Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum CarnageIf you've played Final Fight and Streets Of Rage, you've played Spiderman And Venom: Maximum Carnage... on easy mode, though nevertheless, you're played Maximum Carnage. You could pretty much swap Spiderman and Venom with Cody and Haggar. Does that make the game bad? Only if it's a bland rip off, but that isn't the case, for Maximum Carnage does add a couple of things to the mix, and above all else, it's still fun to play through, though only if you enjoy a high level of challenge, because Maximum Carnage is a relentless beat em up that won't hold back under any circumstances. If you aren't prepared for frustration, you better get out. And to any wussies who wonder why people like this game - it's the hardest game that's actually worth playing. Yes, it's highly challenging, but unlike games such as The Adventures Of Bayou Billy and Ghosts And Goblins (both on the NES), this is actually pretty fun to play.
Story: Based off the comic book series of the same name (minus Venon's name), Cletus Cassidy is presented in a straight jacket to a mental institution. Unfortunately for the policemen wheeling him in, he goes mental and rips everything apart with his powers, then shouting "I AM CARNAGE!" Teaming up with Shriek, he then goes after Spiderman and Venom. All of this causes Spiderman's Spidey Senses to start tingling, and he then goes after Venom himself. There's a bit more to it, but let's face it - the comic series had a pretty shallow storyline, full of nothing but cameos... and the game seems to do exactly this, which isn't a bad thing, because it at least follows its source material finely, but at the same time, the storyline just wasn't interesting. When you think about it, it was just 14 issues of mindless violence and cameos. Average story, really.
Gameplay: In typical beat em up fashion, you'll be able to move in 8 directions, and spend most of your time beating the piss out of enemies. Enemies range from street thugs, to thugs who look like potential peadophiles, to what appears to be the identical twins of the lesbian bitches of death from Streets Of Rage, and.. well, just thugs and hookers, and aside from the hookers, enemies are easily defeated with a few punches to the skull, or with a combination of web slinging and a punch to the face.
Much like the comic book series, Spiderman and Venom will be fighting the same few big villains multiple times throughout the game, with the only major difference being how big their health bars are. To be fair, the boss battles themselves differentiate themselves by teaming up different pairs of bosses - by the way, you can find yourself fighting more than one of Carnage's crew at once, and even Carnage slips into a few fights. In a sense, it's different, as most of the time (and I mean most, not all), bosses take you on themselves, with maybe minor grunts to help, but never two full bosses... well, in an early 90s beat em up, anyway...
One interesting element is the ability to summon allies, like Dagger, Cloak and even Captain America. They're used mainly as a secondary means of attack, and they're very helpful, since Maximum Carnage is not a two player game, and you'll need all the support you can get. To gain access, you'll need to collect tokens with their faces on them, and since you'll only have as many as you've collected throughout the game, use them only in a tight jam.
Two interesting abilities Spiderman and Venom have up their tight sleeves are to swing across the field, and to scale up walls. Well, you'd expect spiders to do this, but considering what kind of game we're playing and what time it was released, it's interesting to say the least. Some levels are based off their ability to scale walls, though they're quite frustrating, since you have to contend with lightning that's often coming in unannounced at whatever direction it feels like... like, it generally aims for you, but the way it gets to you is randomized between diagonally and veritcally, and as they knock you off the walls and you're meant to get to the top, you'll often find yourself starting again, and that's bullshit. Just because I got hit.. and I didn't see it coming, so that's not really fair.
I mean, holy shit, did they crank up the difficulty dial or what!? Some bosses are frigging brutal in their assault, with one managing to take down half your health in an instant. The bosses always have a way to royally screw you over until you're begging for mercy. Oftentimes, you'll be going quite a distance without health and you're hanging on by a thread. Enemies in the later portions of the game will give you quite a beating if you're not prepared. The worst part of it all? Only two continues. So basically, you got at least six lives under your belt before you burn in the web... and as I've said, there aren't that many opportunities to lick your wounds, except after finishing a level, but later on, you'll never know if you can finish that level with only a few specks of health, and on your last life, no less.
Controls: Spiderman and Venom control pretty well, for the most part. The d-pad moves them smoothly across the battlefields, and most of the commands work upon a press of the button. Good stuff. The only major gripe I have is getting the timing down for the web attack. It doesn't know if it wants to slam two thugs together, bring one to me, or just tie one up. It's like "do I press the button, or just tap it", and more often than not, you're just mashing it, hoping to slam two enemies together.
Graphics: The game tells the story through the use of cutscenes between stages that are drawn just like comic book panels, complete with speech bubbles. It’s a great idea, and they all look pretty cool. The in-game graphics are drawn in a similar style to that of the cutscenes, so it’s sort of like playing in a comic book universe. The characters are all large, detailed, and well-animated, and some punches are accompanied by comic book sound effect balloons for a nice effect. All of this works so well, especially since it's based off a comic book series.
Audio: The audio is one of the best elements. Music is fast-paced and contains a rock/grunge feel to it, though that's to be expected, as they were performed by a band called Green Jelly. The songs tend to do a great job in matching the fast paced action. The sound effects contained in the game are fairly standard, and include grunts, moans, slinging, spells, and the sounds of the various objects you can pick up colliding with the ground, and the enemy. Overall, it's pretty good stuff.
Replay Value: It's another case like Battletoads - play it, love it, obsess over it, finish it, then leave it to collect dust due to how frustrating it was to go through it, plus there are other games to get through. It's too hard and frustrating to warrant a second playthrough, and since that tends to make games take longer, well, let's just say that it's something to play every now and again when you feel like playing a hard mother*bleep*er of a game, but that's it. Add the lack of a two player mode (or any modes, for that matter), and the game doesn't have much that'll keep you coming back after finishing it.
Overall: Spiderman And Venom: Maximum Carnage is a tricky son of a bitch. At the same time, it's fairly well played out. Production values are pretty high and it follows the storyline of the comic series to a tee, though that's due to the series having a pretty shallow storyline, with nothing but fights and cameos. Gameplay resembles what we've gone through a lot back in the early 90s, but it keeps it fresh with webs and wall scaling, as well as difficulty that rivals Battletoads. Shame that it doesn't have a two player mode, or this would've been a real smash hit.