Once upon a time, a little purple dragon hunted eggs in the Dragon Realms, the earth’s survivors fought off an invading alien species with yellow eyes and large white teeth, and a lombax battled a swarm of wacky enemies with equally as wacky weapons. Let’s not forget the man wall running across a mutant-infested city as well, and the electrical boy swinging across Harlem. These are all worlds that Insomniac Games expertly crafted for our imaginations’ delight. The busy game studio also made Stormland and The Unspoken for the Oculus Rift – not to mention the third-person co-op shooter Fuse. Ever since 1998, Insomniac Games has avoided the sea of floundering video game releases and instead created a library of excellent experiences.
I now consider Insomniac as my favorite studio among Sony-owned developers after the 2021 PlayStation Showcase. That top spot was held by Naughty Dog for a long time, especially during the Amy Hennig era, but once a pretentious and crunch-centered persona clouded their reputation I could not continue to name them my favorite. Nathan Drake’s equally unlucky and lucky antics will always be some of my favorite gaming moments, but one cannot deny the sheer output of Insomniac games as of late. It’s difficult – almost impossible – to strike that balance between quality and quantity. Most developers under Sony’s umbrella release one game every two, three, or even four years. Almost everyone is a technical powerhouse due to the resources and time that backs them. They have the quality, but not the quantity. A series like Call of Duty, on the other hand, is all about quantity with each subsequent game dipping into that mediocre range.
Somehow, though, Insomniac’s releases have managed both quality and quantity to a successful degree. I can’t even comprehend how the hardworking developers at Insomniac can work on so many well-received games at the same time. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that these developers must work under intense crunch and excessive work hours. There’s been no such accusation levied at Insomniac, however. In fact, they’ve been accused of the exact opposite (no crunch), which is hard to come by these days. When Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart was released, developers bragged about their crunch-free work live on Twitter. It’s difficult to comprehend that if that is the case, how Insomniac is able to pump out so many great games in such a short amount of time.
Ever since Sony acquired Insomniac for $299 million, they’ve consistently demonstrated that this was an excellent move on Sony’s part. It’s hard to deny that Insomniac was the king of the PlayStation 5 launch, providing much-needed exclusives to help sell the console. Sony owes Insomniac Games a great deal of debt for being their primary developer (not Naughty Dog) during one of the most important times of a console’s life. Despite strong competition from Microsoft, Insomniac developed games that sold me on the PS5. Let’s explore the various ventures that Insomniac contributed to the PlayStation family.
Despite being a cross-generation game, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales was advertised as one of the major PS5 launch titles. The newest generation of consoles needed to at least look like it had games to offer besides Demon’s Souls, and Miles Morales was a great way to start the generation. I will always correlate this game with the start of my PS5 journey – and what a start it was. This web-slinging adventure served as a glorified expansion for Marvel’s Spider-Man while somehow managing to stand on its own. Miles Morales had to prove to himself, Peter, and the citizens of Harlem that he was capable of taking up his own version of the Spider-Man mantle. Morales did exactly that, just as the game carved out its own identity independent of its preceding blockbuster.
Some may say that Morales is even better than the Spider-Man adventure that came before. This is largely due to two factors: its aptitude for brevity and the electrified powers of its protagonist. Insomniac, in general, manages content and enjoyment well, never stepping into the Assassin’s Creed territory of tedious, overly abundant tasks. The side missions all contribute to the overarching story of Miles gaining acceptance as Harlem’s Spider-Man, making them feel important and necessary. Additionally, the gameplay continues to feel satisfying as every electrifying punch has weight and impact.
As if one Spider-Man game wasn’t enough for the PS5, Insomniac Games also remastered Marvel’s Spider-Man, originally released for the PS4. There’s no denying that baby-faced Peter Parker created an Internet controversy, but, overall, the remaster offered a lot of improvements that fully utilized the new hardware. While capturing the same fun of swinging across New York City, the remaster also delivered on all of Sony’s promises for the PS5, including ray-tracing, higher frame rates, and instant loading times.
Insomniac Games is more than ‘the Marvel studio’ though, also releasing Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart. As I already reviewed the PS5 exclusive for Gaming Instincts, I will speed run through why this remains in my personal top 10 games list. In short, it captures the nostalgic spirit of Ratchet & Clank while mastering the new hardware for a colorful, well-crafted experience.
These three fantastic titles (Miles, the Spider-Man reboot and Ratchet) came out within the same year and all supported the PS5 launch. After such a busy and successful season for Insomniac Games, I was bold enough to predict that the studio wouldn’t make any meaningful announcements at the PlayStation Showcase. I mean it makes sense, right? What normal team can have a game trailer prepared after releasing three near-masterpieces within a short amount of time? Insomniac Games. That’s who.
The real kicker is that the studio didn’t only announce one game but two, the latter being a total surprise for the majority of viewers. The Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 trailer showed Miles and Peter working together while teasing the nightmarish big-mouthed villain Venom. Their second announcement, to almost universal praise, was Marvel’s Wolverine. Those three silver claws were enough to make any E3 crowd (pre-Covid) go crazy with hoots, hollers, and pro-Sony chants. Insomniac has reached the point where I’m not worried at all about these two games. I’m confident that the developers will exceed our expectations once more, continuing their reign as the true MVP of Sony’s solid lineup of studios.