This time around, I’ll be talking about Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six for the NES. Published by LJN, this title was developed by B.I.T.S. – the same group behind the Amazing Spider-Man sequels for the Game Boy. I didn’t like their Game Boy Spider-Man games at all, so I was curious if they would be able to do a better job on the NES.
Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six is an action platformer game where you play as Spider-Man. The plot of the game is pretty straightforward – Doctor Octopus has reformed the Sinister Six and they want to destroy Spidey. Just by the title screen alone, we know we’re going to face off against each Sinister Six member.
Most of the stages are straightforward. With some of them, you just need to keep moving to the right until you reach the end. Some stages will require you to explore all around to find the exit. And some of these stages have unexplained mission objectives that gave me a bit of trouble. Essentially, you needed to find an item or two before you could move forward.
Controls and Moves
My main issues with this game involve the controls. Instead of the A button, jumping is mapped to B. Every time I play this game, I need to take a moment to recalibrate my brain. While standing or crouching, you press A to punch. However, pressing A twice while standing makes Spider-Man do a short lunging jump-kick. You can’t string together punches because of this, because the spacing needed to hit with the two attacks are different.
There’s a power-up that will let Spider-Man shoot web shots. But you only get 10 bullets, and you can’t toggle this on and off. So when you get that power up, you’ll have to avoid enemies if you want to conserve your ammo. The game also doesn’t show you how many shots you have left.
Pressing A and B while standing or jumping will make Spidey throw out a web-line diagonally upwards. He can use this to swing forward, but the web-line needs to attach itself to something to work. Pressing Up will make Spidey climb up walls or other objects like ropes hanging from the ceiling. What makes these moves tricky is its hard to tell what you can climb or web because of the art style used.
The biggest flaw of this game in terms of gameplay is the lack of a jumping physical attack. Yes, this Spider-Man can’t kick or punch in the air. Without the webbing power-up, you can’t attack enemies at a higher elevation without landing beside them first. And when half of bosses in the game are flying, you know you’re going to have issues.
With the title of Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six, I expected the boss battles to be the highlight of the game. I was let down because the bosses are pretty one one when it comes to their attack patterns.
Giving credit where credit is due, at least the bosses are represented based on their characters abilities in comic books. Electro shoots out electricity. Both the Vulture and Hobgoblin are constantly flying around. Sandman disperses into sand particles and Mysterio teleports all over the place. Doctor Octopus uses his mechanical arms to attack at different elevations. So it does feel like you are fighting basic versions of the characters.
The ground bound bosses are quite easy to beat – just wail on them with a flurry of crouching punches when you catch them off guard. Beating the flying villains takes a bit of patience as you need to wait for them to match your elevation. Beyond that, they don’t offer much of a challenge either.
Visuals, Sound and Presentation
Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six has several splash pages based on actual comic book art that helps with the presentation. Aside from the title screen, which seems to have been shrunk to hide flaws, each intro screen before the stages looks really good.
I wish I could say the same for the game’s overall visuals. The game is colorful, but the backgrounds come off as a bit too strong for me. Again, this makes it difficult to understand which background elements are important. Sometimes, the color choices by the developers are questionable. There are stages where the ground and immediate area has similar colors with the enemies. There’s a section in one of the stages that are littered with landmines that are very hard to spot.
The sprites are correctly colored, so Spider-Man and the Sinister Six members are all recognizable. But their sprites could have been better. As they are, they look like they were based off of what a third grader would draw with crayons. So you can imagine how the sprites of the generic enemies look.
The game’s sound and music isn’t any good either. There are only two stage themes. One of them is catchy but it can get annoying as the theme is played repetitively all throughout the stage. Sound effects are there and they work, but they could have been better.
Unlike other LJN games based on Marvel Comic book characters, Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six isn’t a broken mess. It isn’t held back by an unfair difficulty, and its gameplay mechanics do function. But that’s the only good thing I can say about this game.
The game is playable and you can beat it. What you’ll remember from that experience are the subpar graphics and sounds, as well as the flawed move set and controls. I wouldn’t recommend this game to anyone, and would even caution hardcore Spider-Man fans that this game would be a waste of their time.