Spider-Man Unlimited review – a spectacular endless runner with a few cobwebs left to clear

Spider-Man Unlimited is the latest endless runner from mobile gaming giant Gameloft. The game's premise involves Spider-Men and villains from various universes converging into a single universe. With slick production values and dozens of different Spider-Men to collect, Unlimited has a lot to offer for fans of the web-slinger.

Windows Phone Central has already published a Tips and Tricks guide to help players in their battle against the Green Goblin and his cohorts. Now we return with our comprehensive review.

Return of the Sinister Six

The game starts out with a fully voice-acted introduction in which Nick Fury (Director of SHIELD) recruits Spider-Man to stop a new threat. The Sinister Six, a recurring team of Spidey-universe villains, has crossed dimensions to team up with alternate versions of themselves. Their goal is to mine this Spidey's world of its ISO-8 (a fictional element found in other Marvel games).

Luckily, SHIELD has its own plan to thwart the army of Sinister Six members. They're pulling Spider-Men in from universes as well. The first to come through is Mangaverse Spider-Man, who comes from a Japanese-style (but American-made) spin-off universe created in 2000. It's up to players to assemble the rest of the team to stop the legions of the Sinister Six and save the day.

Story Mode

Unlike many endless runners, Spider-Man Unlimited has a real story mode. At the moment, the game offers two maps or "Issues," with at least one more planned for the future. Each Issue focuses on variants of a single villain, starting with Green Goblin and Vulture.

One map consists of ten-ish primary levels that must be completed to continue to the next issue. Each map also contains several optional levels that are locked to specific Spider-Man characters. Story levels offer big XP and minor ISO-8 (premium currency) rewards, but they are non-repeatable. Failing a story level will result in no XP gain (unlike other modes), but you still keep any vials (soft currency) collected.

Completing the issues is important because each time you clear one, you gain the ability to equip an extra Spidey outside of Story mode. This boosts your multiplier and greatly increases scoring potential. You'll also unlock new Spidey Ops missions, which we'll get to in a bit.

I love the inclusion of Story mode, even though the mission briefings lack voice acting. My one complaint regarding the villains is that there are two few alternate villains. Genuine Green Goblin variants Menace, House of M Goblin, Gray Goblin, and Gold Goblin show up, but better-known variants like Hobgoblin, Ultimate Green Goblin, and Demogoblin are nowhere to be seen. Considering they could all be done as palette-swaps, the lack of more alternates is a real missed opportunity to add extra comic book appeal.

Unlimited Mode and Events

Outside of Story mode, Spidey and friends can engage in two score-based game types. Unlimited is the true endless running mode, as the game continues until our hero gets knocked out. The Unlimited leaderboard awards daily prizes based on rank, making this mode very rewarding.

The game also offers a constant supply of 1-3 limited-time events. Each has lasted 1-3 days so far. During these events, players have two ways to progress. Reaching milestones like distance traveled or vials collected will unlock rewards. High leaderboard positions also give very desirable rewards. Events will offer extra scoring bonuses for using certain Spider-Men.

Collecting and raising Spider-Men

The core feature that will keep players going is the hunt for more and better Spider-Men. Each Web-head has a maximum star-rating that indicates his rarity. Several Spider-Men come in two or more rarity levels (which pads the roster more than anything). You can spend vials to get a random 3-4 star character, with higher-star Spideys costing ISO-8.

The higher the Spidey's rarity, the further he can be leveled up. But there's a catch. Regardless of the Spider-Man's maximum star rating, most start at a lower rank (star rating). The lower the rank, the lower their current maximum level and score multiplier. You want to rank up any Spidey you use.

There are two ways to rank up. The best way is to collect a double of that exact Spider-Man (identical maximum star rating). Then you can sacrifice the double and two Spideys with a star rating one lower than the double, which will rank the main Spidey up for free. This presents some inventory management challenges and takes time due to the random nature of character collection, but at least it's free.

The other way to rank up is by spending ISO-8. This won't sacrifice any Spider-Men (I think). But the ISO-8 costs are awful and divorced from reality. To move up from one rank to another can cost $50-100 worth of premium currency. Gameloft's IAP prices are always steep, but the Spider-Man Unlimited's IAPs really sting since the game is so good.

Only the Spider-Men you take out on a run will gain experience. The rest of your characters essentially go to waste, unless you send them out on Spidey Ops. These are "away" missions that last one or more hours. Up to six Characters can be sent on a Spidey Ops mission, during which time they are unavailable for play, rank-ups, and level-ups.

Energy and social features

Spider-Man Unlimited adds a totally unwanted IAP mechanic to the endless running genre: energy. It costs one unit of energy to play any mode, and it takes ten minutes to regenerate that one energy. Players can store a maximum of five energy units. Energy refills cost three ISO-8s.

Luckily, you can bolster your energy supply by making friends. Every day, players can send and receive one free unit of energy to each individual friend. The more friends you have, the more energy you'll receive as a result. The energy they send can be "banked" in your inbox, ready to cash in when you need it.

If the game must have an energy system (we'd all prefer it didn't), Gameloft should offer a way to increase the maximum amount of energy that can be stored. I would pay a reasonable amount of money to boost the max up to ten or higher.

Technical Issues

Despite its high production values, Spider-man Unlimited suffers from a number of technical issues at launch:

  • Control sensitivity: The game suffers from missed swipes on all three platforms (Windows Phone, Android, and iOS). This leads to many unnecessary deaths and wasted energy. Hopefully Gameloft updates each version of the game with proper controls.

Windows Phone-specific bugs:

  • Start-up time: The game takes an excessive period of time to booth up – often one minute or more. This seems to stem from the online server. It's not uncommon for Gameloft games to crash on start-up or take forever to launch. They need to take care of the cause once and for all.
  • Online requirement: The game is supposed to be playable offline, but it fails to start up without an internet connection.
  • Spider-man selection during Rank- and Level-ups: After selecting a character to rank- or level-up, actually choosing the characters to spend on that upgrade is extremely difficult. The game won't let you scroll the list down; it just selects whichever character you last touched. The workaround is to move your finger off to the side after you scroll the screen.
  • Energy refill bug: The timer for energy refills bugs out on some users and won't refill for days. The workaround is to cash in energy from friends until your energy fills up, which will reset the timer.
  • Friends list bug: My friends list won't allow me to send energy to my friends. I can only send energy when requested from my inbox.
  • "You can't go back" bug: Sometimes the game won't allow users to press the Back button to exit the app.

Overall Impression

Spider-Man Unlimited is a tough game to rate. It's very disappointing to see Gameloft experiment with an energy system in a genre that traditionally does not have them. The game is loaded enough with IAP mechanics anyway, including many IAP prices that are ridiculous and much higher than equivalents found in other runners like Sonic Dash and Temple Run 2. Also, the technical issues can be off-putting, but at least those are likely to get fixed.

And yet… The game itself is just so good. The graphics, art style, and sound are all top-notch, perfectly capturing the essence of Spider-Man (other than his mid-level quips being kind of lame here). The hunt for new characters and constant competition of the Unlimited and Event modes proves extremely fun and addictive. We also get a quality story mode, which I hope will be updated to include a full roster of six supervillains over time.

Gamers who love Spider-Man and can tolerate the energy mechanic and bugs will probably fall in love with his game. I was tired of endless runners before Spider-Man Unlimited came out, and yet Unlimited is currently one of my favorite mobile games.

Note: Gameloft has yet to confirm whether this game will be updated for 512 MB devices. A Windows 8 version is not currently in development.

  • Spider-Man Unlimited – Windows Phone 8 – 91+ MB – Free – Store Link

Paul Acevedo

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!