It’s been awhile since I played a video game so long that my fingers ached when I finally set the controller down, but such was the case with the new Spider-Man game developed by Insomniac Games for the PlayStation 4. With an open world and an array of missions and side missions reminiscent of the Arkham/Batman games, I suspect the Spider-Man will provide long hours of delight.
The game, and the recent passing of comics legend Stan Lee (creator of Spider-Man) got me thinking about the many video game incarnations of the worlds favorite web slinger.
In 1982, Atari released the game Spider-Man for the 2600. It was the first Marvel video game and was written by Laura Nikolich over a period of six months. The vertical scrolling game required you to scale a building using your webs, but you had to aim carefully. If the web landed on a window it wouldn’t stick and you would plummet. Criminals appeared in windows as you climbed and attempted to knock Spidey off the skyscraper. To defeat the criminals, you simply moved your sprite over theirs. If you happened to fall, you could catch yourself by shooting a web, but to make things tricky you only had a limited amount of web fluid. Run out and you would immediately plummet to your death.
As you climbed, you also encountered bombs that Green Goblin planted. You destroyed them the same way you defeated criminals, by climbing over them. As you reached the top of the building, Green Goblin appeared dropping bombs. If you could avoid them and reach the top of the skyscraper, you then had to defuse Goblin’s final bomb. Do that and you moved on to the next level. Each level contained the same game play, but with increased difficulty.
It’ interesting to note that before getting into game design, Nikolich worked at a nuclear power plant, which Parker Brothers lured her away from. Looking back on her career, she described how her team would visit arcades to get ideas and then plan over dinner. Unfortunately, the world didn’t get to see just how far she could have gone. The Atari market fell apart and Nikolich was laid off. She did not return to the industry (though her children have).
Dozens of Spider-Man games have since been developed, but it’s fascinating to look back at where it all began. The story even has a little bit of a comic book feel to it, beginning with an unlikely hero who works at a nuclear power plant…