Everyone is excited for Spider-Man 2. Everyone apart from the losers lying about the water, at least. There’s been a lot of talk over how the Symbiote factors into the story, as well as into the gameplay, alongside speculation around Kraven, Lizard, Venom, and Wraith. One villain conspicuous by her absence though was Screwball, and some seem to see this as a cause for celebration. If she really is gone though, the game will always feel like it’s missing something.

I know Screwball is annoying. That’s her thing. And true, someone being annoying on purpose doesn’t make them any less annoying - we’ve all seen enough staged TikToks to be aware of that. But there’s something endearing about Screwball’s brand of annoying. She’s an influencer committing crimes to grow her audience, and that’s disconnectedly charming in comparison to the grounded motivations and evil intentions of the other villains and the gritty, humourless tone of other superhero games.

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Screwball isn’t saying anything new. Untraceable, Nerve, Guns Akimbo, and various different episodes of Black Mirror have explored the connection between our compulsion to watch things we should turn away from, and our drive to consume violence even as we abhor it. Screwball, or more accurately Insomniac, is aware of this. There’s no grand statement to be found in these missions. They are just a simple backdrop that allow for us to strut our Spidey stuff in new ways.

Screwball being captured in Spider-Man.

There were two main reasons I loved the Screwball missions, and the weird part is I think most people would agree with me - they just find Screwball too annoying to overlook anything else. I’d be here for a slightly more toned down Screwball, but I don’t think getting rid of her completely is the way to go.

The first is very simple - despite the game being beloved for its web-swinging, there aren’t that many opportunities to make use of it. Sure, you’ll swing all over town and plenty of sequences involve chasing enemies down, but actually making use of the technical playground the webs offer is confined to Screwball. I suspect she was partly added to the game for this purpose in particular.

Peter taking a selfie in front of the Avengers' Tower, in Marvel's Spider-Man

The second is maybe only appreciated by older Spider-Man fans - the games have always been silly. It’s difficult to imagine now, in the wisecracking world of the MCU, but Peter Parker was always ‘the funny guy’, and his games have reflected that. Whether it be the famous failed QTE that ends in a splat and whimpered ‘I’m going to die’, Mysterio’s deceptively large health bar, or the PS1’s web igloo, there’s always been a sense of comedy to things when Spidey goes all polygonal.

That’s harder to pull off in Insomniac’s first game. There’s more realism, it comes with a bigger budget which often means sanding away weirdness for a larger audience, and post-MCU people have a very specific idea of Spider-Man. He’s still got the quips along with the thwips, and the costumes add some comedy to the experience if you want them too, but this classic daftness that I have always considered to be a crucial part of the Spidey experience is only really found in Screwball.

Spider-Man 2 venom suit

I would not take the trailer as confirmation of her absence just yet. We only know the villains because Kraven plans to hunt the toughest opponents, and it’s unlikely Screwball would be on his radar in quite the same way the Spideys or Taskmaster would be. The absence of someone like Silver Sable is far more damning. I hold out hope that Screwball’s still there, and even amongst those who didn’t like her the first time around, I think you’ll find you’ll miss her when she’s gone.

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