I love the 2000 Spider-Man video game unreservedly. To this day, it's my all-time favourite original PlayStation game, and still one of my most-replayed superhero games.
Sure it hasn't aged brilliantly and pales in comparison on a technical level to the likes of Marvel's Spider-Man and Batman: Arkham Knight, but it's so full of heart and a clear love for the source material that it's impossible not to be pulled into its world. From the opening monologue delivered by the great Stan Lee himself, all the way through to chasing Venom through the sewers of New York, Spider-Man is a high-flying non-stop comic book adventure come to life.
It's just a shame about that last level.
If you've never played Spider-Man, prepare yourself for some heavy spoilers. Towards the end of the game we learn (shock horror) that the dastardly mastermind behind the symbiote invasion of New York City is none other than Doctor Octopus. Worse still, he's allied himself with Carnage, the chaotic spawn of Venom.
The fact an unpredictable anarchist like Cletus Kassady would ever team up with someone like Otto Octavius is odd enough in itself, but as a kid I was just happy to see two of my favourite villains together. The final showdown is a brutal scrap with Carnage, followed swiftly by one last punch-up with Ock. The bad guys are all webbed up, and the day has been well and truly saved.
Or so we think.
Out of nowhere, the Carnage symbiote bonds with an unconscious Ock to create a mindless, screaming monster known as "Monster Ock". This shit effed me up as a kid.
In an instant, Spider-Man goes from being an enjoyable comic book romp to full-on survival horror. Monster Ock isn't a villain with pithy quips or an obvious weakness: it's a towering mass of tentacles and teeth that can't be stopped. You could put this POS in a Resident Evil game and it wouldn't look remotely out of place.
Monster Ock mindlessly pursues Spider-Man through a series of narrow underwater tunnels, smashing and snarling through every obstacle that the player carefully guides the webhead through. It's like the team at Neversoft saw what Naughty Dog did with the Crash Bandicoot boulder level and decided to make the experience 1000x more stressful by turning the boulder into an alien parasite that brutally murders one of the most beloved superheroes of all time if the player lets it catch them. Oh, and there's a timer because the underwater base you're escaping from is about to blow up. There is absolutely no chill to this finale.
Don't get me wrong, I love a good escape sequence in a video game. I also love to see Spidey taking on seemingly unstoppable threats, because that's where our boy always shines. I just can't help but look back at the Monster Ock chase sequence and wonder if it wasn't just a bit much for a game that was always going to played by some pretty young kids, myself included.
I mean, this shit legitimately scarred me. I was having nightmares for weeks. I didn't actually complete the Monster Ock chase myself until I was a few years older. Six-year-old me would have to enlist the help of dad, because the stress of seeing Spider-Man caught and killed by the bloodthirsty abomination was way too much for me to handle. I should've known back then I'd grow up to have anxiety, really.
Maybe I'm just a bit of a damp cloth. Maybe Monster Ock wasn't that bad for the rest of you and I've blown it up in my head to be these over-the-top terror that it never really was. All I do know is that it did mess me up, although it never quite managed to stop me from playing through Spider-Man over and over again. I just knew where to hand the controller over and where the game really ended for me.
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