Yet another comic strip hero swings his way onto the pixel palette. We're used to seeing superhero conversions as an excuse to bash every arch-villain in the known universe, but this particular incarnation of Spiderman is not an all-action romp at all - it's a puzzle game.
The game is played on static screens, each of which is given a name such as Bad Moon Rising or Cardboard City. The idea is to move through these screens in an attempt to find Mysterio, who's got his grubby hands on your Mary Jane. Mysterio is the master of illusion and this is an important point later in the game because some of the screens aren't what they seem.
To work your way through, you often need to explore screens again and again, discovering hidden switches to turn off laser beams and thus gain access to more of the screen. It's only by firing a web or walking over the top of a switch that you can activate it, and if a laser beam stands between you and a particular switch then you need to find another switch to turn off the laser before you can reach the one behind it. The switches are an essential element to the game because they're employed throughout to call lifts, conjure up floating rafts and even kill the handful of mindless zombies scouring some screens.
Whenever you fall into the path of these zombies or get stuck by a laser beam, you lose valuable energy. There are four clapper-board screens hidden in the game and only if you land on the floor of any of these is your energy slowly restored.
As more and more emphasis is put on the visuals in a game, so the sprites grow larger and larger, often at the expense of a decent game. Activision's conversion of Altered Beast, for example, certainly has massive sprites which scream at you to take notice but sadly the action is slow and the animation abysmal. In Spidey, by contrast, the sprites are deliberately kept small in an attempt to give you a larger playing area. And since the sprites are so small there's enough memory space to hold 256 frames of animation for Spiderman alone. Complementing the graphics are simple spot sound effects during the action and - if you own a double-sided ST - sound chip loading music.
There are several things likely to put superhero addicts off the game. First, it's not the beat-'em-up we've come to expect from superhero licences. Second, you're never given any clues as to the switches you need to hit, so you can spend too long staring around a screen wondering where on earth you go from here.
With practice, however, you can inch your way through the screens, and as long as you have the foresight to keep a map of your progress it's easy enough to keep track of your location.
The biggest complaint with the game is that all the problems are centred on switches. It's a pity other types of hurdles couldn't be included to really test your skill. Still, as you become more and more experienced you not only get the hang of it but even discover short cuts through the maze, increasing your enjoyment of the game. This is an unusual interpretation of the Spiderman licence but you do need to be a puzzle addict to enjoy it.