With Spider-Man: Homecoming in cinemas now, what better time to revisit one of the superhero's most obscure PC Game tie-ins. Spider-Man: The Sinister Six (1996,Brooklyn Multimedia) is a simple adventure aimed toward young children. It features some nice animations and a branching storyline, but can the gameplay offer much for anyone over the target age group?
The game opens with an awesome looking montage of what's to come. Huge explosions, intimidating villains and a nice shot of Peter Parker pulling off his bright red mask. Most of the animation is rotoscoped which allows for some smooth movement but, as you'll soon find out, anything that doesn't rely on this comes off a little wobbly. Dialogue is badly synched to the mouth movements which open and close like novely dentures. The backgrounds are composed of static CGI stills that fit well with most of the hand-drawn characters, but I wouldn't want to sit through a feature film that used this style. It looks decent enough for a mid-90s PC game though, if a little generic.
When we get to the game proper, you can really see the restrictions put upon the game. As Peter Parker, all you can really do is talk to people. You can't move, examine or do any of the other verbs associated with a point-n-click adventure. When in conversation, a selection of options will be available to you, with a speaker icon to the left of it which will give you Peter's opinion on the statement. This is little more than repeating what the text says for the benefit of those not yet able to read. I suspect time and budget was a major factor in how bare-bones it is, but there's no denying the age of the aimed players was also a consideration.
The first real gameplay mechanic you'll come across that isn't a dialogue tree is a choice that will affect the way the story progresses. It gives some replayability for the curious but the ultimate end game will surely be reached. Beyond this, there are puzzle and action segments. Puzzles are very simple, and those that do not revolve around numbers or sliding tiles may have multiple ways of solving them, each of them fairly simple to figure out. If you're still stuck there are three clues you can activate with the third one basically spelling out the answer.
The action segments are borderline broken and each focus on a battle with one of the villains. For movie fans the most recognisable would be the Hobgoblin, Dr. Octopus and most recently The Vulture though I'm sure readers of the comics will whoop at the sight of the remaining three: Mysterio, Chameleon and Shocker. You can access all of their fights from the main menu to 'practice' but in essence, they are all variants of 2 archetypal play styles. The first is a shooting game, where you attack one of the Sinister Six or their projectiles. Each level is controlled with the mouse by default, but the menu does have the option to use a joystick on the fly (I used an XBox 360 joypad). You would think this mini-game would be best played with the mouse, but it's incredibly hard to aim no matter what sensitivity option I used in the DOSBox configuration file. Using a joypad or joystick is even worse. The crosshair will revert to the central position if you leave it alone making aiming a finicky chore. At least some of them look nice, particularly the final Virtual Reality boss.
The one other action style has you dodging incoming attacks by clinging to the walls and ceiling. This is easier said than done. The controls are not very responsive at the best of times, but using a mouse in lieu of 4 digital buttons is a nightmare. Spidey will simply not go where you want to go. Surprisingly, the joypad is not much better. No matter what control style I tried, I've yet to win a fight and quite frankly I don't have the patience to master such a broken mechanic.
Thankfully the story will continue even if you fail, though you'll no doubt be on the 'bad' path. All of the interactions have a binary outcome that furthers the story in different ways. You begin with Peter visiting Mary Jane - now his wife - on a movie set where she is the star. An obnoxiously rude director and a much calmer stunt coordinator hang out on the sidelines. In order to trigger the next scene, just talk to them. Depending on the choice between following some cop cars or staying put, one of two scenarios will play out. If you follow the cops, you'll find yourself outside a bank where Shocker has held people hostage. A simple puzzle involving a wrecking awaits (change the difficulty to Easy and it's almost non-existent). Staying put has you come face to face with Mysterio who gatecrashes the production because of want fame and attention. Hardly the best motivation for a villain, but then we're keeping it family-friendly.
It's undeniable that some artistic talent went into this game. There are the occasional bland locations and off-frames but overall it's on-par for 1996. That can't be said for the programming and design. It's not like the folks at Brooklyn Multimedia don't have the chops. They developed the excellent kid-friendly Gahan Wilson's Ultimate Haunted House along with a couple of pretty decent adventures named Private Eye and Robot City. It's a shame as I would've like to have seen a decent adventure based on everyone's favourite webslinger. Sadly, it appears that Spider-Man: The Sinister Six didn't bring their A-game.
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox to bring the game to modern systems. Tested on Windows 10.
File Size: 326 Mb. Install Size: 369 Mb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
Spider-Man: The Sinister Six is © Byron Preiss Multimedia Company
Spider-Man (the character) is © Marvel Comics
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me