In what should be considered a war crime against free time, Gameloft has done the unthinkable with Spider-Man Unlimited: created a free-to-play endless runner/swinger/crawler in which you control Spider-Man as he defends Earth from the Sinister Six. Oh, did I mention you also spend the game collecting other Spider-Men and Women ... and also it's really fun? It's frankly unconscionable.
Spidey zips along New York rooftops, through buildings, even inside spaceships as he darts between obstacles (scoring bonus points for waiting till the last second) and kicking the snot out of bad guys. The action occasionally switches to segments where Spider-Man swings through the air, scales buildings, even gets in a bit of free-falling. Along the way, Spider-Man collects vials of ... something (science?) and uses them to open a portal to an alternate dimension where a new, randomly selected Spider-Man (or the recently introduced Spider-Girl) waits to join his team.
I've been playing for hours contentedly without spending a dime.
But I wouldn't even need that persistently potent lure to draw me in: Spider-Man Unlimited is a top-notch game all on its own. It controls splendidly, the animation is great and the environments are varied enough that every attempt at a record-length run seems fresh and unique.
There are microtransaction hooks, of course. If you play more than five times in quick succession you have to wait a few minutes before you can go again, so you can pay to refill that energy, if you like. You can also pay for vial multipliers, power-ups, there are honestly a lot of ways to bury your dough. But crucially, none are essential; I've been playing for hours contentedly without spending a dime.
That's especially impressive considering just how much you get for nothing. There's a story that's being released episodically, there's an endless mode, there are regular events, there are leaderboard where you can see how you stack up against friends, there's ... there's a lot OK? And again: collectible Spider-Men.