Super Nintendo, NES & GameBoy tomfoolery;

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Up from (Super) Obscurity

This week I'd intended to continue last week's foray into the Grayscale world of the original GameBoy, but a friend's offhand comment that Spider-Man looks like he's peeing in a certain video game cutscene brought my attention back to a lousy game on the Super Nintendo:
...better than Spider-Man and the X-Men in: Arsenic and Old Lace!
And how do you fit an all-star cast into a no-star game?
Well, if you played the excellent X-Men arcade game (which was somehow NEVER PORTED TO ANY HOME SYSTEM), you know the answer to that: make an awesome beat-em-up, with each character being about 80% the same, but have some extra special powers all to their own.
But anyone who has suffered through the NES X-Men game knows that X-Men and home consoles don't often play well together.
Throw in the Amazingly over-exposed Spider-Man, and rather than a world-class game, we have something closer to World Games...we're almost in the dreaded "Mini-Game Multi-Cart" territory once again
The game starts promisingly enough, with a comic book-style opening cut scene:
(because if it works for Michael Jordan, why not Spider-Man?)
This leads to a festive-enough opening level where Spider-Man runs around gathering some little blinking things (in a pre-determined order)
For some reason, your spider-senses tell you if one of them is blinking...but only when it's really really nearby.
Despite being on a weird "smoke detector scavenger hunt", Spidey controls pretty well. He's good at...
Wall-Climbin', (and wall-sticking-to-when-you-just-want-him-to-jump-down-a-hole)
Plus doing his best Bionic Commando impersonation.
But I guess it doesn't hurt that enemies tend to be pretty few and far between, giving the whole thing the feel of an intro/training level.
But eventually you'll wrap it up and head on to the game proper, when you come face to face with...Arcade!
Sadly, this doesn't mean you get the X-Men arcade game, or even the arcade in Beavis & Butt-Head. It just means you're up against this goofball with a bow tie supervillain(?)/doofus:
Let the games begin, indeed.
You see, Arcade has designed a lousy two-level minigame "challenge" for each web-slinger and/or mutant.
You get to pick whose levels you want to play, but all the characters share the same pool of 3 lives: each time you lose a life, you can choose to play a different character's level...but run out of lives and you get to see THIS screen:
Yes, you have to start the whole game over again, with 10 minutes of Spider-Man collecting Smoke Detectors.
Ok, let's look at each character's level...
Keep in mind, you'll have to be a much better player than I am to even beat ONE level before you run out of lives, let alone finish both levels for all five characters before GAME OVER.
So, like other level-hub games, you're better off dabbling at one level or another, trying to eek out a bit of amusement against all odds. But at least you get a lovely picture and biographical information on each character!
You may remember his gameplay from such levels as: the intro level you just played!
Just like the intro level, his jumping and swinging is still solid...but there's a lot more enemies and things to get hurt on.
Level Type: Indiana Jones-esque outrun-a-boulder
Gambit's level has decent platforming mechanics, and a character-specific "finite but large-numbers-of" projectile attack with his throwing cards.

Unfortunately the level is overstocked with collectable items, and its hard to keep track of which ones matter (extra cards, extra energy) and which ones don't matter (points). Also, you have to run, jump, shoot and collect relatively fast, because if the giant spiky ball ever catches up to you and hits you, you die.
Defining Moment: I have no idea which of these things are platforms, and which are just background decoration.
Level Type: Indiana Jones-esque mine cart level
Sure, you get to zap enemies with your laser eyes (which you can shoot in 6 different directions!) but the meat of the level is taking short rides on mine carts.

And the rides aren't short because everyone hates mine carts, they're short because you have to hop on and off of mine carts very frequently, or else you'll get low-bridged by a tunnel or there'll be an explosive on the tracks that kill you inside the cart.

Oh, and did I mention that all deaths in and around the mine cart are instant-kills? And that missing a jump into a mine cart doesn't have the courtesy to kill you via bottomless pit...instead Cyclops gets fried by train tracks.
Level Type: Adamantium Killing Machine in Toy Land
The world's most bad-ass super hero goes up against toy soldiers, mechanical jack-in-the-boxes (dressed up as 1920s gangsters) and remote control planes...

Ah, remote control planes -- an enemy last seen opposing other noteworthy badasses, like Dennis the Menace and Dr. Franken.
Defining Moment: Clown throws pies, Wolverine dies.
Level Type: Drowning Simulator Water level
Sadly the resident female X-Man(?)'s game has a completely different interface (and scale) from the other characters: instead of platforming, Storm must swim around and intentionally blow up gates and pump-machines to make more of the level swim-able.

While there's air pockets at the top of the level, she can re-fill her "bubbles" at any time. These bubbles counts as an energy meter AND a timer: it slowly diminishes as you stay submerged or get hit. (Yes, evidently all electro-zaps and piranha bites are healed by a few breaths of fresh air!)

As you progressively flood more and more of the level, you'll have to keep an eye out for spots where air bubbles continuously leak from the floor or walls -- these will become the only places you can refill your energy, and without them you'll eventually die in classic fake energy meter-up style.
Defining Moment: Getting into an under-water lightning fight with a squid. Didn't anyone involved in this game know how electricity works?
So, Arcade...what do you have to say for yourself?
I respectfully disagree, sir.
It's not very good, and I can't overemphasize how the Spidey Intro level kills the "Level Hub/Mini-Game" nature of the different levels. If you could jump back to any character's level after a Game Over, you might get the hang of Gambit or Cyclops's levels (and their repeated cheap platform-deaths) or memorize enough of the enemy/trap placement to make Wolverine and Storm's levels more managable.
But since you have to replay Spider-Man's collecting/vertical/climbing intro level each time, you're only likely to be in the swing of comfortable with Spidey's subsequent levels.
In conclusion, let me just comment on the irony: we have a villain named "Arcade"...who is unable to make a video game worth playing.
"And I'm outta here! G'nite everybody, tip your wait-staff!"
— carlmarksguy, 2014-08-08
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