A lot of people must hate Rocksteady right now - a lot of superhero game developers must, anyway. Unshackled by a movie tie-in and free to focus on a single location along with a bespoke, carefully selected cast, Batman: Arkham Asylum changed a sizable audience's idea of what a comic book game could be.
Rather than a thin coating of licence slapped over a lame brawler, its mechanics were born out of the central character's particular strengths and - most brilliantly - weaknesses. The result was elegant, pacy and inspired.
Hopefully, Arkham may have forced rival developers to get their acts together. There have been good Spider-Man games before, granted, but not for a few years. While a hands-off presentation means it's impossible to get a sense of the quality of the latest attempt, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions does at least look like one of the more interesting of the web-swinger's recent offerings.
Instead of doing an Arkham, however, and zeroing in on a particular interpretation of who Spider-Man is, developer Beenox has gone in completely the opposite direction, tearing open the Marvel multiverse - does DC own the term multiverse? Probably - and offering four iconic takes on the character.
The justification for all of this multi-Spidey mayhem comes down to some manner of contrived parallel universe incident that has apparently lead to the mysterious Tablet of Order and Chaos being busted into pieces. I know: sounds bad.
That means it's up to Spider-Man to track down the separate shards, all of which have fallen into different dimensions. This leaves the player with a game that has a single story spread across four diverse environments, with four different Spider-Men to try out. All of them utilise the same basic controls, but have their own quirks and emphases.
Hopefully, the different dimensions will go deeper than a mere pallet swap. The first Spider-Man the game introduces you to is the regular guy: the standard-issue Amazing variant. His world is gently cel-shaded and - rather disappointingly for fans of Spider-Man 2 - exchanges an open-plan New York for a pretty linear-looking jungle adventure.
Backgrounds are drawn with bright colours and nice, cartoony stylisations, and there's plenty of collectables sprinkled around, but this appears to be the vanilla dimension, a simple acrobatic brawler filled with plenty of opportunities to let loose with basic combos and web attacks.
The second dimension seems a lot more interesting. Spider-Man's new Noir incarnation is based on a short-lived series of comic books that saw Peter Parker duking it out with baddies during the Great Depression.
What this translates to in-game is a stealthier take on the character, as a leather-clad Spidey - looking a little like the Rocketeer - picks his way through the dank shadows of a sepia-toned New York, taking out heavily-armed enemies before they can draw a bead on him.
On paper this sounds fantastic, and there's plenty of appealing concept artwork showing hulking locomotives lined up in dingy rail yards and spindly radio antennas ripe for scaling.
It's harder to judge how well it's going to actually work, however, since the lighting in the demo we're shown is utterly busted, with Spider-Man literally disappearing into complete blackness as he races around a Coney Island-style fairground, laying the silent smackdown on a number of Tommy-Gun wielding sentries.
It's an early build, however, and, given that you'll likely be able to actually see what you're doing in the finished version, it seems like a promising take on light stealth, as you time your movements to avoid revealing your position during regular bursts of light from fireworks, and choose your placements well to get the drop on the enemy, working out when to lurk at ground level, and when to zip up above everyone and pirouette across power-lines and gantries.
There's a neat bleeding red light effect that kicks in whenever you've been spotted - it would call to mind Schindler's List if it wasn't for last year's drunken punch-up The Saboteur - and if your cover's blown you've still got Spidey's traditional arsenal of melee moves and ranged web attacks to help you out.
The third dimension revealed so far pulls the timeline out of the past and shoves it a little way into the future. This is Spider-Man 2099, an early 1990s comic book spin-off that pitched Spidey into the heart of a futuristic cyberpunk dystopia. Hopefully it's all a bit more interesting than it sounds - it certainly looks pretty at any rate, as the game exchanges murky noir tones and four-colour-styled cel-shading for glossy blues, oranges and silvers.
New York has become Nueva York - probably not a Thomas Pynchon reference, sadly - in a corrupted future where corporations and a sham police department have carved up the city. There's a new man in the red and blue suit - a Mexican named Miguel O'Hara - and there's a new red and blue suit, come to think of it: a shiny cybernetic affair covered with light strips and complex piping.
There's plenty of lens flair and fast-moving hover taxis to be seen in our short demo, as Spidey chases the Hob-Goblin across busy skyscraper canyons, and the focus here is on a more 'feral' take on combat. Spider-Man can grow claws and talons, by the looks of it, and the game seems to have a much faster pace, moving from one hemmed-in combat arena to the next in bursts of violent action.
The fourth dimension is yet to be revealed, but the overall shape of the game is starting to become apparent, with three separate acts, each with sequences spread across the four universes, each based around different villains, before the game comes to its climax in a final boss fight.
The baddies seem to be a good selection - Noir gets Hammerhead for starters, and there's also hints of Kraven and the Green Goblin floating around - but Shattered Dimensions will ultimately live or die depending on how well it balances the fun across its different universes: allowing each one to mix the pace up, while ensuring none of them become chores you can't wait to be done with.
Until we've had a chance to see how the game feels - and whether it can really justify its shifting pallets by nimbly reinventing the mechanics each time - Shattered Dimensions remains an interesting proposition. Trading focus for range is a bold move on the developer's part - hopefully it will have been a smart one as well.
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is due out for DS, PS3, Wii and Xbox 360 this September.