Comic artist/author Todd McFarlane gets much of the credit for revitalizing Spidey’s comic career in the late eighties and early nineties, giving the character a more stylized, contorted and high-flying look. Spider-Man: Total Mayhem web-slings right into that tradition by splashing the wall-crawler with a crisp cel-shaded art style and kinetic, eye-popping animation. It’s been out for awhile, but the iPhone version is currently sale-priced (but today’s the last day, so hurry) and Marvel vs Capcom 3 has us on a comics kick, so this seemed a good time to give it a shout out.
You control Spidey with a virtual a joystick on the left of the screen and buttons for jump/web sling, normal attack and web attack on the right. Like any comic brawler, Total Mayhem's true thrust is its combat, which we found impossibly entertaining. Mashing any combination of normal and web attacks will make Spidey bound all over the screen while pounding streams of henchmen with two-fisted spider-stings, whirling kicks and mid-air web flings. When enemies close in on Spider-Man to land a blow, a counter attack button flashes. Hitting it in time causes the wall-crawler to dodge in slow motion while pelting the attacker with gobs of webbing.
Boss fights were similarly fun, if predictable, with just enough variety whether it was dousing Sandman with hydrant water, dodging Rhino's charge attack, knocking Doc Ock's tentacles out from underneath him, chasing Venom across moving train cars or powering down Electro's generators. The final boss, Green Goblin, struck us as a bit more of an Incredible Hulk clone than a flying pumpkin-bomber. Once you've beaten these evil-doers in the campaign mode you'll unlock the black suit which adds spiked tendrils to Spidey's already impressive combat arsenal.
But like any fanboy worth his life-sized Mary Jane Watson cutout, we have our gripes with Total Mayhem. First are the game’s few platforming sections, which suffer from unresponsive controls. Tweaking the stick’s sensitivity and repositioning it in the options menu mostly alleviates this problem, but it’s still exasperating when you move the stick diagonally and hit jump only to have Webhead miss his target widely; quite un-Spidey-like. Luckily, platforming sections are rare. Not so rare are the voice acting and dialogue. Most of Spider-Man's meant-to-be-comical one-liners fall flat, and the voice talent sounds a bit nasal even for mild-mannered Peter Parker.
Still, these concerns didn’t keep us from discovering there's quite a bit of replay potential in Total Mayhem's four difficulty levels. The hardest, insane mode, gets unlocked after your first play-through. There's also a boss rush mode, which is a bit of a misnomer since you can't plow through the fights sequentially; you just fight bosses one by one and attempt to best your time on each. What will keep real true-believers coming back for more, though, are the items hidden throughout the game. Each item unlocks an iconic comic book cover from Spidey’s adventures, which can then be viewed in the main menu’s art gallery.
Feb 14, 2011