The Game: The Green Goblin and his henchmen are terrorizing the city once more, and it’s up to Spider-Man to restore order. But the odds are against him: he can only attach his web to the surface of the building, naturally, but the Goblin’s underlings are ready and eager to cut Spidey’s web should it be planted near them. Worse yet, the difficult-to-navigate high voltage tower at the top of the building is riddled with the Goblin’s bombs, and even if Spidey can defuse them, there’s a Super Bomb waiting for him at the top of the building – and he can only put it out of commission after dealing with the Green Goblin personally. (Parker Bros., 1983 / released by Bas Kornalijnslijper in 2006)
Memories: A chance discovery made by collector Bas Kornalijnslijper among a handful of ROM chips given to him by a former Phillips Electronics employee, Spider-Man was long known to have at least been in the works. Various advertising material touting the other four games created by Parker Bros. for the Videopac (the Odyssey2’s European near-twin) had mentioned that Spider-Man was “coming soon!” But of course, support for the Odyssey2 had largely disappeared by that time in North America (none of the Parker Bros. games were released there), and while it didn’t happen as quickly, the Videopac’s support also faded away in Europe; Spider-Man simply didn’t make it to market within that window. Now, along with another advertised-but-never-sold Parker Bros. title, Tutankham, Spider-Man has been unearthed.
Produced as a limited run of custom-made, numbered cartridges by Bas Kornalijnslijper in 2006, Spider-Man is a game that was designed for the European Videopac console, but it works flawlessly on a U.S. Odyssey2 console, and thus presumably on Brazilian models as well. The video and screen shots presented here have not been retouched or otherwise altered. The game itself is quite unique in the Odyssey2/Videopac library, being the only vertically-scrolling climbing game that I can think of for this machine; any other games where upwardly mobile characters are involved confine that action to a single screen (Pick Axe Pete!, Monkeyshines!).
Compared to the slightly more elaborate version of this same title on the Atari 2600, Spider-Man on the Odyssey2/Videopac is simplified to brass tacks. The diagonal girders on top of the building are gone, leaving a ladder-like gridwork for Spidey to scale, and the size of the building itself (and therefore the number of windows to contend with) is smaller as well. (As someone who routinely gets his butt kicked by the Green Goblin on the 2600, however, I have to say that these simplifications aren’t entirely unwelcome!)
What Spider-Man does right on this platform, however, more than makes up for any lost complexity: smooth motion of everything on the screen, a flicker-free display, and a fairly easy-to-master control scheme (not that this occasionally doesn’t still result in Spidey laying in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the building – apparently he can do everything a spider can, right up to and including getting squished!). There’s also a nifty little title screen, very much along the lines that Parker Bros. included on Frogger and the unreleased prototype of Tutankham, in which Spidey swings across the screen in a fluid motion, revealing the letters that make up his name as he goes.
Overall, as unreleased prototypes go, Spider-Man seemed to be finished and ready for production, and possibly could have even shipped in North America had Parker Bros. ever decided to take the gamble and release its games for the Odyssey2 in that territory. As it is, it remained a mystery – but now, thanks to the dedication of collectors and fans, a mystery that we can at least play and enjoy.