Thursday, April 18, 2024

Panels and Pixels: Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage.

( Roughly three years ago, our own Joe D wrote a tribute to the late Stan Lee in the form of his favorite Marvel games. Number three on that list was a favorite of mine: Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage.

Spider-Man and Venom Team Up

This game takes the 1993 Spider-Man story arc “Maximum Carnage” and condenses it into an action packed title. Carnage is one of Venom’s symbiotes, a parasitic alien being that amplifies the dark side of its host.

The original Carnage came from Venom, whose host Eddie Brock who had just escaped from prison. Before this, the Venom symbiote managed to create an offspring which took over the body of demented serial killer Cletus Kasady, Brock’s cellmate.

Much like the issue Spider-Man had with Venom, Carnage breaks out and begins wreaking havoc. As expected, Spidey sets off to fight Carnage who now has his own gang of villains—who serve as bosses.

Venom joins the fight and is playable. Other heroes help out at different points in the story. The game veers away from the comic’s story purely because it’s a story that came along during the extreme ‘90s in entertainment and sports.

“Maximum Carnage” is a story that is somewhat mature in content for Marvel Comics at this time. Remember, Marvel still had to dance around the restrictive Comics Authority.

Also, this game was advertised for a younger audience since Spidey’s popularity was high at the time. At least high enough to warrant all the merch and games the franchise picked up during the 90s.

That aside, it still sported a T-rating—or the old MA-13 on the Sega Genesis—while not being any more violent than Turtles in Time.

Spider-Man and Venom Maximum Carnage


Here’s where the glow of Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage wears off. For the early 90s, this game wasn’t unique or groundbreaking at all but when looking back at games from the first half of the 90s, you realize very few were

Pushing graphical capabilities was more of the focus at the time as many games of their respective genres were clones of the larger games in the genre.

There was no shortage of fighting games in the vein of Street Fighter or Fatal Fury. The game didn’t change for that genre until Mortal Kombat then Virtua Fighter.

In the case of action games, Double Dragon and River City Ransom established what a beat ‘em up or brawler should be with the game changing with Streets of Rage and Final Fight. Maximum Carnage just had a major publisher license behind it.

It’s a garden variety brawler that featured some cool gimmicks but those were mandatory for the characters. You just can’t have a Spider-Man game without web-slinging, folks.

However, those gimmicks weren’t something that would translate to staples of action game and beat ‘em up mechanics.

On the flip side, more brawlers could’ve used the cutscenes used in Maximum Carnage. They really helped in telling the story and beat the hell out of your character getting to the end of a stage and an animation with no dialogue moving things along.

As for difficulty, the game got a little surly early on. Boss battles could be a headache and might be downright annoying for gamers not used to 2D side-scrolling titles.

One of Acclaim and LJN’s Best Games

What stood out about this game at first glance was the red cartridge of Maximum Carnage. Beyond that, we got a pretty stock 90s beat ‘em up that actually works.

In 1994, this game wasn’t breaking any ground. By the time it was released, we had successful beat ‘em up franchises such as Final Fight and Streets of Rage. After these two franchises dropped their sequels, the blueprint for 90s brawlers was in stone.

Factor in that technology-wise, there was only so much the SNES and Sega Genesis could do with beat ‘em ups, it wasn’t too hard to develop clones of those games and give them a different coat of paint.

You’d be amazed at some of the games from this period that dropped the ball with this simple formula. LJN and Acclaim were studios known to be hit or miss across games with LJN leaning towards habitually missing.

What made Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage one of their best games was that neither developer had a hand in the development. That task went to Software Creations, a studio that worked in numerous superhero games.

Verdict: This Game Is Dope

Maximum Carnage just works as a game from this period. LJN and Acclaim managed to hold on to their Marvel Comics license for a few more years. Unfortunately, the 90s just wasn’t a strong decade for LJN or comics video games for the most part.

As far as Marvel Comics is concerned, the first Spider-Man and Venom game was the strongest of the pack. Of course, being a part of a weak pack easily makes a decent game look much better than it actually is.

It’s a solid game all-around and I enjoyed the familiar beat ‘em up challenge and the soundtrack that made this seem like a Sega Genesis game on the SNES. What also pushes an otherwise “mid” game into dope territory is just how fun it is.

As a beat ‘em up, this game doesn’t come close to touching Streets of Rage 2, Final Fight 2, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time. However, it has the fun factor that makes worth at least one playthrough.

Staff Writer; M. Swift

This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.

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