It’s pretty clear that if professional parkour was a thing, we could rewrite the origin of Spider-Man and make his “power and responsibility” dilemma a choice between doing that to make big money and fighting crime.
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I say that because Spider-Man Unlimited puts his powers to good use in a game that is ostensibly an endless runner, but also much more than that. Not only did Gameloft wisely incorporate web-swinging, wall-crawling and other creative uses of Spidey’s trademark agility into the action, it also used the upcoming Spider-Verse comic book event as a muse to cook up a story that pulls in many different versions of the web-swinger to fight against a multi-dimensional lineup of the Sinister Six. Throw in a unique art style and plenty of trademark wisecracks and the result is a good time, even if you’re jaded on runners by now.
As with all of Marvel’s mobile games of the last few years, Spider-Man Unlimited has a story that revolves around ISO-8, a mystery element from beyond that can make super-powered beings even stronger. The Sinister Six has opened up a portal to other dimensions, essentially calling in themselves for back-up. To fight back against an invasion of Manhattan, Nick Fury grudgingly asks Spider-Man for assistance (we’ll assume the Avengers are tied up in other games) and even more grudgingly decides to use S.H.I.E.L.D. technology to create another portal to draft alternate Spider-Men to aid in the defense. As a clearly delighted Spidey says, “I love me some me.”
The introductory stages play out in comic book panels and are also voice acted, which is a pleasant surprise. The game also gives you unlimited energy until you level up the original Spider-Man to level 10, which is plenty of time to get your costumed feet wet with the nitty gritty of the gameplay. Most of it is what you’d expect from a runner: swiping to dodge, jump or duck under obstacles while also defeating henchmen along the way. Some creative interludes force you to web-swing with one-touch controls or use tilt action to crawl up buildings or free-fall back down to street level.
In the game’s story mode, some stages will require you to defeat a certain number of enemies or collect items you’ll find during your travels. Others are essentially boss battles after you’ve run for a certain distance, where you’ll have to smack S.H.I.E.L.D. symbols into villains like the Green Goblin, Vulture and Electro to weaken them up before finishing them off up close and personal. Since the bad guys come in alternate versions as well, it’s fun to see the interaction between Spidey and some of the familiar yet different villains.
A big draw is the many different variations of Spider-Man that Gameloft packed into the game: 14 at launch, and over 20 when you consider than some of them come in multiple rarities (Common, Uncommon, Rare or Epic, ranging from three to six stars on the rarity scale). Yes, this is another game that includes a collectible card mechanic, and you’ll need to level up and fuse together different cards to help your most powerful Spider-Men reach their full potential. That’s pretty much par for the course with these types of games. What gets kind of depressing as you progress further through the story mode is that you’ll need to have a Rare or Epic Spider-Man to tackle later chapters, or issues as they’re called here.
You can probably see where this is headed, since Spider-Man Unlimited is a free download supported by in-app purchases. Buying more ISO-8 can help you get the rarer Spider-Men first, but the game does offer quite a few ways to earn extra quantities, including side missions for specific Spider-Men and both daily challenges and multi-day events. Throw in the Unlimited mode that you can use to level up Spideys whenever you want, and not only are there plenty of reasons to keep playing, they all work together in a sensible manner.
So is there anything that would keep Peter Parker want to make a sarcastic quip about his own game? It’s not the graphics, which are stylized goodness of the cel-shaded variety. Instead, it would probably be the restrictive energy system, which limits you to five runs in a session unless you wait (10 minutes per unit) or spend ISO-8 for a quick refill. Since this is a runner, you can perish pretty quickly with just a careless swipe or having your thumb slip off your touchscreen.
Still, that’s forgivable in the sense that so many other mobile games do it too. And it’s probably selling Spider-Man Unlimited short calling it a runner, even though that’s a lot shorter than calling it a runner-swinger-crawler-faller-brawler (that does have a nice cadence to it though!). If Gameloft can keep adding new Spider-Men and content to the mix, as it’s promised to do every week or two, this is one game that should keep both avid mobile gamers and Spider-Man fans coming back for more.
Pull the trigger on Spider-Man Unlimited if you …
- Are an avid web-head who loves the idea of using the most playable Spider-Men ever in a video game
- Enjoy runners but are looking for some new twists on a crowded genre
- Want to see the latest in the Marvel mobile game ISO-8 saga
Don’t pull the trigger if …
- You simply can’t bear playing another runner, no matter what’s done to keep them fresh
- Can’t get past the energy mechanic
- Are offended that Spider-Ham wasn’t one of the Spider-Men available at launch