By Eric Drumm
[Welcome to Make Mine Marvel, a bi-weekly series of articles devoted to all the things we've loved about Marvel over the past 60 years. From toys to video games, movies to trading cards, Underoos to stamps and more, we embrace it—warts and all. Kick back and enjoy Marvel's merry past with us.
"Maximum Carnage" was to '90s comics what Michael Jackson was to '80s pop music—iconic, inescapable and completely over the top. The non-stop, who-cares-if-it-makes-sense-because-we-think -it's-friggin'-cool attitude of comics in the '90s
produced "Maximum Carnage," a story so huge, in fact, that it jumped out of the long box and oozed its symbiote goo into the other pillar of our lives at the time: video games. Spidey held a monopoly over our afternoons in those days, and we were more than happy to surrender them.
The "Maximum Carnage" video game proved that a super hero game could be made and not totally suck. This enthralling and seemingly endless beat-'em-up had Spidey punching out hundreds of criminals, taking on multiple villains at once—deathmatch style—and calling in the cavalry when he needed it. Even the cartridge itself imposed and demanded attention.
Red SNES and
Unlike the gray and black SNES and Genesis (respectively) carts we were used to, "Maximum Carnage" creepily stood out from your library. Colored blood red, it seemed so dead wrong, yet completely awesome at the same time. With Carnage flashing his fangs while descending upon the New York skyscrapers, the game pretty much web-slinged off the shelf and into the hands of eager gamers.
Along Came a Spider
Unlike other hero games that were just random villain fights, "Maximum Carnage"
Spidey's had enough
followed the comics almost entirely. From Carnage's bloody breakout through the New York streets up to the final battle, the game followed Spidey almost issue for issue. With transitions between levels featuring art right from the books, the game acted as a sort of Cliff's notes for the storyline.
Power and Responsibility
Side-scrolling fighters in the vein of "Maximum Carnage" (such as "Final Fight" and "Streets of Rage") followed a fairly simple move set: Punch, punch, punch (maybe even a kick) and then the uppercut, rinse and repeat. "MC" sported that same kind of redundant combo, but luckily had almost all of
his super powers too. The web-shooters let Spidey pull his enemies toward him for a beatdown and the web-sling let him hit his foes with a spider-bootie to the dome. The backflip kick and hockey-style body check were unexpected goodies and added to Spidey's impressive arsenal. Stalwarts like super-strength and super-leap were present, but the most innovative bit was the use of his Spider-Sense. At certain levels Spidey used his special power to avoid Shriek's kill bolts while wall crawling to safety. They left out the Spider-Signal, but we weren't too sad about it.
Just as in the comics, Spidey's digital self received more than a few helping hands in his quest to take down Carnage and his gang. By
picking up icons, you could call on other Marvel do-gooders to lay the smackdown. Old girlfriend Black Cat backflipped her way across evil while living vampire Morbius slashed with his creepy claws. Street-level heroes Cloak and Dagger showed up to throw light rays and teleport bad guys…somewhere else. Captain America dropped in and slung some shield at Spidey's side while Deathlok busted caps across the screen. Finally, the immortal Iron Fist and amazing friend Firestar also made brief appearances. Even if they only showed up for a hot second, seeing all those characters in the game gave fanboys a tickle.
Friendly Neighborhood Carnage
Sure, Spidey has friends but he had a whole lotta enemies too. When Carnage first turned
on the faucet to his bloodbath, he inspired every criminal in New York to declare Christmas. You had your trenchcoated bums and funky fresh homeboys, which eventually led to fatsos with blackjacks and Wall Street dudes with deadly umbrellas. However, the most memorable enemies Spidey faced in "Maximum Carnage" may have been the beret clad girls who rocked some of the cheapest move in video game history. Spider-Man has gone toe to toe with the Hulk and we're expected to believe that a teenage girl can floor him by whipping her hair at his face? C'mon!
On the powered side, of course you had
Evil on the loose
Carnage, but it was his band of cronies that laid down the icing on the evil cake. The insane Shriek as well as her "pet," Spidey's twisted Doppleganger, put Spidey through the wringer. And flying baddies Demogoblin and Carrion had him fighting for his life. Bonus kudos to the game's developers for translating their powers from the comics to the game! Unfortunately, just like in the original storyline, you had to tackle each villain several times to KO them for good. Oh, but the satisfaction of defeating them was so sweet.
Fighting your way across New York as your pal
Spider-Man and Venom
Spider-Man: always pretty awesome. What made "Maximum Carnage" even better? Playing as Venom! At certain points in the game, you're given the option to take to the rooftops as the Lethal Protector and venture off on a slightly different path than the Wall-Crawler. A mite bit slower than Spidey, Venom was bigger, stronger and could do everything Spider-Man could. "Maximum Carnage" was Eddie's big video game debut, and he celebrated by ripping dudes in half. Awesome!
"Maximum Carnage" acted as the perfect companion piece to one of the biggest Spider-Man sagas of all time. It has all the right elements for a kick-ass game, and the end result was a fun, kinda unoriginal beat-'em-up romp. BUT, it totally fed the hunger for a hardcore comic game that gnawed at the bellies of all Marvel Zombies. Nowadays the side-scrolling criminal-basher may seem outdated and boring. However, it's quite the fantastic alternative to reading the trade.