I have been doing a lot of research into Spider-Man games in the past couple of months, but had not expected to take a deep dive back into this one again. I liked the game as a kid, but that was back when I had a limited number of games, so sometimes it was important to make yourself like something to not be bored, and after the Uncanny X-Men outing on NES, anything looks good. At the time, I would just keep jumping back into it, dying a lot, and eventually making little steps of progress somehow. Before I learned that games didn’t have to be this hard, or to feel some concern when seeing that LJN rainbow, this seemed like actual fun. I might have also been a stupid kid though.
Released in 1992 for the Super Nintendo, Arcade’s Revenge was published by LJN, causing many to immediately turn their nose up at the title, but it was developed by Software Creations (Solstice, Silver Surfer, Wolverine), who also did the following Maximum Carnage and Separation Anxiety games, which are considered good for the most part. I’m not sure we can call this one a win for them though. It starts off well enough, with cartridge art by John Romita and this cool comic book panel opener that sets up enough of the story for me to be a little bit invested. The first rude awakening for me though would be these costumes: Cyclops and Wolverine specifically, these are outfits from different time periods than what was in the issues, as the story the game is mirroring comes from Uncanny X-Men #123-124. Yea, it is also weird that Gambit is here, as the story is from 1979, and he didn’t debut until 1990. Those are small things though, and a lot of people really love Gambit. The opening also misleads to greatness with some excellent guitar riffs. The entire soundtrack is damn good with other tracks having their own distinct tones, pulling back for tone or even incorporating some other genres, like a little funk. Enjoy the music while possible though, as there are some annoying sound bites and effects that repeat constantly.
For those who may not know the setup here though, Spider-Man is swinging along when he sees Gambit kidnapped by a garbage truck—listen, it makes sense in the comic, kind of. Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, and the aforementioned Cajun have all been captured by the villain Arcade, a kind of polarizing character who is hard to write without seeming a bit cheesy, but he drops them all in his labyrinth of death and robots, lovingly called, Murderworld. Come to think of it, why is this game Arcade’s Revenge, when Spider-Man and the X-Men in Murderworld is way catchier, just maybe not as kid friendly. Each mutant has two different levels to play and Spider-Man gets the most time, which is fine, but these powerful heroes feel extremely weak against common enemies. Using Arcade, this could have been handled much more creatively, like putting something on Wolverine’s hands so he couldn’t use his claws, having them do less damage, or maybe taking away Cyclops’ visor. They kind of do this with Storm being underwater, causing her to be more erratic while dealing with her claustrophobia, but that was lifted straight from the comic. The heroes are also oddly paired against an interesting set of villains. While Spider-Man must trade blows with several of his mainstays, like Shocker, Rhino, and Carnage, individual X-Men go one-on-one with enemies that usually require the whole team to take down: Juggernaut, Master Mold, and Apocalypse, but there are a couple of odd surprises with Obnoxio the clown and the demon N’astirh. I’m not sure they fit, but as all of the enemies are robots, it works within the story, and saves Wolverine from having to go up against Sabretooth yet again, shaking things up a bit.
The game is difficult for multiple reasons. Certain levels can be really confusing on where to go while others have clumsy platforming and cheap tricks to take away lives, like how the tracks are electrified in Cyclops’ level, causing numerous deaths. The worst part about Scott Summers here though is how awkward that kick he does looks. The controls are a little stiff, but that only bothered me in the beginning, except for Spider-Man getting stuck in problematic positions at times and having to figure out how to we swing properly. It all requires some patience and planning, but sometimes that boils down to simply memorizing the stages and enemy patterns. The difficulty was a bit much to keep the game enjoyable, and it would be less frustrating if they actually had some continues, or even better, checkpoints. If the game had cheats, I would have used them, but instead it will be heading back to the shelf.
Software Creations went through some problems with the development. Richard Kay has been quoted as saying that there were numerous problems and Acclaim (the parent company of LJN) was regularly screaming at them, to the point of threatening litigation. This ended up with three teams working to rush the project out and supposedly caused future tensions with Acclaim, even though they continued to work together. It all shows though, as the game feels a bit rushed, especially with the boss fights, and there is a ton of wasted potential in this cool comics team-up. I know I shouldn’t compare the two, but X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse was so much better and came out on the same console only two years later. The Genesis version of the game is essentially the same, minus the music, but I like the colors on the SNES version more. There are others out there who like this more than I did, maybe even as much as young me, but there are much better Spider-Man and X-Men games from that era, just not many with them together. For anyone wanting to try it though, the game is quite cheap, with complete in box copies hovering around $30, which is like one dollar per hour of frustration. I’m kidding. Most people couldn’t put thirty hours into this title!