The levels themselves suffer a similar fate. Each of them has Spider-Man facing down a classic villain (or in one case, an antihero) from the series like Kraven, Electro and the Goblins. The levels initially seem pretty different, considering the variety of the locales -from a lush tropical forest to a Great Depression-era train yard and a futuristic city - but you'll eventually start to see a pattern in how they work. You'll meet the villain, fight them, chase them, fight some henchmen, fight them again, and repeat until the final confrontation (when they're powered up by their tablet fragment). This happens in almost every level in the game, and it gets old fairly quickly.
It's a shame, too, because some of the levels do have some really cool set pieces, like plucking a water barrel out of a whirling sandstorm (while riding on other debris caught in the storm) to throw at Sandman, or fistfighting Hobgoblin in a free-fall through the crowded skyways above a futuristic metropolis. The choice to move away from the open-world stylings of Spider-Man 2 and Web of Shadows (et al) in favor of a more traditional "level-based" system may have been a controversial one, but it's not hard to see how it could have resulted in a more cohesive experience.
Repetition is the game's big flaw, really. Many of the classic Spider-Man voice actors like Neil Patrick Harris return to lend their voices to the part, and quite a bit of the dialogue is actually pretty funny - but when you hear Spidey quip, "Is this a private fight, or can I cut in?" ten times in a row it begins to get on your nerves.
Ideas aren't Shattered Dimensions' biggest problem by any stretch of the matter. It's an execution thing, really. Yes, the idea of a stealth-based section is cool (and it worked great in Arkham) but fiddly controls and uncertain mechanics make it tedious. The level formula works well the first few times, but then you start to see it coming and it feels old despite the new things they throw at you. Playing as different Spider-Men in different realities is a fantastic idea, but the developers didn't make them feel unique enough. Combine that with touchy controls that make webslinging occasionally frustrating, and you have a game that feels like it's much less than it could have - and should have - been.
Yeah, it's fun for a little while. Spider-Man fans will probably still get a kick out of it. But this is a game that could have been Spidey's Arkham Asylum, and it's not, and that's a shame.
Bottom Line: Creative set-pieces and an awesome concept can only hide a repetitious game structure for so long - and the stealth sections that mix it up are just frustrating. The combat is appropriately entertaining and Spidey-like, but it feels more shallow than it should have, especially with endlessly repeated one-liners going off like fireworks. Fans of Spider-Man might still have a good time, and there are moments of brilliance, but it's otherwise unmemorable.
Recommendation: Unless you're Spidey's #1 fan, give this one a rent.
This review was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.
John Funk does whatever a spider can.
Game: Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions
Release Date: September 7th, 2010
Platform: PC, Wii, PS3, Xbox 360
Available from: Amazon, GameStop, Amazon (UK), Play.com (UK)