Ultimate Spider-Man: Total Mayhem is one hell of a bad-guy bashing good time! Gameloft has once again shown their expertise in the action/adventure genre of iOS games, bringing the web-slinging, smart-talking comic book favourite first to the iPhone and now the iPad. The combat system is one of the best representations of Spidey's fighting prowess that I've seen to date.
If you're looking for a deep story, however, this may not be the game for you, as Total Mayhem, like many Spider-Man and other superhero games, is rather light in that regard. There is enough of a comic-book style story to explain why the city has just been overrun by a bunch of Web-head's favorite supervillains and their cronies, but it's really not much more than fluff to pad the pauses between flurries of punches, kicks, backflips, and near misses -- and there aren't many pauses, believe you me.
Total Mayhem takes place in the Ultimate Spider-Man storyline, meaning that you are Spidey the teenager, and you are fighting some very cool-looking and juiced up versions of his enemies -- enemies that include the likes of Sandman, Rhino, Doctor Octopus, Electro, Green Goblin and Venom. They've escaped from S.H.I.E.L.D'S super-secure prison (which is, inexplicably, in the middle of the city), have started rampaging about and gathering both henchman and power, and are really making a mess of things. To add to all of that, people all over the city are becoming infected with bits of very nasty symbiote. Not good for them -- but great for you, as it just means there is more butt to kick as you help Spidey figure out what's going on and save the city.
Graphics and Audio
I found the graphics to be somewhat unimpressive, as they are of the pictures stretched over polygons variety. This was pretty common during the Playstation 1 days, and not bad in general, but I've seen better on the iOS platform. The iPhone version of Spider-Man: Total Mayhem actually looks better than the iPad (HD in the title or no), as the finer details of the pointy polygons are much less noticeable due to the smaller screen size.
There is some good audio in this game, though. From the blood-pumping background music, and the sound of Spidey's gloved hands and stockinged feet as they put the smack down on baddies, to the great voice-over work throughout the game, everything is crisp, clear and, well, awesome.
Where This Game Really Shines
Where Ultimate Spider-Man: Total Mayhem really shines is in the combat system. There are a few quirks, like getting caught in an extended combo that will walk you into something that might kill you, and it is definitely an uncomplicated, button-mashing experience, but the way it all translates into gameplay truly compliments the hero. You have a few basic buttons to work with: the attack button, the web-attack button, the jump button, and the special attack button that shows up when your web-gauge is full (you actually tap the guage, itself, in the iPhone version). Tapping attack repeatedly will cause Spidey to enter into a series of combo-strikes, and mixing in the jump and web-attack buttons will open up all kinds of interesting enemy-bludgeoning goodness.
The basic buttons are only the beginning. You also get the occasional spider symbol on the screen that must be tapped or swiped in the manner indicated. This is how Spider-Man saves himself from falling, or from movie-based enemy attacks, like being bashed through a wall by Rhino. If your timing is off, the symbol breaks and Spidey takes damage. There is one other randomly appearing button that you will use frequently -- and it's the one that will save your life the most often. The Spider-Sense button is a little lightning bolt that appears next to the sometimes-slippery virtual joystick. Tap it whenever it appears (sometimes in quick succession) and the action goes into slow-motion while Spider-Man dodges all sorts of enemy attacks, often with some web-binding or counterattack mixed in. All of these things combine to bring out a seriously awesome Spidey-experience, that would site perfectly well among any of the big console titles.
Even if Gameloft had stopped here, Total Mayhem would have been an awesome game. They didn't, though. They also added in an experience/upgrade system, several layers of difficulty, a trophy-for-points system, cool artwork finds, a destructible environment, and in-battle pictures. These add depth and length to the gameplay, and encourage you to play again and again to find everything and raise your scores. There are a couple oddities here, in that the in-battle pictures aren't images of the actual battle, but are actually more artwork, and, even though the game encourages you to destroy things to get experience orbs and find art, it appears you are actually penalized for destruction in the final points reckoning.
What I Didn’t Like
Even with the few things I pointed out above, there are only two real issues that I have with Ultimate Spider-Man: Total Mayhem. The first is that I really wish that the world was an open one that allows the player to swing Spidey all about the city, like in many of the other Spider-Man games. This is something that I didn't like about the older (console/PC) game based on the second Spider-Man movie, as well. It seems wrong, somehow, to fence in the free-swinging superhero. The next issue is that the second boss-battle, with Rhino, is unbalanced, even on Normal play. I'm a pretty decent gamer, and that guy was hard to beat! Much harder than Electro, or even Venom, who followed. He's not unbeatable, obviously, but the difficulty could be a bit off-putting for the less dogged among us.
These issues aside, Ultimate Spider-Man: Total Mayhem does not disappoint. It is one of the best and most fun games I've come across on the App Store, either for iPhone/iPod Touch, or iPad. Entirely worth the $6.99 it'll cost you (Editor’s Note: The game is on sale for only 99 cents during the Christmas holidays). Unfortunately, it will cost you all over again if you want it for both the iPad and the iPhone/iPod Touch, but that is becoming a common occurrence, these days. If you like to play on the go, and want a less obvious polygon-filled experience, get the iPhone version. Both are awesome.