I see a little bit of myself in Peter Parker. No, I don’t have his intelligence and quick wit and I definitely can’t scale a building and swing around a city shooting webs. What we both have in common is a failure to find a balance between our personal and working lives. Now, in context, we live completely different lives and my commitments are pretty mundane compared to Spidey’s acts of heroism, however, it does ultimately lead to us missing out on other things that we would rather be doing.
Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man tells the story of everyone’s favourite web-slinger. Peter is constantly late to all working and social commitments and this is clearly because of his commitment to keeping the streets of New York safe, and damn is it a big city with an extremely high crime rate. Being Spider-Man has clearly broken down his relationship with Mary-Jane and kept him from earning a decent wage to save himself from eviction. We just can’t have it all, can we Spidey? For instance, I can’t get enjoying a decent open-world RPG these days because there just isn’t enough hours in the day.
Okay look, I’m not saying that Peter Parker would rather sit around and play video games all day (although he seems like he would enjoy a good RPG). I work full time in a pretty demanding industry and I just wish I had that little bit more time to enjoy the finer things in life, you know like video games. The truth is I don’t get as much time as I would like to play these days, so all these huge open world games are daunting and are mostly bought, played for a couple of hours then thrown on the backlog. Until Spider-man came crawling along.
I have friends who have already got that coveted platinum trophy for collecting everything in the game and playing it to completion. To them here’s a pat on the back. But I do feel a little bit sorry for them. Like a fine Scottish malt, I think Spider-man should be sipped and enjoyed, not guzzled down in the one like some cheap sugary shot on a stag weekend. It’s a game to come back to time and time again to complete each district by finding every collectable, completing every research station, snapping every landmark, upgrading your gear and completing every side mission to slowly fill up that progress meter.
Spider-man does host a fairly big map, but it’s not at all daunting to a casual player. What makes this more accessible is how damn fun swinging around the city is. Yes, there is fast travel but who wants to get the train when you can jump, flip, climb and swing your way to each marker, picking off thugs and halting bank heists on the way. Doing this helps you slowly complete each district in terms of available crimes to stop.
The only platinum trophy I have is Bloodborne’s and that is because it was a world that I couldn’t peel myself away from. There’s just something about Spider-Man’s world, something that pulls me in and keeps me coming back until I’ve shaken loose every single piece of this fantastic game. I was never much of a completionist before. I simply don’t have time, but Spider-man has shown me that tackling games in smaller bites can be just as rewarding, if not more than gulping them down in one go.
Loading it up each day for an hour or even less and I get to decide what to do in that sitting. Do I continue with the research stations? Do I try and find the rest of Black Cat’s precious cuddly toys? I see the Taskmaster is taunting me again, do I complete his challenges to shut him up once and for all? There’s just an abundance of choice and I never felt lost coming back to it. I knew what was left to be done and I was going to use all my Spidey strength to do it.
There are many narrative-driven games that you can put down for a couple of days and when you come back to them you are completely lost. Where am I going? What’s happening? Who am I? Not in Spider-Man. You will always know where to go or have the ability to decide what do next and of course, you will always know who you are! Insomniac has created a game for all types of players and this is something that many other game devs could learn from. Casual gamers finally have a game to sink their teeth into, or rather sling their webs at.