Genre: Beat ’em up
Year: 1994
Developed by: Software Creations
Published by: LJN
Platforms: SNES, Genesis
Feeling Like: Three’s a crowd

I say this often, but this one is probably too high. You can complete this beat ’em up in about an hour, if you know what you’re doing. True to the genre, it can devolve into a mindless, monotonous mess. Punch and kick bad guys. Not a lot of enemy variety. Very few special moves. Obnoxiously difficult.

Alas, I’m blinded by the amazing soundtrack and the dedication to the comics. Those two factors are the only reason it’s up this high.

And you get to play as Venom. Another notch on an admittedly average belt.

Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage is one of the better Beat ’em ups on the SNES, or at least I thought it was at the time. Playing as Spider-Man meant I could do all sorts of acrobatics involving his web and fists. The sounds you hear as you wallop thug after thug were satisfying and thanks to the cheap AI, I was always on my toes.

Seriously, the lack of co-op is one of gaming’s greatest crimes. You have it on the box that it’s Spider-Man AND Venom, but no, you only get to choose one or the other and it’s a single player game only. Enemies swarm you so consistently that you’ll constantly be punched in the back of the head, or double teamed. It seems the game was designed for two player, only for them to remove that option at the last minute. If you find yourself in between enemies, regardless of how powerful they are, get out while you still can. Your health bar will thank you.

Still, you get to choose to play Venom and that was good enough for me. As cool as Spidey is, I never get to play as Venom; I’m not even a fan, and I’m a fan. His design is fantastic. He’s far weightier than his friendly counter-part. Even landing after a jump will produce a satisfying “thud”. He seems more powerful, though I can’t back that up with facts. He’s bulkier, moves more slowly, but in a game where the screens and stages are pretty small, mobility was never really a priority for me.

The game seems merciless at times. You’ll often run into a boss at the end of a stage, or two, or even three. Shriek and Doppelganger are used a dozen times and I wish I was exaggerating. Near the end of the game, you’ll run through a boss gauntlet including Carrion, Demogoblin and Carnage himself. If you don’t master the punch-punch-run away strategy, you’re never getting through it, and you better hope you stocked up on extra lives.

Asking your fellow Marvel heroes for backup is always a good plan, even if I’d never heard of them (Firestar? Cloak?). LJN did a terrific job re-creating the panels from the comic storyline, and from what I hear it follows the plot pretty closely. This was one of the only SNES games I could remember doing this. The cut-scenes shown between levels really furthered my motivation to keep playing and see what would happen next. I just realized I never even read Maximum Carnage, something I’ll remedy very shortly.

The music is another highlight. Even if they just straight up used “The Mob Rules” by Black Sabbath, it’s a fantastic track and really gets you going for another boss fight against Shriek and Doppelganger. The rest of the soundtrack, produced by Green Jelly, is instantly unforgettable. Every track is highlighted by some energetic guitar or seedy punk riff. It’s one of the more underrated soundtracks out there. My favorite is probably this sinister sounding track during a boss fight. I feel like I’m fighting for my life in some underground club. The tracks themselves are short, and there aren’t that many in the game itself, but it’s quality over quantity in this case.

That’s about it. Trading the controller back and forth is nowhere near as fun as playing with a partner, but it was a highlight of many a sleep overs. Hey, and the cartridge was red! That’s neat!

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