Game Art Spotlight: SpiderMan the Videogame


The game art spotlight is a series that’ll showcase games with unusually good, unique or otherwise charming styles of pixel art. And since this is the first entry, I’m featuring the first art style I ever really fell in love with.

Sega released the SpiderMan arcade game in 1991. Perhaps the nicest aspect of the artwork is the lengths it went to in copying comic book art style. From the heavily-inked figure shading to the scribbles in the lightly-colored distant city backgrounds, a lot of comic illustration conventions were translated into the confines of low color-count pixel art, which I can only now appreciate the more I dig into it.

The SpiderMan game intro

The date is 1991, and you’ve just walked in front of a game that had better animation and artwork than any SpiderMan game — or even cartoon — up to that point. The phrase “shut up and take my money” is born.

The game itself was pretty stiff and it got repetitive, but the important thing is that it wasn’t so bad that it was unplayable for casual fun. The drone enemies had an irritating high-pitched howling sound effect when they appeared, but taken in the context of a bustling arcade, this was actually a smart little ploy: the human ear picks up high-pitched sounds a lot easier than other sounds, so if you were in the middle of a noisy group of people and loud arcade games, the piercing tone of that howling would be like a beacon to your ears. (Another great example: TMNT the arcade game, where high pitched tones are brilliantly mixed in to the Attract Mode tune).

It’s heartbreaking when games come out that develop a great, unique art style like this and then never use the style for any later games. And for the longest time, I had thought this was the only appearance this art style had ever made. But I recently had a mini-Christmas when I discovered that there was at least one more under-the-radar release that also worked with this beautiful ‘pixel comic inking’ style…

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Are you a bad enough dude to comment?

  1. I don’t remember any other game trying to look like a comic book as much as this did. I had a lot of fun playing this at the Eastwood Mall way back when and the amazing graphics were a big factor. I’m looking forward to the next part of this article.

  2. MikeBee

    this was my favorite game when it came out. i wish they’d release a home version