Marvel’s Spider-Man: Script Book by Jess Harrold (book review).

Insomniac Games’ ‘Spider-Man’ has been one of the most well received computer games of the past few years and has gone on to be one of the bestselling ‘super-hero’ titles in history. A vast and sprawling open world game, it gives players the opportunity to take the mantle of Peter Parker, swing through the streets of an incredibly detailed New York whilst battling a bevy of his classic foes, including Kingpin and Rhino and interact with characters such as Mary Jane, Miles Morales and Aunt May. Like many great games, it provides genuinely exciting gameplay as well as offering a large amount of emotional engagement.

For the uninitiated a script-book dedicated to a game might seem rather strange, especially for a sandbox game. After all, the genre delights in the non-linear, giving much of the choice to the player. The script isn’t that important, is it? ‘Marvel’s Spider-Man: The Script Book’ blows that theory out of the water, showing not only how writers deal with the challenges of scripting around the mechanics of a computer game but also how densely plotted a game can be even in spite of the illusion of the player controlling the narrative itself.

The script itself reflects a ‘Golden Runthrough’ ie it assumes a version of the game by a player making all the ‘correct’ choices. Taking in the early career of Spider-Man, the story plays with slightly with audience expectations, eschewing exposition to let the player fully immerse themselves into the world of the web-slinger. Fans of Spider-Man will enjoy the constant references to his continuity and the fact that Parker is being mentored by a certain Otto Octavius should set many people’s spider-sense tingling.

With much of the writing done by Christos Gage, a stalwart Marvel writer who has also worked on TVs iteration of Daredevil, alongside advice from esteemed Spider-Man scribe Dan Slott, it’s unsurprising that the mythology around Spider-Man is handled with aplomb. But the uninitiated should not find it too daunting. This is part because, much like Rockstar’s ‘Arkham’ games, the game takes place in an entirely different continuity from the traditional Marvel Universe. It allows the writers room to breathe, to play with mythology and, as the end of the game makes very clear, craft something that is both true to the Spider-Man character yet accessible for players of all ilks.

The book itself is very much a coffee table affair and contains many lavish double-page spreads of art from the game. There’s also an extensive introduction that covers many of the challenges of a scripting a game such as Spider-Man and contains lots of background information on the stresses and strains of such a major task.

Indeed, for fans of the game this makes for a good looking, albeit comparatively expensive souvenir. But this is also a fascinating examination of game scripting and some of the whys and wherefores as to why certain decisions are made. For those wanting to discover a little more about how modern games work and pull back the veil on an aspect of production that is often not talked about, this makes for a unique and invaluable primer.

Laurence Boyce

May 2020

(pub: Insomniac Games. 240 page hardback. Price: £41.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-30292-136-1)

check out website: https://insomniac.games/

Laurence Boyce

Laurence Boyce is a film journalist who likes Bond, Batman and Doctor Who (just to prove the things he enjoys things that don't just start with a 'B'). He is also a film programmer for various film festivals in the UK and abroad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.