How appropriate that Arcade should appear in a video game. Sadly, as usual, he has bitten off more than he can chew when he faces the combined forces of Spider-Man and the X-Men.
This was a cross-platform game, being released on both Sega and Nintendo systems. This game was also also later adapted for small screen on the Game Boy and Game Gear platforms.
Things start off in a nice stage where Spider-Man has to find various small devices with his spider sense guiding him. Although Spider-Man can't seem to punch or kick, he can use his webbing as a projectile weapon and web swing on various parts of the scenery. As the game progresses, Spider-Man's stages continue to improve as you take on familiar villains like the Shocker, Rhino, Carnage, and, uh, N'Astirh. Although the challenge is a bit high, there's a framework for a fun Spider-Man game in here that could have worked out fairly well. Then the X-Men arrive.
After you finish the first stage, you're given the option to choose between either Spider-Man or five X-Men. You have to complete two stages for each character which creates a varied, but uneven experience. You can choose from three classic X-Men; Cyclops, Storm, and Wolverine. Gambit is also playable, but "classic" doesn't quite fit him so well. Each of them has their own themed stages with varying levels of quality.
Wolverine takes you through a fun house which leads to a showdown with Apocalypse and then an infuriating struggle later on against the Juggernaut. Cyclops travels through a mine fighting Genoshan soldiers and Sentinels. Storm swims through an underwater maze. And Gambit is chased through scrolling stages by a giant wrecking ball and a moving platform. While the three men have varying degrees of quality in their stages, Storm's is uniquely terrible with weak swimming mechanics and repetitive gameplay. Wolverine's levels would be nearly as good as Spider-Man's had it not been for his second stage, the previously mentioned battle with Juggernaut. It's much like Gambit's levels with a drive to keep moving forward, but this one requires an absurd amount of damage to be done to the Juggernaut before reaching the end where you would otherwise fall to your doom. Cyclops' stages are a little plainer with standard platforming action that's really only tainted by the forced blind jumps you often have to take.
One constant throughout each stage is the difficulty. The game frequently goes back and forth between difficult and impossible. Oddly, the final boss (which you're graciously allowed to confront as Spider-Man) isn't anywhere near the toughest in the game. Upon completion you're given a high score, but I can't imagine what kind of masochist would want to endure playing through this game again right away.
Still, for all the difficulty it bombards the player with, there are some moments of genuine fun to be found. Each character is small, but well rendered and animated. The controls are slippery, but never too awful. Fighting some classic comic villains (and N'Astirh) can be a lot of fun. Obviously that last point will be lost on folks who aren't fans of the characters, but if you aren't, I don't know why you would want to play this game in the first place.
The sound effects are somewhat charming, albeit a bit repetitive. The same could be said for the music. As one of the first 16-bit games, it's understandable that it would be difficult to have a tight handle on that sort of thing. Still, the graphics were fairly good for the time, so the music surely could have been better as well.
Overall, this is a fun game for any comic fan that wants a brutal challenge. To get through it you may need to be an experienced gamer as well as comic fan to couple motivation with experience. For most, that may be to tall an order. For those who do fit the bill, you may enjoy what is a fairly well executed game. I suppose that isn't the most alluring recommendation, but it's hard to give such a frustrating game a higher one.
Graphics - 3 Webs: This is one of the early 16-bit games, and while it naturally doesn't compare to stuff like Super Mario World, it does look fairly decent. Some animations are a bit weird though.
Sound - 2.5 Webs: The music is OK, and the same can be said for the sound effects. There isn't much else to say.
Gameplay - 3 Webs: Sticky controls, high difficulty, and a few rotten levels spoil what would otherwise be a very fun little action game.
Story - 1 Web: Well, it's there, I suppose. Two comic styled comic panel cut scenes leave a bit to be desired though.
Fun Factor - 3 Webs: The stuff in there that's fun is really fun, but the tougher bits are more annoying than anything else.
Replay Factor - 2 Webs: In the future you may come back to it, but repeated flythrough probably aren't likely. Unless you really like tough games.
Aging Factor - 2 Webs: It's an early 16-bit game which offshoots a few of the obvious drawbacks, but there are way better games from that generation featuring both the X-Men and Spider-Man, albeit not together.
Tech Troubles - (None)
A good game marred by a high difficulty.