Our Spider Senses are Tingling! The Amazing Spider-Man for the C64 Reviewed!

For this review, I decided to check out a game that I remembered featuring on a Commodore Format Power Pack tape (issue 3: the first issue I remember buying). The game featured some innovative mechanics for the time, such as the ability to walk on walls, as well as possessing a quirky art style, so I decided to check out the full game.

Starring Marvel Comic’s famous web-slinging hero, the game begins with Mysterio, super-villain and arch-nemesis of Spider-Man, taking over Rockwell movie studios. Not only that, he kidnaps Spidey’s long-time squeeze, Mary-Jane, holding hostage somewhere in the facility. It’s up to Spider-Man to infiltrate the studio, overcome the various traps laying in wait and put an end to Mysterio’s nefarious plans.

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Whereas most games based on superheroes tend to be fighting games, this one bucks the trend by being a platformer-cum-puzzle-solving affair. The player must guide Spider-Man through a series of interconnected screens that make up the various studio lots, each of which contains switches, platforms and all manner of traps that must be overcome in order to progress.

Of course, puzzles and traps are not the only things that our web-slinging hero has to deal with. Mysterio has managed to instil life into many of the props and characters in the studios, turning them into mindless minions all out for Spidey’s blood. The game doesn’t feature any actual combat, other than the ability to stun opponents temporarily by shooting them with a web; the only way to deal with opponents is to avoid them altogether.

Fortunately, our hero can make use of his trademark spider skills to keep him out of danger. Just as in the comics, Spider-Man is able to clamber over obstacles, stick to walls and even walk across ceilings, helping him to stay out of harms reach, as well as enabling him to reach switches and exits to other rooms. Although a little clunky, I think that the climbing mechanics are surprisingly well executed and intuitive to use, which is fortunate considering just how much wall-climbing you’ll actually be doing.

Does whatever a spider can!

Things are not always plain sailing, however, as you will occasionally encounter a surface covered in slippery, green slime that prevents you from climbing a wall or ceiling. Being unable to stick to these surfaces means you’ll often need to think about how best to proceed, often forcing you into backtracking and finding another way past the problem. It’s in situations like these that Spider-Man can try using his web-slinging powers to create a rope, allowing him to suspend himself from platforms, or to swing across the room. It’s perfectly possible to detach the web mid swing, then to fire another one out and to swing across the entire room in true Spider-Man style. It’s a really cool feature to be sure, but also one that should be used with caution; it’s very easy to get carried away, mistime a crucial swing and propel poor old Spidey into some lava-filled pit in error.

Fortunately, Spider-Man is a pretty robust kind of guy and can absorb a reasonable amount of damage before succumbing. Remaining health is represented by the red and yellow striped bar at the top of the screen, which is drained whenever coming into contact with enemies or hazardous parts of the environment. Periodically, Spider-Man will encounter special ‘save’ rooms that contain a giant clapperboard (hitting home the fact this is supposed to be a movie studio) that will save the player’s progress, but also recharges lost energy by standing on the sparkly floor; it’s perfectly possible to to revisit these rooms at any time to top up on health before setting out again.


One of the things I particularly like about the game is the art style. The various characters in the game might be tiny, but there’s a surprising amount of detail present, not least in the main Spider-Man sprite itself. I’m not sure whether it’s the way that the oversized head and tiny body makes Spidey look like one of those bobble-head figures so popular these days, or the way he stomps around when he walks, but the end result is something rather endearing and gives the game a sense of personality.

Sadly, the game isn’t without it’s faults. The game runs at a very sedentary pace to say the least; Spider-Man doesn’t exactly walk anywhere in a hurry to begin with, but it’s not uncommon for the frame-rate to hit rock-bottom on screens featuring multiple sprites and moving platforms. Those looking for adrenaline, quick-fire thrills will be sorely disappointed.

Another point of contention is the game’s difficulty. Although things start out simply enough, the latter part of the game sees puzzles that span multiple screens, requiring a fair amount of back-tracking and trial and error to solve (the puzzle involving the tipping of the cowboy hats probably being the worse of these). It wouldn’t be so bad if there was at least SOME form of hint system present in the game giving you a clue as to how a puzzle might be solved, but there is nothing.

That’s a wrap!

Perhaps the most infuriating issue I found, however, were the rooms that triggered a one-time sequence where a platform moves across a room, or a character walks across a switch or trigger and failing to react in time leaves you in a position where it’s impossible to continue. In these situations, the only real option is to deliberately kill Spider-Man and start again.

Finally, the game’s sound (or lack of) deserves a special mention. The game is completely devoid of music and there’s little but the most basic of sound effects in the game. These are typically reserved for when a switch gets tripped, or when Spider-Man is taking damage, but that’s all there is; you might think that what you’re hearing is white-noise or static, but those are the actual effects!

Even with these various problems, I still find that the game has a certain charm. Whilst the obscurity of the puzzles and sedentary pace as which the game plays out will probably turn most players off long before the end, the climbing and web-swinging mechanics were quite unique at the time it was released (at least for an 8-bit machine). As infuriating as it can be at times, Spider-Man on the C64 is a title that is still worth checking out.

Author: Alec
PC gamer, C64 fan, Amiga advocate, creator of longplay retrogaming videos on YouTube, occasional wordsmith - follow me on Twitter https://twitter.com/Al82_Retro

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