Oh, I loved this. I wrung every bit of web-slinging joy from Insomniac’s prior Spider-Man game, but never quite loved the story, given that Peter Parker was basically re-enforcing a New York City police state.

SPIDER-MAN: MILES MORALES takes everything that’s great about Insomniac’s prior SPIDER-MAN game and improves on almost every facet of it. The mechanics are just as silky-smooth, if not better, than the prior game. However, what really makes the game shine is the writing which, for a triple A blockbuster superhero game is a minor miracle.

(I’ll quickly note that I’m not at all familiar with Miles Morales apart from INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE. I’ve read zero of the Marvel Ultimate comics.)

Miles (now a younger Spider-Man) and his childhood friend Phin are teenage nerds. Not contemporary nerds, but old-school smart nerds who get excited about science and space and tinker on projects together! They’re still struggling with finding their space in the world — as teens do — but they’re not too terribly awkward, and they have a very tight brother/sister dynamic. But really, these two are unapologetic brilliant nerds, it’s the springboard for the game’s arc, and I love it.

There’s also an earnestness and idealism that I adore about the game. Yeah, there’s a lot of overwrought conflict that wouldn’t feel out-of-place in a J.J. Abrams work, you have to suspend disbelief for the sheer amount of tech created within such a short period of time, and I’m a bit shocked at how some of Miles’ moves would -definitely- induce death — for example: you can turn human bodies into bombs — but overall it’s an extremely playable game about biological and adopted family and the love for your original and adopted boroughs.

Did I mention that the game is goddamn gorgeous?! Insomniac also lets you tweak what you prefer from your visuals. Want high-end visual fidelity? You’ve got it, locked at 30fps! You demand 60fps? You can have it with a few downgrades you’ll never notice! Want it to look like INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE? No problem, just make sure to bank some activity tokens first.

If there’s one flaw, it’s that Miles’ powers seem far too powerful, and the game occasionally tries to course-correct this with power-negating guns and/or throwing waves and waves of criminals at you, invoking occasional frustration, but that doesn’t last long. Eventually you’ll suss the proper rhythm.

This is blockbuster gaming done right and I hope other studios learn from it, and I’m very happy that I waited for a PS5 to play it. In fact, I’m still playing it, because I love the bodega cat costume so much, which is only available after starting New Game+.


I’ve been following Tom Scharpling for a while: he was involved with every episode of MONK, my first adult TV mystery love (yet again, I stupidly worked my way backward and wouldn’t see COLUMBO until a number of years after MONK’s finale); I’ve tuned into THE BEST SHOW intermittently over its long life; I’ve laughed along with his banter with Marc Maron on WTF, heard him as Steven’s father on STEVEN UNIVERSE, and I now eagerly look forward to every Monday drop of DOUBLE THREAT, his weekly podcast with Julie Klausner.

If there’s any thorough-line with Scharpling’s work and comedy, it’s that he’s earnest and never malicious. He doesn’t punch down. He’s a nakedly honest funnyman who wears his heart on his sleeve, someone who is unafraid to admit to times when he’s openly wept.

Unsurprisingly, his memoir IT NEVER ENDS, is similarly earnest, honest, and emotional, while often laugh-out-loud funny. While Scharpling has had his ups and downs, and he has battled a number of personal issues, he’s always straightforward with the reader, and he is well-aware that he hasn’t suffered some of the many hardships as many others have. However, he also realizes that his personal journey hasn’t been easy for him, and he conveys his insecurities and depressive attributes in ways that are extremely relatable, and he hopes that the reader can learn from his experiences.

It’s a quality memoir, one that excels when it’s recounting stories rather than describing them. While it’s as amusing as you’d expect from Scharpling, it’s far more interesting and deeper than you’d suspect, and worth your time.