Sometimes a trip down memory lane sends you to “do you remember this terrible game from your childhood?” street. My most recent visit brought me to the house of Venom/Spider-Man: Separation Anxiety. I’d remembered playing the sequel to Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage, but I couldn’t remember its quality. Out of morbid curiosity and with a PS Vita in hand, I downloaded the game, then, as soon as the terrible 16-bit music began, immediately regretted my decision.
Venom/Spider-Man: Separation Anxiety is a beat-up side-scrolling game featuring Venom and Spider-Man who team-up to take on Carnage. It's a simple enough plot, but then all the confusing details came flooding back to me. I mentioned earlier that it was a sequel to Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage, and it’s also named after the Venom: Separation Anxiety limited comic series, but it’s actually loosely based on the Venom: Lethal Protector comic limited series. I went back and read both to find out just how far the limits of "loosely based" went.
Venom: Separation Anxiety is a four-issue series that's kind of like a symbiote-themed Homeward Bound movie. Eddie Brock and the symbiote that makes up his living suit are separated a great distance from one another. The entire series, Eddie’s symbiote travels by way of going from host to host to get to him. It’s a really twisted Finding Nemo-type of situation. Meanwhile, Eddie Brock is naked for a good number of comic panels and is doing a horrible job at being the symbiote whisperer for the members of the Life Foundation. The members were all newly bonded to their symbiotes and wanted Eddie’s help with bonding with their “other." The series is also sprinkled with so many panels of Eddie and his symbiote longing for one another, as though at any moment they could have broken out into a 90’s R&B duet in the middle of a thunderstorm.
The pair finally reunites but are in desperate need of some couples counseling. I could see them on a Marvel-themed Iyanla: Fix My Life episode. (Their episode could air right after the Storm and T’Challa one.) It’s unfortunate the video game wasn’t based on this series, as there could have been a very naked Eddie Brock with luscious long blond locks in 16-bit glory.
Instead, the game barely follows Venom: Lethal Protector. In the series Spider-Man stalks Venom cross-country, breaking the agreement he and Venom made because Peter doesn’t know how to just swing and mind his neighborhood. Venom goes back to his home in San Francisco to start life new as an anti-hero. Spider-Man spends a good amount of time expecting the worst of Venom who is actually trying to save an underground city of people from a greedy industry tycoon who wants the gold located near their city. The Life Foundation gets involved and Venom finally convinces Spider-Man to help him keep the city safe. The video game features some of this and remixes it but it’s a total flop.
I wasted a good six hours playing this game, spending a good chunk of that time dying repeatedly until I broke out the cheat codes. Playing single player and not co-op is the absolute worst because the enemies are rude and don’t wait for you to beat them up. They just start punching you in the back of the head and delivering body blows the moment they line up with you. The street thugs look more like hipsters and the members of the group called The Jury look like Cobra rejects. The cutaway scenes are depressingly bad, they look like lazily put together Powerpoint slides with the fade in and out transitions. Unlike Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage which used scenes pulled directly from comic pages, there is a transparent image of Venom and Spider-Man with superimposed words to tell you what's happening next when you complete a stage.
There are also appearances from other Marvel characters as you get further into the game. You can summon Hawkeye, who jumps into a half split and shoots arrows vertically into the air to somehow magically impale your enemies. When you summon Captain America, he throws that shield in a circle and hops out of frame, never to be seen again. Both Daredevil and Ghost Rider come out swinging their weapons of choice like cowboys and flip out of existence. Lastly, you can also summon the Lululemon-wearing Iron Fist to kick an enemy or two. If you somehow make it to the end of the game, which I managed without rage quitting, you're kind of just fighting Carnage. Once he’s defeated you’re treated to an uninspired image of Carnage and the credits. That’s it, that's the game. The only separation anxiety felt is you and the process time you waste playing.
Now I know why I blocked it out of the mind for so long. It was bad then and even worse now.