Thursday, April 26, 2012

Spider-Man & Venom: Maximum Carnage (SNES)

Rating: 3 out of 5
Pros: Tight and smooth controls, great comic cutscenes
Cons: No co-op mode, limited variety of enemies

Spider-Man & Venom: Maximum Carnage is a surprisingly decent game (considering their track record) developed by LJN/Acclaim for the Super Nintendo (SNES). Like most of the games based on comic books (Batman Forever, The Death and Return of Superman), it uses a standard side scrolling beat-em-up format. While you get to control Venom as well as Spider-Man in this game, you can only do so one at a time. There is no multiplayer co-op mode, which is a little disappointing. Spider-Man is slightly faster while Venom is slightly stronger, but other than that there's basically no gameplay difference between them. I find it noteworthy that my game cartridge is completely red in color, though I have also seen it in the standard grey cartridge as well.
The gameplay is pretty standard. Defeat all the enemies in the screen, and follow the indicator arrow to the next screen, then repeat the process until you reach the end of the level. There are only a handful of different enemies, but at least they're all distinct. There's a random thug with a trench coat, another who looks like a skater punk with sunglasses, some fat guy, a random guy with an umbrella, another guy with a gun and finally some chick with long hair. Enemies are also given random names (Mike, Tony, Lizzie, etc.) instead of just being called thugs or punks, which is a nice touch.
You have the standard assortment of kicks, punches and throws, as well as flips and a special attack. You also have a power attack that you can use periodically if your attacks are accurate enough. In addition to these, you have some attacks specific to the game. These include slinging webs to swing from, pulling enemies to you, tying an enemy up for a moment or even creating a shield with your web to block attacks. The different moves aren't too hard to pull off, mostly requiring only a couple of buttons to be pressed, which really makes the controls feel fluid and responsive most of the time.
Most power-ups aren't real common, but they include hearts to refill your life bar, extra lives, extra continues and some nifty super hero summons which are quite useful. Picking up a super hero power-up lets you summon that hero to aid you twice for each one you pick up. The super heroes perform differently depending on whether you're playing as Spider-Man or as Venom, but nearly all of their attacks damage multiple enemies on the screen. There are exceptions however, such as being healed if you summon Iron Fist while playing as Spider-Man. There are 7 different super heroes in total, plus Spider-Man and Venom (which can summon each other this way but obviously not themselves), bringing the total to 8.
Half of the stage bosses are just slightly stronger versions of the few generic enemies in the game, and the rest of the time you're fighting Carnage, Shriek, Doppleganger, Carrion and/or Demogoblin. The difficulty level is just about right for them in my opinion; a couple are a little bit hard, and others are ridiculously easy if you have the right strategy or have a super hero to summon. The stages are also linear, so you can't really get lost or do anything out of order. On the other hand there are a couple of really annoying parts...
Like stage 2, "The Climb". Shriek sits on top of the building shooting down energy beams at you, and if they hit you they take away a lot of health and knock you off the building back to the street. It's actually a pretty short level, but it annoys me to no end. You do get an icon over your head as your spidey sense goes off and you have time to move, but I get hit half the time anyway. Since you have a limited number of lives and continues, messing up this early in the game is pointless and you may as well just start the game over and try again. After you figure out the correct strategies and get the timing right for everything, you can probably run through the game in about an hour, though it usually takes me a couple.
The graphics are actually decent in Maximum Carnage. Granted, there weren't many different characters or enemies so there was more time to spend on each one, and they had pre-existing comic work to derive from, but still everything was mostly detailed and distinct. There was enough color to be visually appealing, but it was toned down and muted enough to give a darker feeling to the game. The story cutscenes were really nice, some of the artwork taken directly from the comics the game was based on. The sound effects were average SNES fare; thwacks, bumps, etc. The background music was actually a pretty nifty rock piece from the band Green Jelly. It was a bit overused, but I enjoyed it and it fit the game quite well.
Spider-Man & Venom: Maximum Carnage is a decent but average game. It lacks some customization and co-op gameplay found in other beat-em-ups, has very few different enemies to fight, and does have a few annoying parts that seem impossible until you figure out the exact strategy and get the timing down, but it's not bad overall. On the other hand, it's going for about $15 online right now, so I wouldn't rush out to buy it. Find it at a flea market or yard sale and it's worth a couple play-throughs though.

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