For gamers, summer blows. Saving up their releases for the holiday buying season, game publishers rarely release any good games during the warmer months.
But fall is here, and fresh on the green heels of the well-received The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, two more adaptations of Marvel comic books—Ultimate Spider-Man and X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse—have hit the GameCube, Xbox, and PS2 in the past few weeks. Thankfully, both games are worth the wait, and hopefully, they're indicative of a solid gaming season to come.
Based on (to a microscopic degree) the Ultimate Spider-Man comic, developer Treyarch's game boasts slick graphics inspired by the book's penciller, Mark Bagley, and a great script by the book's writer, Brian Michael Bendis. For the most part, it's a blast—though an oversimplification of Spidey's web slinging (in Treyarch's previous Spider-Man games, the swinging was fun, smooth, and fast—not so here) and an overabundance of tired chase missions detract from the game's fun story, excellent characterizations, and light, cartoony feel.
In a completely different type of game, Raven Software's X-Men Legends II allows you to mix and match your favorite X-Men (or your favorite X-villains) in a game that initially feels like a Gauntlet-style hack 'n' slash. But since you can switch between four characters on the fly, you're given some options: freeze an enemy solid with Iceman, then switch to controlling Wolverine and slash him into ice cubes. But as much fun as it is to constantly switch characters, Legends really shines when you get two or three friends over and have each person control a member of the team—it's a fun way to play, and one that's smoother and more refined than it was in Legends' predecessor. All in all, Legends is a more cohesive experience than Ultimate Spider-Man, but I dug Spidey's game more, if only because of its spirit, character, and humor. Still, it's impossible to go wrong with either, which means it's a good time to be both a comic geek and a gamer. Not like summer. Which, as mentioned above, sucks. ERIK HENRIKSEN