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Miles Morales
Miles Morales

Miles Morales: Learning to Love Short Games

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The PS5 launch lineup taught me to appreciate shorter games and how they encourage quality game design. Usually, fans want long gaming experiences to merit the expensive price point, but long games often feel bloated and grow tiresome. Spider-Man Miles Morales shows that compact games shape tighter storylines and make for less mundane gameplay. The 20-hour game was a breath of fresh air amid a slurry of long and drawn out titles in the backend of 2020.  

Miles Morales exudes a painful and determined scream as electricity tingles from his hand. I first saw Insomniac’s new Spider-Man game at the PS5 Reveal Event. Though people were excited, they were equally worried about its scope. Miles was a glorified expansion like Chloe and Nadine’s adventures in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. Miles merits a standalone release but it’s small enough to cost $50 instead of $70. 

Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, Immortals Fenyx Rising, Cyberpunk 2077, and Demon’s Souls are all massive games released around the same time (not to say all long games are bad. If the gameplay is fun enough and the story stays intriguing, then it’s worth your time). Miles Morales released amid these 70 to 100-hour games. Many fans were disappointed that one of the PS5 launch exclusives was half a game, but, for me, Miles’ length enticed me. 

I was happy to jump into a game I could beat in a few days. The exhausting burden of endless side missions and hundreds of collectibles can take a toll. The compact game was a welcome reprieve. Outside of its release placement, Miles showed that short games bring better story and gameplay. Spider-Man: Miles Morales is my favorite game on the PS5 so far. 

A video game’s story can overstay its welcome like a TV show that does not know when to stop. Arrow, a CW show based on DC’s Green Arrow, was good for the first two seasons, but it started retreading old storylines and making up silly concepts. I found The Last of Us Part 2 overstayed its welcome as well. I thought the game hit its climax, but it kept on going for another two hours. A new enemy faction was shoehorned in and did not receive any development.

Nothing like this happened in Miles Morales. Plot points came at a fast pace, and it never grew stale. Without spoilers, twists appeared early, and the story proceeded at a breakneck pace. Many of the reveals, such as character revelations, were obvious from the get-go. I appreciated how obvious reveals happened early so the story can progress. It’s always frustrating when a storyline focuses on a revelation the player already knows, especially when the creators think they do not know. I am looking at you, Batman: Arkham Knight

Miles Morales

Some may assume that a brisk pace does not leave room for character development and meaningful interactions. Sometimes that is the case, but Insomniac does a great job of developing Miles’ relationships to the point where character moments are still emotional. For example, Miles’ relationship with his mom, who offers constant support for her son, is well-realized throughout the story. They are trying to better Harlem in their own ways, for Rio Morales is running for councilwomen. Conversations with Miles’ Uncle Aaron also have a deep impact on Miles’ decisions as Spider-Man.   

 

Nothing wasted my time. Everything in Miles’ main questline is meaningful for the overarching story. Thanks to the short nature of the game, the main story does not have filler. Insomniac did not pad it out to reach an obligatory game length. 

Almost every time I play a longer game, it starts to drag toward the end. After hitting the halfway point, the gameplay starts to feel repetitive. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a clear example. I’m a completionist, and every question mark needs discovery. The bandit camps start feeling the same, and Odyssey becomes a chore. Even Ghost of Tsushima, one of my favorite PS4 games, gets tiresome in the falling action. Short games fix this because they never hit my threshold for boredom.

Miles Morales’ missions consist of webbing enemies from the shadows, kicking enemies in the face, and solving easy puzzles. This loop could grow monotonous, but Miles Morales’ credits roll before the feeling sets. Another downfall of lengthy games is the season finale syndrome. 

There are big moments in video game campaigns, including, but not limited to, boss fights, an art style change, or humongous set pieces. To get these exciting moments, I have to slog through repetitive combat or grind to a particular level. Shorter games don’t have this type of time. In other words, every mission is fun to play. At the beginning of Miles Morales, I have to defeat a rampaging Rhino before he destroys the city. Shortly afterward, I am introduced to the new technology-centered enemies – The Underground. There is never a lull in the gameplay loop. 

Thanks to their time limitations, Insomniac didn’t stretch out a story or add repetitive missions. Ultimately, this benefitted the game by shedding the fat you’d usually see in a full game. Sometimes short games don’t merit high price points, but in Miles’ case, it strengthens the overall experience.

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