Say what you will about the movies (as long as you say nice things, preferably), but you can't deny that Activision's done an awful lot with the Spider-Man license since acquiring it. Long lumped in with all the other super-hero games that saw your mighty superhuman downed by everyday thugs, rats and exploding barrels in turgid 2D jump-o-rama titles, Activision's first PSOne Spider-Man game --and the subsequent titles that have built upon that strong basis - gave us a wall-crawler to be proud of. The movie games, especially the superlative second one, were and are particularly compelling examples of how the super-hero genre can be done right. With that in mind, it's worth stating from the offset what Spider-Man 2 (PSP) isn't. It isn't the game of the movie that you've probably played on PS2, Xbox or Gamecube. It's much better than the really awful PC game, but the limitations of the technology, combined with a few design decisions implemented to make it a more "portable-friendly" game leave the PSP incarnation of this particular title as a nice enough game that really never gets started.
Fans of the bigger console version will find themselves in very familiar territory from the start of the game, and initially it almost seems like Vicarious Visions have just ported the whole thing across. Spidey runs, jumps, swings and fights just like he did in the larger console version, and even the extensive in-game tutorial teaches you the same moves, although in-game narrator Bruce Campbell is surprisingly absent. Given his B-movie status, surely he isn't that expensive?
As the game of the movie, the plot is largely pre-determined, and like so many movie-inspired games before it, developers Vicarious Visions have taken a few liberties and introduced a few new villains and additional missions to keep things rolling along. That's an excellent design decision right there, as to be honest out of the game's 20 or so levels, only about four actually detail Peter Parker's epic struggle against Doctor Otto Octavius. The rest of the time you'll be beating up thugs, webbing up dangerously wobbly signs and facing off against Mysterio, The Vulture, Rhino and Shocker until finally being able to relive the key movie scenes that you probably bought the title for in the first place.
Despite being a movie title on a system that's capable of displaying quite good looking video, and despite the fact that a large percentage of the local PSP audience probably scored a copy of the movie in question just by registering their PSP's, the developers have opted for all the game's cut scenes to be pre-rendered CGI scenes that just happen to mimic the movie scenes. On the plus side, they've thrown a suitable amount of money at the relevant actors so that they sound like the characters they're meant to be. On the minus side, they seem to think that Mary Jane Watson is extremely chubby, and that Peter Parker doesn't in fact look like Tobey Maguire - instead, he looks like the bizarre love child of Maguire and Jerry Seinfeld. It's a striking image, and one that may just haunt your nightmares for some time to come.
In order to fit into the portable motif, however, the design and length of individual levels has been severely cut back. In theory, that's not a bad fit, as you won't always have time for a thirty minute level when you're on a five minute bus trip. The practical reality, however, is that the short level length combined with challenge that's so thin it's practically translucent means that the entire game can be completed from start to finish in under a couple of hours. Comparing it to the now budget full console game, Spider-Man 2 is a hard game to recommend to any PSP owner.