Spider-Man is dependable when it comes to fighting crime, but he's as sure as day when it comes to showing up on all the latest video game systems. Sure enough, one of the many launch titles for the new Sony PSP is a 3D action game based on last summer's blockbuster movie sequel (for that matter, the movie itself is also available for the PSP's proprietary universal media disc format). It's a pleasant but fairly simple and short-lived experience that takes cues from 2002's Spider-Man: The Movie game, as well as last year's console companion piece to Spidey's movie debut.
Worried about Spider-Man overkill? Worry not: Spider-Man 2 for the PSP doesn't overstay its welcome.
Spider-Man 2 consists of nearly 20 loosely interconnected levels, which touch on the main story points of the film. Spider-Man first has to confront several other villains before the token final battle with Dr. Octopus. While each level is really only a few minutes long, there's actually a good bit of variety from one to the next. You'll go from rescuing hostages from the clutches of the maniacal Mysterio and his weird museum, to tailing Doc Ock across the NYC skyline, preventing him from causing calamity on the unsuspecting populace far below. Along the way, you'll beat up tons of goons, and explore indoor and wide-open outdoor environments. Many levels involve a race against the clock, which makes the rather bite-sized missions feel all the more rushed. The game breaks up the more-standard levels with several fairly interesting showdowns against Spidey's nemeses, and all in all, the variety and brisk pacing is part of the reason you'll probably end up blowing through the experience in no time.
Though this version of Spider-Man 2 doesn't take place in a huge open-ended environment like its console counterparts, it does often deliver the sense of the character's ability to perform fast-moving, gravity-defying acrobatics. You control Spidey using the PSP's little thumbstick, which feels a bit stiff and unresponsive at first, but eventually does the job just fine. Meanwhile, the D pad is used to slowly move the camera perspective around your character. Since using the D pad means having to let off the thumbstick (unless you happen to have more than one thumb on your left hand), it's not at all practical--so it's fortunate that you don't have to mess with the game's camera very often. It's possible to lock onto your nearest foe, execute various punch and kick combos, jump high into the air, shoot webbing at your enemies, and, of course, webswing all over the place. As you pass missions, you'll also earn points with which you can buy some new combos and other moves, and with which you can boost Spidey's strength, maximum health, and a few other stats. However, since the entire game can be finished in a matter of a few hours (counting multiple retries on the tougher levels), these role-playing elements feel pretty shallow. Still, the game is a little better with them included.
The combat in Spider-Man 2 is simple but pretty fun. You don't need to make extensive use of all of Spidey's different attacks and combos, but there's a decent selection to work with if you want. Most of all, the game succeeds at making you feel like you're in Spider-Man's shoes, since you're able to scale any surface (ceilings included), use your webbing like a zip line to make quick getaways, ravel up your enemies in a web cocoon, and other nifty maneuvers. Again, though, there's really not a lot of content in which you'll get to experiment with all these different abilities. Ironically, the game includes a fairly comprehensive (and optional) step-by-step training mode, which explains all the different things Spider-Man can do. But in the same time it would take you to go through the entire tutorial, you could probably rush through the first quarter of the game.