The ambiguity of “prequel/main game” depends on your perspective. SM:MM is either a short sequel or a very large expansion of the original game. At a current street price of about $50, it might seem too expensive either way. As for me, I enjoyed it. Although the game is not as long as the original Spider-Man, I liked the story more. I also found the game easier to play (at least at the lowest difficulty setting, as always).
As with Spider-Man, Spider-Man: Miles Morales begins in media res. You play Miles Morales, and as “Spider-Men” you help Peter Parker escort the Rhino to prison. As you might predict, things go wrong. Unlike the punishing Spider-Man beginning, I found that I could handle the beginning of SM:MM fairly well. This may be intentional on the part of the designers, or it may be that my two-year-old experience with the earlier game carried over somewhat.
During that first encounter, Miles discovers that he has a special “venom” power that Peter Parker does not have. Otherwise, gameplay is pretty similar between the two games: You build up skills and other collectible points to improve your powers, your gear, and your costume. As in the previous game, in addition to the main story, there are optional encounters that offer more opportunity for collectible items to improve your character.
As I said, I played on the easiest difficulty setting. I found that many of the tasks I found nearly impossible in Spider-Man (e.g., chasing pigeons) were now within my range in Spider-Man: Miles Morales. I strongly doubt that this was due to any superior gaming skill on my part. More likely, the designers made the “old folks mode” even more suitable for old folks. I appreciated that I was allowed to feel a sense of accomplishment in SM:MM that the earlier game denied me.
That leads to my first minor criticism of SM:MM: One of the collectibles is only available during the main storyline of the game. Too late, I discovered that there were a couple of things I forgot to pick up when I was in an enemy base. When I realized I’d missed them, the entrance to the base was closed and could not be reopened. By the end of the game, I had a 98% completion rating instead of the 100% I felt I could have earned.
The story: Peter Parker leaves New York to visit Mary Jane in some random fictional country, leaving the city in Miles’ capable hands. Miles finds himself in the middle of a battle between the Roxxon Corporation (a perennial enemy in the Marvel Comics world) and the Underground, who are fighting to preserve land in Harlem that Roxxon wants to take over. Meanwhile, Miles must balance his personal relationships against the growing awareness that he’s become the “Spider-Man of Harlem” and wanting to fulfill the needs of his neighbors.
However, Miles is not limited to Harlem. As with the earlier game, Spider-Man is allowed to web-swing anywhere in Manhattan. This version of the city is not a carbon copy of the previous game; for one thing, the story is set around Christmas-time and there’s snow on the ground. It also seemed to me that the neighborhoods had more detail; most of the time when I looked through ground-floor restaurant windows I could see people moving inside.
A couple more minor irritants:
– I originally played SM:MM on a PS4. When I transferred the game to the PS5, I discovered that the saved games didn’t transfer as well (though they did for other PS4->PS5 games I’d purchased). It turned out that you need a Playstation Plus account to transfer Spider-Man: Miles Morales games from one platform to another.
– When I started up the PS5 version, I was offered the usual choice of graphics quality. I thought “Let’s go for it!” and picked the best possible mode. It turned out that the PS5 could not keep up, and I had to reduce the graphics quality. Why offer a mode on a console that can’t handle it? Spider-Man: Miles Morales is only available on the PS4 or PS5, so it’s not as if it could be run on a PC with a super-duper graphics card.
Overall, if you liked Spider-Man, I recommend Spider-Man: Miles Morales for what I feel is a better game. If you’ve never played the original game, then you can presently get both together in an “Ultimate Edition” for $70 at current prices; if $50 for one game seems too much, $70 for two games (or perhaps a game-and-a-half) is certainly worth it.