For all the fun you can have moving around, there's also plenty of combat to enjoy. You start with a fairly basic move set and expand it throughout the game by spending spider essence. You earn this resource by defeating enemies and completing the addictive level-specific challenges. In addition to new costumes and improved character attributes, you can purchase new attacks, throws, counters, and combos to beef up your arsenal to impressive levels. Unlocking new abilities is rewarding, and it ensures that you have a steady supply of new ways to flex your pugilistic power. This helps stave off the creeping sense of repetition that plagues some levels, as does the array of enemies stacked against you. Enemies vary between dimensions and levels, keeping you on your toes, and the various bosses usually require some figuring out (a task Madame Web is happy to help with). Taking down a big bad enemy is satisfying even when the fight mechanics aren't particularly clever (which they sometimes aren't), and the occasional first-person punching sequences are a simplistic yet invigorating diversion.
Sometimes all it takes is a good old-fashioned punch in the horribly mutated kisser.
Among Amazing, Ultimate, 2099, and Noir, there is a substantial amount of variety in Shattered Dimensions. As you play the campaign, the levels unlock in groups of four (one per dimension), offering you your choice of how to play through them. Each Spidey sticks to his own dimension, and there are some meaningful differences between them. The hard-hitting web powers are the highlight of the Amazing dimension, where you pound your enemies with web hammers and fists while wearing the classic red suit. Ultimate's lashing tentacle attacks spice up the combat in that dimension, and the more sarcastic tone makes these levels some of the funniest in the game. 2099 is set in a towering futuristic metropolis, which offers plenty of opportunity for free-falling sequences, and Noir takes Spidey back to a shadowy, dark world full of gangsters and tommy guns. Both Ultimate and 2099 feature a heightened combat mode that you can trigger to do extra damage and slow down time, respectively. These variants work well because they are relatively subtle--the solid core action remains very similar across Amazing, Ultimate, and 2099.
Noir is a different story. Rather than going in webs blazing, Spidey must crawl through the shadows and stealthily eliminate his enemies almost all the time, offering little opportunity for the fluid brawling of the other dimensions. Silently picking apart an enemy patrol is satisfying, as are some of the vicious silent takedowns. Yet the Noir stealth gimmick grows tired after a while, and your relative fragility becomes frustrating. It diverges from the brisk pace set by the other dimensions, and anyone who enjoyed last year's standout superhero game, Batman: Arkham Asylum, is likely to look at Noir as a shameless, not-so-successful imitation of that game's stellar stealth.
But if you're going to steal, steal from the best, and the Noir dimension definitely has some sneaky appeal, part of which is fueled by the excellent art design that brings every universe to life in a unique and vibrant way. The lively visuals and diverse gameplay help keep Shattered Dimensions moving along at a good pace, and you'll likely finish just shy of the 10-hour mark, having enjoyed your journey. After all, it's a lot of fun to feel like a superhero, and Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions creates this feeling very well. Small frustrations aside, this is not only a great Spider-Man game, it's also an entertaining action game that anyone with a penchant for superpowers can enjoy.