It’s funny to think that once upon a time Nintendo committed to keeping both the Game Boy and DS brands going simultaneously, probably as a safety precaution should the DS brand had not been the incredible success it became. With the DS attachment rate still relatively low compared the then four-year old Game Boy Advance in 2005, publishers were still committed to releasing games on both devices, such as with the case of Ultimate Spider-Man. Both SKU’s came from regular handheld developer Vicarious Visions but whereas the DS was a pleasant surprise and did a great job of capturing what made the console game so much fun, the Game Boy Advance version is an average at best effort that’s quickly forgotten after the closing credits.
Like the two other version that I’ve reviewed, Ultimate Spider-Man features more or less the same plot however its exceptionally more truncated as it cuts down on the sub-plots involving villains like the Beetle, The Rhino and Green Goblin. While it makes the game more laser focused on Peter Parker, Eddie Brock and the origins of “the suit”, it also makes it feel less grander than either the console or the DS game. Given that the extra bad guys are taken out of the plot, it also means that they’re not around for boss fights and the ones that aren’t left on the cutting room floor are pretty unremarkable. Outside of fighting Venom while you’re Spider-Man and a confrontation with Carnage towards the end, you’re left with Silver Sable who is just someone you beat on until they die and doesn’t present much of a challenge.
Gameplay once again has you switching between Venom and Spider-Man with similar objectives as the DS game: Saving people as Spider-Man and eating them as Venom. All levels play out the same way in some fairly uninteresting environments like warehouses and city streets where you don’t really have an opportunity to stretch your spider-muscles. Don’t expect any grand web-slinging sections, just some light wall crawling but mostly punching on the same couple of goons over and over again.
The name of the game is Ultimate Spider-Man but the real title should be Ultimate Venom as the game puts you in control of him for such long stretches that you forgot exactly how to play as Spider-Man. He comes with the same handicap as in the other games, a depleting health meter that can only be filled by consuming bad guys, but even with this it’s actually easier to beat the Venom stages. Often when playing as Spider-Man you can die from taking a beating with a lack of health items, but there’s always a fresh supply of bad guys to keep your life meter up when playing as Venom. As there’s no touch screen gimmicks or open-world to differentiate the two playable characters, this version makes both feel pretty identical other than Venom playing a bit slower so you’ll want to use him more than the main character on the box.
Ultimate Spider-Man on the Game Boy Advance is a pretty short game, which is not out of line given that the other games weren’t that long either. Once your done there’s not much left to go back for other than a few collectibles within the levels that will give you extra combos and web-fluid with Spider-Man and the ability to go longer without needing to feed as Venom. Some are easy to find while others require some exploration but overall you don’t need to track them down unless you simply have to; The move set you’re given in the first level should be sufficient to get through the generic levels and Venom has plenty of bad guys to munch on to prevent him from dying.
While it isn’t a terrible game by any means, Ultimate Spider-Man for the Game Boy Advance is just an average game and in many ways, that’s just as bad. The controls are fine and the graphics are okay, but everything you do within the standard levels is pretty basic as well as repetitive and as this game is missing the other rogues found in the other games, this becomes more apparent. If you need an Ultimate Spider-Man game to play on the go, stick with the much superior DS version.