Originally popular in the years 1996-2004 (following the popularity of the 1990's Spider-Man: The Animated Series TV cartoon, these Spider-Man Electronic Audio books seem to pop out of the woodwork from time to time. In fact, in 2012 we saw at least two releases, both relatively small in their physical dimensions.
One of them was the Here Comes Spider-Man! (Play-a-Sound) Book & Flashlight set (with the audio buttons built into the flashlight).
The other is the subject of this review. In contrast to the flashlight/book combo, this one follows a more conventional design, with the audio controls on a plastic panel on the right and the cardboard "pages" opening on the left.
In size, it's larger than the flashlight book, but smaller than most of the earlier play-a-sound books, being approximately 8" x 9". The cardboard-paged "book" component features ten pages, or more strictly speaking features five double-paged "scenes".
The story is rather generic.
Scene One: Peter is having a dull day, until his Spider-Sense alerts him to danger.
Scene Two: Spidey swings towards the danger, wishing he had a "Pizza-Sense" instead. Personally, I suspect that would be rather less useful in combat than the sense he does have.
Scene Three: Spidey dodges Sandman's punch, but then he spots the Shocker.
Scene Four: Spidey dodges the Shocker's blast, which KO's Sandman.
Scene File: Doc Ock attacks Spidey, misses, is blinded with webbing, and defeated. A super hero's life is never dull. Unlike this story, which is weary with existential despair.
As proof of the ultra-generic nature of this story, the publishers of this book couldn't even muster a title to go with it. Instead, this product is simply called "Spider-Man Play-a-Sound" (with the cross-publisher "Spider-Sense" logo).
I think that's a pretty telling indictment. The story is credited to writer Brian Houlihan. But really, anybody with a basic grasp of the English language could have done the job.
The sounds are also notably uninspired - there's very little difference between the audio clips for Sandman's punch and the one for Spider-Man's punch. Doc Ock's tentacles sound like radio static followed by somebody hitting two metal bars together. I don't know if the sound designer spent five minutes in the toilet recording with his cellphone, or if he spent five minutes downloading free sound samples from the internet. I suspect the former.
I'm going to give this book two webs. I do that with great reluctance.
Physically, this product format is excellent. It's amazing that society can write, construct, print, transport, license, market and distribute an electronic device like this for $5 - about the same price as a 2lb bag of apples that fell off a tree.
But despite my love of gimmicks, my fondness for Spider-Man, and my unsuppressible boyish sense of wonder, I really can't find it in me to call this a "good" product.
This is a perfect example of a book created "just because they can". Would it really have killed the creators to add some decent sounds? And while I'm struggling to determine (or explain) just what it is about the script that I don't like, the fundamental fact is that it just feels tired and empty. Yes, the physical format of the book is smaller than normal, but the story is even smaller, to the point of being entirely insubstantial.