App developers know how to plan ahead. Just in time for "The Amazing Spider-Man," which swings into theaters July 3, Disney Publishing and Gameloft have released two very different, but equally great, movie tie-ins.
The Amazing Spider-Man (Android | iOS, $6.99) delivers an action-packed gaming experience, while the Spider-Man AR Book HD for iOS ($4.99) -- unappealing name notwithstanding -- gives kids an interactive storybook to read, hear, and play with.
Let's start with the game, which plays exactly like a Spider-Man adventure should, giving you an open city around which to crawl, swing, and battle.
Because games like this all but demand a big(ger) screen, I tested The Amazing Spider-Man mostly on my iPad 3. Visually, it's a knockout, bringing Manhattan to life like few mobile games I've seen. Cars drive, pedestrians walk, signs flash -- it's a feast for the eyes. (Gotta say, though, Spidey's rear end is a little too, er, defined for my liking. He's definitely sculpted to please the lay-daze.)
Gameloft keeps the gameplay mechanics admirably simple. Walk toward a wall and Spidey starts climbing it. Tap the jump button and he jumps; tap and hold and he slings a Web. Once you master the sling-and-swing timing, you get a wonderful sense of sailing through the air (even if your webs occasionally seem to grapple nothing but air).
When the time comes to start a mission (the game has 25 in all), you head to a selected area on the map, then engage the baddies using a modified control system that appears only during combat. To keep things interesting, the game offers new moves and skills you can purchase using the points you accrue. (You can also purchase them in-game with actual money.)
The real test of any superhero game comes from my 9-year-old, who wrote his own review:
The Spider Man game is awesome! You can do different challenges and beat up thugs! Spider-Man can also swing wherever he wants in the city. You can buy different attacks with the money you earn. Spider-Man does have a weird voice in the game, though.
Couldn't have put it better myself.
As for the storybook, it's an animated, narrated, kid-friendly retelling of the movie, complete with augmented-reality (the "AR" in the title) mini-games that leverage the iPad's camera.
For example, the reader can "wear" a Spidey mask or Peter Parker's glasses, or create an Oscorp badge with his or her own picture (not much AR there, admittedly). There are also a couple creepy games where you have to collect runaway spiders or even kill spiders crawling on your face.
My 9-year-old was less enthusiastic about these extras, but he did like the story and immediately told me, "I think I want to see that new Spider-Man movie." (That sound you hear is Disney's marketing department yelling, "Swish!")
Needless to say, there's plenty of entertainment to be had here for Spidey fans young and old, though it's a safe bet you'll be able to buy both apps for a couple bucks less after the movie has come and gone.