The most-used gadget in Marvel’s Spider-Man isn’t the trip mine, the web bomb, or even the standard web shooters. It’s Peter Parker’s cell phone.
Throughout Insomniac’s new game, Spider-Man is constantly on his phone, whether he’s gabbing with Mary Jane Watson, checking in on Aunt May, or getting intel from NYPD captain Yuri Watanabe. The weird thing is that he seems to share the same phone as Peter Parker.
There’s one point in the game where this seems to be especially problematic. Throughout the game, both Peter Parker and Spider-Man meet Miles Morales, and both give him their phone number. (Technically, Mary Jane gives Miles Spider-Man’s phone number, but the point remains.) How does that not immediately give away Spider-Man’s secret identity?
Obviously, Peter Parker is a scientist and a whiz when it comes to chemistry and electrical engineering and circuitry. He’s probably smart enough to come up with a method of masking his phone number. Heck, any idiot can use Google Voice. Either that, or he’s got two phones, as hypothesized in a recent Polygon article. But that would mean that he’d need to carry both phones with him all times, since he gets calls as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man in and out of the costume, and I’m not sure where he’d keep two phones in his skin-tight spandex getup. Not only that, but if he got two phones, the Spider-Man phone would have to work as a burner in order to avoid giving up his identity, and Peter doesn’t even have enough money to pay rent, let alone to buy a bunch of smartphones.
There are a million explanations for how Peter Parker and Spider-Man can use the same phone without giving away their secret, but Insomniac never lands on one, or even touches on the topic. Likewise, how an intelligent police captain like Yuri Watanabe can’t trace Spider-Man’s phone number to figure out his secret identity is unclear. Maybe she just doesn’t want to, considering she’s a gosh darn professional, but Spider-Man has many enemies, including police officers working for Wilson Fisk, aka The Kingpin.
I know this is a small thing to nitpick, but it’s only because the phone plays such a key role in how Insomniac chooses to tell the story and in how Spider-Man stays connected with the world at large. Spider-Man even has a social media account, and you can hop on the game’s equivalent of Twitter and see what everyone in New York is talking about, which is generally (you probably guessed it) Spider-Man.
Spider-Man’s phone isn’t just a storytelling technique, though. It’s a way to conflate the super-powered Spider-Man with the much more relatable Peter Parker. His attachment to his phone is as recognizable as our own dependence on constant connectedness. Where Batman uses a high-tech communication system to stay in touch with Oracle, Spider-Man is swinging around with a smartphone in his… hidden pockets, I guess. Instead of communicating with his allies via some sci-fi magic, Spider-Man simply texts Mary Jane, albeit while nonchalantly hanging off the side of a building.
Insomniac has managed to make the most relatable superhero even more relatable. Spider-Man should still probably have a burner phone, though.