or saving web for a powerful assault is more important in any given moment.

Together with a lickety-split tempo these off-the-cuff tactical decisions provide the game with nuanced depth. It's immensely satisfying, particularly in combination with the surprising variety in level design that has you beating up foes on the streets of New York, traipsing subway lines in pursuit of Venom, and swinging past skyscrapers.

Challenging boss battles contribute to that variety. Out of the game's 12 levels you can expect seven intense confrontations with the most notable super-villains from the series.

The first two battles are very difficult, although improving your strength, defence, and special attack abilities by investing red orbs eases the challenge when facing later foes.

Hanging strands of web

In general, the difficulty level is appropriate, even if some polish is necessary to smooth out rough areas. For example, it's common to get hit during an evade because Spider-Man's escape is blocked by a wall and the game won't move in the opposite direction. Other times the evade icon appears too late to be of use.

Outside combat, the rigidity of jumping makes the occasional platforming sequence feel like an interruption to the action. To be clear, these sections - swinging through the New York skyline, hopping across oscillating electrified platforms, climbing walls - are never annoying. They just don't have the same appeal as combat.

The game is absolutely stunning, far surpassing previous efforts to exploit the high resolution iPhone 4 display. Performance on older handsets, namely iPhone 3G and third-generation iPod touch, is solid.

The glossy graphics alone make Ultimate Spider-Man: Total Mayhem worth considering, but the fun gameplay will have you sticking around. No other iPhone and iPod touch action game offers combat with such speed and variety. Even if you're not a fan of Spider-Man, you're sure to find plenty to like in this fun game.

Ultimate Spider-Man: Total Mayhem

Ultimate Spider-Man: Total Mayhem is fantastic fun, offering the speed and variety of a top notch action game with the vibrant colour and characters of a great comic book