Freed from the constrictions of a movie license that arguably stymied their previous stab at a superhero game, Iron Man 2, Gameloft come out swinging with Ultimate Spider-Man: Total Mayhem. Boasting sumptous visuals that could have been ripped straight out the pages of a comic book, intuitive controls, fast and furious combo-driven combat, and any amount of breathtaking beat ’em up action as Spidey goes up against practically every enemy in his rogue’s gallery, this one should appeal to both the web-head’s legion of fan boys and iPhone gamers looking for a decent 3D platformer-cum-brawler.
Blockbuster production values are evident from the word go.Total Mayhem begins with a very snazzy animated intro that nails the comic book aesthetic perfectly and also serves to set the authentically over-the-top plot in motion. Here’s the dealio: Thanks to a mysterious explosion, a veritable who’s who of supervillains have escaped the Triskellion building, a maximum security prison, and are proceeding to take a bite out of the Big Apple in their own inimitable style. With his spider sense a-tingling, Peter Parker strips down to the iconic red and blue spandex and swings into action.
You’re barely given a chance to drool over the game’s eye-poppingly crisp, vibrant visuals before a gang of knife wielding goons arrive on the scene to welcome Spidey to this not so friendly neighbourhood.
Cue some of the fastest and most fluid combat ever to grace the iPhone. Ass-kickings are dished out via a pitch-perfect control scheme, with Gameloft capturing Spider-Man’s distinctive fighting style faultlessly. A virtual d-pad handles movement, while a trio of action buttons take care of delivering kicks, punches and shooting webs. Skillfully stringing together combos (or indeed frantically mashing the buttons) sees our hero pull off an array of lightening quick moves, the likes of encasing a baddie in webbing, then using him as a human bowling ball to take down other foes.
In addition to your mad kung-fu skills and web-slinging prowess, you can also make use of your spider sense. Gameloft implement this super power in a really neat way – tapping a flashing onscreen icon at just the right moment during a brawl triggers a Bullet-Time-y special move, which sees Spidey narrowly avoid an enemy attack and retaliate all in one seamless, slo-mo feat of acrobatics.
These frequent scraps are visually stunning, with Spider-Man careening around environments and ricocheting off walls like some sort of turbo-charged pinball. Environments also get quite spectacularly torn asunder as teams of bad guys try their damnedest to squish him.
The bone-crunching combat is obviously a highlight, but, of course, this being a Spider-Man game, swinging between buildings and wall-crawling also plays a big part. Platforming interludes task the player with suitably heroic fare like scaling burning buildings, navigating villain’s lairs rigged with deadly lasers, and rescuing trussed up New Yorker’s from perilous situations.
Levels all follow the same, some might say, linear path, with Spidey swinging along a pre-defined route, knocking the stuffing out of a diverse array of baddies, saving a few damsels or dudes in distress, and going up against one of seven big bosses. Yet the game honestly never feels repetitive, largely thanks to its irresistible sense of fun and the fact it rattles along at a fair clip, leaping assuredly from one explosive action set-piece to next. Memorable moments include a spot of fisticuffs with the slobbering Venom atop a speeding train, a hair-raising encounter with Electro, and high-flying battle against your arch nemesis the Green Goblin.
Also of note is the games well implemented RPG style levelling up system, which allows you to trade in the glowing orbs dropped by felled enemies for new skills or strength upgrades. Deciding when and which abilities to give a boost to adds a tangible element of strategy to the proceedings.
There are plenty of incentives for repeat play-throughs, including finding each and every piece of excellent artwork Gameloft have stashed around the city (can’t help but think how much cooler actual digital comics been), attempting to beat the game on numerous difficulty levels, and unlocking Spidey’s infamous black suit.
All in all, Total Mayhem offers up one of the fullest and most downright enjoyable gaming experiences I’ve ever had on an iPhone. Let’s hope this is the start of a fruitful relationship between Marvel and Gameloft, because I for one would love to see them tackle some more characters from the big M’s superhero stable. Imagine, if you will, a Hero of Sparta-esque hack ‘n’ slash game starring Wolverine, or The Hulk going on a rampage in an open-world setting à la that of the Gangstar series. ‘Nuff said.
iFanzine Verdict: Gameloft weave together all-out action, exhilerating platforming sections, and combat mechanics polished within an inch of their life to dizzyingly brilliant effect. Ultimate Spider-Man: Total Mayhem is hands-down the best super-hero game on this platform and an absolutely essential addition to your app collection!