“Some promises are meant to be broken.” -The Amazing Spider-Man 2 [tagline]
Rage Mage Reviews!
This feels like someone broke a promise. With great power comes great responsibility, I assume. The NES’s Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six had all of the power of what was arguably Marvel’s most popular superhero behind it and yet it completely shirked its responsibility to produce any semblance of a playable game. What’s even stranger about what I just said is the fact that this game was released in 1992. Ninteen-frickin-ninety-two! The year the Atari 2600 died! That’s two years after Super Mario World introduced the world to the Super Nintendo’s awesome-sauceness.
This period of time when the SNES was already on the scene and yet games for the NES were still being produced found several of the original Nintendo’s best and best looking titles being published. The last licensed NES game was released in 1994 (Wario’s Woods) and the NES was discontinued in ’95. Kirby’s Adventure, Battletoads, Batman: Return of the Joker and Darkwing Duck are all examples that come to mind of NES games released post-SNES in the latest stages of the NES generation, after 1990, and they’re some of the best looking games on the system, easily. Heck, the Felix the Cat game we recently reviewed was released the same exact year as Return of the Sinister Six and even that looked better. Nintendo really had mastered the 8-bit era.
So when Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six dropped like a fecal-bomb on the toilets of America with its confusing and unresponsive controls, terrible, nay, horrific graphics, uninspired level design, Mickey-Mouse’d presentation, and lame boss fights it was something of a shock. And I’m not talking about Electro (who was white back then). The NES proved it could support better crap than this.
The follows the friendly neighborhood web-head and his fight against the face of organized supercrime: the Sinister Six, a 6-pack of geriatrics, octogenarians, and stupid thugs.
Return of the Sinister Six features Doctor Octopus, the ringleader scientist with four robot arms fused to his back, Electro, electrickinetic mugger with an IQ of zilch, Vulture, balding man who can fly and gum Spidey to death, Hobgoblin, who is just like the Green Goblin only with more “hob”, Sandman, common criminal turned litter box, and Mysterio, special FX master on strike. Each supervillain serves as the boss at the end of each stage, with Doctor Otto Octavius as the last boss of the game.
And that’s basically all that Return of the Sinister Six is: a licensing tie-in with Marvel’s comic books bearing the same subtitle released in 1990. It’s the worst kind of corporate marketing through a video game, which would be regular corporate marketing through a video game. It’s not even like it was the first Spider-Man game. There were almost a dozen before it and several great ones after it.
It’s not fun. It never captures the brightness and humility of the character. And that’s all ironic because I remember liking this game so much as a child because I was 7 when it came out. The perfect age to like Spider-Man. But I couldn’t even get past the second stage because the controls were such a fail, and I was too young to know the difference. Playing it again as an adult? I don’t know why I remembered it so vividly at all.
You might be starting to think that The Well-Red Mage prefers DC over Marvel with the kind of hate that this game is getting in this article. And… you’re right. But that preference doesn’t extend to games. if you don’t believe me, go play Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six yourself. Tell the devil the Rage Mage sent ya.
I would rather watch Tobey Maguire make this face for 8 hours.
The 8-Bit Review
Visually, Return of the Sinister Six attempts to channel the great work of Erik Larsen, artist on the Amazing Spider-Man issues from the late 80’s to early 90’s. That’s the same time this game was released so the emulation isn’t unwarranted. Return of the Sinister Six’s best graphics are on the title screen and the title cards which show before each stage. They really aren’t half bad. But when it comes to the actual in-game graphics, there couldn’t be a bigger difference. They went from Erik Larsen, successor of Todd McFarlane, to a seven-year-old attempting to draw Spider-Man for the first time. It’s downright ugly pinks, oranges, blues and greens. The enemies explode into pudding blobs. The character sprites look as if they’re made of playdough. It’s a weird, drunk dream.
There are so many things in Return of the Sinister Six which don’t work that it may come as a surprise that the music is great, for the most part. As an action game, it fits neatly within the pool of action music from the NES and while it’s not iconic in the least, it’s aggressive and driving and, dare I say, spidery. It’s the music that I remembered most fondly from this title as a wee lad and returning to it all these years later, it doesn’t disappoint. The first few tracks are among my favorites for nostalgic reasons from the 8-bit era, but I simply don’t remember the later tracks because I never got that far as a kid. Too bad this OST belongs to such an awful game.
Speaking of awful… the gameplay is the worst. Tapping the attack button will cause Spidey to punch. Or sometimes flying kick. For no reason. If you want to land a hook square in some thug’s jaw, odds are you’re just going to kick through them, past them, and miss entirely. It’s hugely frustrating halfway through the first stage alone, causing me to want to simply “floating jump” over almost any enemy in my way. Turns out Spider-Man can wallcrawl and websling and throw wads of webbing too, but there’s nothing in the initial stages to teach you how to do any of those things. It just sort of happens accidentally while mashing your controller in an attempt hit something. Or dodging something, attempting to, since the garish colors make it nigh impossible to see the land mines and the pink bullets. Comatose doesn’t even begin to describe the unresponsiveness of the controls.
Because the controls and abilities are so not intuitive and the game refuses to teach you anything, Return of the Sinister Six has less accessibility than this ladder:
The foes in Return of the Sinister Six may as well be stationary turrets. Really, there isn’t anything dramatically difficult about the game’s enemies. The things that are supposed to be challenging aren’t because the poor design. However, that does mean that the difficulty all comes from trying to make sense of controlling Spider-Man. When gameplay mechanics get in the way of actually playing the game and making the enemies meaningfully difficult, when mechanics become the real challenge, something’s gone stinky-pootie.
Other than nostalgia there isn’t much makes you want to play this game again. Maybe a head injury? I suppose you could be tricked into playing it again. You’re better off with Maximum Carnage, Spider-Man: The Video Game (Arcade), Ultimate Spider-Man, psh… even Marvel vs Capcom 3!
Considering how many Spider-Man games preceded this one alone, this really gets a low score. It added nothing to the massive NES library with the fullest capacity of that great system’s capabilities available. What’s more, it’s ripped straight out of the comics without bringing anything to the lore or furthering the mythos. You could call it an adaptation if it wasn’t such an un-flushed turd.
My Personal Grade: 3/10
Nana nana nana nana… this game sucks! Spider-Man is one of the three top tier, triple A superheroes: Superman, Batman and Spidey. He deserves better than this. And supervillains have always been the coolest part of comic books, despite what any Marvel fanboys tell you today to dismiss the MCU’s terrible track record of unimpressive bad boys. Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six had so much potential going for it. Hey, that’s just like so many of Spider-Man’s supervillains, whether they were originally gifted professionals or scientists or just people with good intentions, they had potential. They through it away for the sake of evil. And that’s what Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six is: evil.
Aggregated Score: 3.5