What makes a sought after game a classic? What keeps it in people's minds as opposed to just being thrown into the wind and never spoken of again? Generally it falls under one of three categories: it was so bad that the stigma attached to it was never forgotten; it saw a limited release; or it's just a freaking awesome game. Ideally a game fits the final category, as seen in the cases of long-dead but not forgotten franchises like Streets of Rage, Thunder Force, and the Chrono series. Of course, the games that bring the big bucks in the game stores and online market places are almost always the ones with low print numbers. Spider-Man had 1,500 copies printed and was the final American Sega 32X game. Cue the giddy collectors and auction snipers.
The amount of fun you will have in The Amazing Spider-Man: The Web of Fire lasts about as long as it takes to say the title. Ok maybe not, but the game ceases to be fun as soon as you encounter the end boss of the first level. As soon as you begin to face him you are in for a hard game the rest of the way through, filled with far greater frustration than rewards. The main problem I had with the difficulty of the game was level navigation, as you web sling around the levels you will frequently be blindsided by out-of-sight obstacles. In a well designed game this problem would be rectified by the tried and true method of level memorization. I found that to be nearly impossible due the levels lacking any landmarks or distinctions that would allow you to tell your location.
The difficulty is further complicated by Spider-Man's ability to stick to things. Sticking to things should by all means be a fun mechanic, as proven in Sonic and Knuckles, but apparently Blue Sky never played that game. In Web of Fire, Spider-Man sticks to everything whether you want him to or not, this proves to be a hassle that is near unbearable, as Spider-Man has an amazing knack to attach himself to hazards like flaming oil pipes and all manner of electrified things. You will die from this, a lot!
What I found weird about Spider-Man: Web of Fire was even though almost every portion of the game was hard, there was no sense of urgency; there is no time limit (except for one escape sequence), enemies rarely seek you out, and when they do decide to hobble over to you, they are relatively slow. Even though I was frustrated, I couldn't help but be bored.
Going back to the all-important web slinging: the first level is a shining example of how to do web slinging right, you swing at high speeds through an open urban environment just like you should be in a Spider-Man game, but it doesn't last long. Soon after the first level you find you find yourself in cramped, cookie-cutter, interior levels for the rest of the game. You can use the web to travel quickly through the cramped levels, but do that and you probably won't have enough webbing left at the end to fight the boss.
As you beat down the same exact enemy for the hundredth time you will realize that Spider-Man only has two different punch animations, neither one having very many frames. Then you realize the same for climbing, swinging, and even dying. Not long after that, you'll notice that most of the environments are bland and lifeless, not only that, but are a little grainy as well. On top of not being very attractive, the levels are, as I stated earlier, rather repetitive. They aren't just repetitive in their looks though, the bland repetition extends to what you must do to advance through the levels. Usually to advance you clear a couple obstacles, punch out a few clone goons, then punch out a wall or floor, go through the hole you just made, and repeat until you get to the end boss.
Speaking of the end boss, other then the first boss (which is a huge winged purple lizard thing) you will not recognize the boss when you see him. After you've beat the hell out of the level boss for about a minute a thought will cross you mind "I think this might be the boss." Even then you can't really be sure until he's dead. If the level ends, it was the boss, if not, he wasn't. That really is the only way to tell. If it wasn't bad enough that all the bosses look about the same except for color, the final boss is simply some kind of shape shifter that takes the form of each boss. Maybe the likes of Sonic and Metroid have spoiled me, but I at least want to know what the hell this supposed boss's name is.
I can't say much about the sound. Considering the fact that there are only four different enemies to make sounds for you would think that maybe they could make their sounds good. Well, that's what you would think, but it's certainly not what happened. On top of there not being much there (under 30 sounds counting songs and menu tones), what's there isn't very good. Early third party 16-Bit would probably be the best comparison. The sound was obviously an after thought on this project ... even the opening theme sucks.
In my opinion, I think this game was rushed out the door to get to market with the final run of Sega 32X's. Considering that the graphics don't look finished, there are less then 30 sounds and the controls aren't polished, I think anybody that plays the game will agree with me. Games like this are what make me accepting of game delays; sometimes the game just isn't done, and I think that's what we see here. If you are a collector, nothing I can say here will keep you from wanting a copy; it's rare and has history. Anyone else just looking for a great platformer is advised to stay far, far away. And yes, that includes die hard Spider-Man fans!