'Casino Royale'

Enemies can be friends and villains heroes with enough prodding and wisecracking in the loosely movie-derivative "Spider-Man: Friend or Foe,'' a by-the-book brawler that's as preposterously easy as it is vaguely affable for the five or six hours it takes to beat.

Enemies can be friends and villains heroes with enough prodding and wisecracking in the loosely movie-derivative “Spider-Man: Friend or Foe,” a by-the-book brawler that’s as preposterously easy as it is vaguely affable for the five or six hours it takes to beat. Whether playing as Spider-Man, Venon, Green Goblin or nearly a dozen other allies and enemies, most players will quickly grow bored and correctly conclude that “Friend or Foe” is just a quickie attempt by Activision to cash in on the impending DVD release of “Spider-Man 3.”

Never mind “Friend or Foe’s” my-enemy’s-enemy-is-my-friend shtick, which allows players to turn friends into foes along the way, it’s still basically the same exercise gamers have seen many times before: dashing (or swinging or leaping) into rooms while doors on the other side slam shut until a cadre of bad guys have been thoroughly thrashed, arena-style. Move forward, rinse and repeat times 20 brief levels, and out pops a game that could have been yards better if developer Next Level Games had included more than two or three enemy types for the adventure’s pithy entirety.

Those enemies, an invading mix of holographic technology and symbiotic goo dubbed “phantoms,” teleport conveniently into locations ranging from Egypt to Nepal like magic bowling pins that have to be knocked down five or six times before disappearing into the digital ether.

Dispatching phantoms yields just a modicum of pleasure, but some screen-thumping visual satisfaction. Boxes, barrels, vases and rocks can be lifted or snagged from a distance and flung at opponents, and special power-ups grant temporary invincibility or trigger unique partner combos that wipe out everything in sight.

Players can switch and control Spider-Man’s partners, but as with everything else in this game, the variations are only at the surface level. Each characters has only two attacks, which are really just ways of distinguishing stylized short- and long-range bashing.

“Friend or Foe’s” narrative comes with lots of kid-safe quips that rise above the otherwise typical vidgame script. Still, smart dialogue doesn’t remedy faults like areas and exits too dark to see clearly, disorienting camera-angle transitions from room to room or a reward system (for nabbing badly hidden helixes) that’s just a bunch of lame enemy dossiers and still shots of visited levels.

A two-person offline cooperative mode adds a bit of replay value, but the unlockable “versus” arenas couldn’t be duller, and once the solo mode’s beaten, there’s simply no reason to go back for seconds.

Toward the end, Spider-Man quips after a particularly ferocious toss-down: “You think it ruins the excitement, us always winning?” Yeah Spidey, it really does.

Spider-Man: Friend or Foe

Rated E10+. $39.99 - $49.99

Production

An Activision presentation of a game developed by Next Level Games and licensed by Marvel for the PC, Playstation 2, Wii and Xbox 360. Reviewed on Xbox 360.
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