Marvel success in movies, ‘Carnage’ in games

Published 7:01 am Sunday, May 10, 2015

Marvel is all the rage these days as “The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron” takes the world by storm.

Yet Marvel hasn’t always had success in the video game world. For every “X-Men” arcade game or “Marvel vs. Capcom” fighter, there’s an “Iron Man” movie ripoff that wasn’t very good.

Superhero video games have long been a questionable genre, as games based on our favorite comic characters haven’t always delivered on the promise of good gameplay.

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However, only one game came to mind after I heard Spiderman would join the Marvel Cinematic Universe. One game which stands head and shoulders above all of the good and bad comic games (yes, even Superman 64). One game which I swear was created from nightmares and the deepest pits of despair.

That game is “Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage,” one of the most frustrating and horrific side-scrollers I have ever had the chance to play.

“Maximum Carnage” was released in 1994 for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. One of the first games to be based directly off of a comic story, “Maximum Carnage” features Spiderman and his adversary, Venom, teaming up to take down the evil supervillain Carnage. Carnage, a darker version of Venom, has broken out of jail and is causing chaos in New York City.

On its surface, this game looks like another beat-’em-up side-scroller action game that many developers were fond of making in the early 1990s (think “Final Fight,” “The Simpsons,” etc.).

This is not a normal game, however. The enemies hit harder and have more health than normal. The controls are sloppy and difficult. Spiderman is way, way underpowered compared to Venom. The boss battles are frustrating, the enemy AI is tough, and the game is widely considered to be one of the toughest SNES games around.

There’s a lot of cool cameos and interesting graphics inside “Maximum Carnage,” but there are far too many features that punish players. In one particularly memorable boss fight, Spiderman and Venom have to sneak into the Fantastic Four lab and retrieve a special weapon. Players have to fight an incredibly difficult, large robot guardian to beat the level.

That boss is tough. Beyond tough. Ridiculously hard. The robot actually takes up more space than the screen shows, and the best strategy to defeat it is to jump in the air and do a flying kick at it over and over and over again. If you attack it straight on, it will kill you in two hits. If you time your flying kick wrong, the robot will knock you down. It is, in other words, the kind of painful boss fight some gamers love, but most gamers will get frustrated over.

And that’s not even counting the cheap boss fights you’ll encounter when facing off against Carnage’s minions.

“Maximum Carnage” is a torturous, yet addictive game I revisit every once in a while because I have never beaten the game. It’s nowhere near as enjoyable as “The Avengers” movie franchise, nor as enjoyable as some of Marvel’s recent games like “Deadpool.” It’s simply a fun reminder of how far Marvel has come over the years to entertain people in various ways. It will be interesting to see how the Avengers team spawns its own crop of games as time goes on.