We’ve all been there. It’s the end of the month. Finances are a little bleak. Your pals are raving about the new smash-hit title, and you don’t even have the console with which to play it on, never mind the game. Wow, I probably should have led with that. No PS4 AND no money? Ooft. Sorry, champ. But it’s okay. Just because you can’t afford to play Spider-Man on the PS Quad doesn’t mean you can’t have some web-slinging fun with New York’s favourite son. Here’s a short guide from your friends at Ludotempus, master purveyors of everything independent and retro, saying “yes, you can’t afford to play Spider-Man, but no, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.” Here’s some alternatives for you webheads.
Spider-Man 2, 2004 (PS2, Xbox, GameCube)
Alright, alright. Let’s get the obvious part out of the way: Spider-Man 2 is at the forefront of great video game tie-ins, because it seamlessly brought Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man to life in a way that other video games simply hadn’t done. Without sounding corny, there’s two major characters to Spider-Man – the hero himself and the city of New York, and I think this game thrives because it does both justice. You’re able to swing about with such freedom, such abandon, such limitlessness that this game becomes a really breathless and intoxicating experience. Other titles saw you controlling Spider-Man. Here, you simply are Spidey in how effortless it feels to dip and dive through the city streets, which feel truly alive – this was the first Spider-Man game to really give a true account of the world around Spider-Man, instead of near-exclusively forcing our hero into cramped hallways and darkened warehouses. As such, the open-world and the fluidity of control play smoothly together, which makes this a game still worth looking at 14 years on (Insomniac certainly did), especially if you’re a Tobey Maguire mark like I am. You can still pick up this game for a couple of pounds/dollars second hand, but for the love of Lee, do NOT buy the PC version. It’s an entirely different game and made from nightmares.
Spider-Man, 2002 (PS2)
Now, we just covered this game’s younger and (debatably) more attractive sibling, which might have you wondering, “Why is he talking about an inferior prequel?”. It’s exactly that mindset that I’d like to expel, that this game has nothing to offer. This game might be showing how venerable it is 16 years on with clunky controls and shoddy camera work baring their wisdom teeth, and the level-based linearity hasn’t aged as nicely as the open-world design of Spider-Man 2, but there’s still a lot of entertainment to be had with this title, which is a charming title that’ll last you about 10 hours, offering a reasonable expansion on the events of the film. It’s fun and well-presented, with serviceable combat and web-swinging, guest appearances from lesser-spotted villains like Vulture and Shocker, and great sound design with dialogue provided by Mr Maguire, as well as surprisingly great, memory-touching music, considering this game was only ever intended as a “cheap” tie-in. There’s also a horde of extras for fans of the comic books, such as scrapped designs and a suit created by Alex Ross. The only thing that undercuts the game is how silly it gets, but that’s only because its animations have only began to look more comical with time. Otherwise, this is a fairly faithful, if linear, experience that ties itself well to the source material and is even cheaper than the vaunted sequel; should only be about £2/$2 to pick up for a web-swingingly good time.
Spider-Man: Friend or Foe, 2008 (DS)
Let’s get away from the obvious for a minute, though. You knew Spider-Man 2 is good; everybody and their mum says so. Let me tell you something you don’t know: Friend or Foe on the DS was a tidy little beat ’em up game that most people overlooked since it was tied to a console release that bombed. The console releases bombed for good reason, but the DS title didn’t quite deserve that fate. In no way is this title the best game in the world, nor even the best game on this list, but the action and controls are tight enough to keep you rapt until the closing credits. You’ll fight through hordes of mooks as Spider-Man, but the upside is that you get to team up with characters such as Dr Octopus, Green Goblin, Black Cat, and even Blade in a war against the arch-villain of this title, Mysterio. The premise and gameplay is cool enough to keep your attention, but the combinations of strange bedfellows that you can create make this worthy of a second look at the very least, especially now that the game only costs £4, or a dollar or two more if you live in the States, especially if you want something unpretentious and unadulterated with respect to the essence of the comic books.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, 2000 (PS1, Dreamcast)
A bit of a cheeky cop-out, this, but it’s our list and you’re the one with no money, so shut up. As a reward for completing Career Mode 100% (all gold medals in all three competitions, and all goals completed) with a created character, you’ll be bestowed with the lovely honour of playing as The Human Spider himself. I don’t think much more needs to be said – you’re playing as your favourite hero in one of the greatest games of all time, but since I get paid per word, I’ll say more anyway. Racking up points in long, flowing combos in Pro Skater 2 is feverishly addictive, and getting to do so as Spider-Man is ridiculous, but satisfying in a deep part of yourself that you just can’t explain. Maybe that’s what the world needs. Peace, love, and Peter Parker doing a McTwist in Marseille over the fountain. Maybe then we’d be a lot happier. If you’re not satisfied by that, then the knowledge that Mr Parker has four different alternate costumes, one being the Symbiote suit should stifle you for now. If you haven’t stopped reading this immediately to buy a copy of Pro Skater 2, then you’re hopeless, but for those that need an extra push; copies on PS1 (the most accessible way of playing the game) float around the £7.50/$10 mark, which is a bit pricier than the other titles mentioned here, but considering you’re getting Spider-Man doing a 720 melon? Money well spent.
The prices referred to in this article are accurate as of September 2018. Remember, have fun, and keep it cheap and cheerful out there!