Hollywood loves to cross-promote its movies and TV shows with videogame tie-ins, and the videogame industry loves to license movies and TV shows for their instant name-brand recognition. This seems like a match made in heaven. Yet, as anyone who’s played these things already knows, most license-based videogames suck. (Brian helped to explain why this keeps happening in a post last year.) Still, every once in a blue moon, a decent game will slip through. In today’s Roundtable, we look at some of the best and worst videogames we’ve played solely because they were based on properties we liked.
While the movie it was based on was nigh unwatchable, the ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine‘ tie-in game (for the first solo film, not the upcoming new one) was actually a blast. It understood the appeal of the character: He rips everything to shreds. From that simple premise, the developers crafted a fun hack-and-slash game that wasn’t high art, but satisfied the basic gaming urge to kill people in mass quantities using adamantium claws that jut out of your hands. I can probably count on one hand the amount of movie tie-in games that are good at all, but this is the only one I can think of where the tie-in was better than the movie.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
Whenever I’d visit my mom’s folks in the sleepy little town of York, South Carolina, I’d pass the time by attacking their Atari 2600. You’re already one step ahead of me: Yup, I’m complaining about the completely incomprehensible ‘E.T.‘ videogame. A cash-in hammered out by one developer in the space of a few weeks, ‘E.T.’ is notorious as one of the absolute worst videogames ever made. Heck, it’s frequently pointed to as ringing in the death knell for the industry in the early ’80s. Back in 1985 or whenever, I was blissfully unaware of all that, of course. All I knew was that I liked ‘E.T.’ the movie and had no friggin’ clue how to play this game. I just kept falling into pits and was pretty terrible at levitating out of ’em afterwards. I kind of wish Grandma and Grandpa’s copy had been dumped in that New Mexico landfill with the millions of other copies of this catastrophic failure.
As for the best game based on a movie, my kneejerk reaction is to point to ‘Spider-Man 2‘. Unlike most videogame tie-ins, which wind up being extremely linear, ‘Spider-Man 2’ was a sandbox game. It nailed the web-swinging mechanics so perfectly that it was a blast just flinging myself across the city and shrugging off the storyline. Add in some fairly epic boss battles, eight hojillion guest stars, Bruce Campbell (!) fielding all the snarky narration, and you’re looking at one of my very favorite games of that generation. Just try not to remind me about that stupid kid who keeps losing his balloon.
What is the best or worst licensed property videogame I’ve played? Well, personally, I’m not sure I’ve played many of these sorts of games. In fact, I had to double check with a good pal in the industry to make sure I was even considering titles that fell under the category of “licensed properties.” Once I had my head on straight, I realized that I haven’t played many because they have, for the most part, all looked absolutely awful. Or at the very least, been universally panned. That said, I really wanted to mention the Lego games. The first ‘Lego Star Wars’ game was great. However, my absolutely favorite was the first ‘Lego Indiana Jones‘. It truly followed the movies, including all of the great John Williams music. I must have spent days playing it over and over again.
Worst: On its face, ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen‘ is not the worst movie tie-in game ever, but looks don’t always meet the eye. About halfway through the otherwise crummy tie-in to an insubstantial film, you have a series of missions where, playing as Bumblebee, you have to protect Megan Fox’s character, Mikaela. That pretty much breaks down into attempting to fight a dozen generic Decepticons while Mikaela hides in a warehouse whining and ultimately berating you. Worst movie tie-in game, ever.
Best: ‘Top Gun‘ and ‘Top Gun: The Second Mission‘ for the NES. Remember that part of the ‘Top Gun’ movie when every single pilot crashed and burned while attempting to land on a carrier? Maybe that was in the director’s cut… Anyways, playing the two (quite popular) ‘Top Gun’ games was an excellent recreation of those events, which makes them classics.
The only videogame that a studio has ever sent me as part of a press kit was just about the worst videogame that I’ve ever played. Paramount, thank you for the swag, but ‘Transformers: The Game‘ is a huge waste of time. The graphics are cheesy, but that’s not the worst part. The gameplay is so ridiculously bad that it feels as if it was programmed by a group of first-year college students or interns. Everything about it is limited – the boards, the character actions and the amount of options. At first, it resembles a game made for 12-year-olds who hadn’t discovered good gaming yet, but after 15 minutes, I hit a challenge that made no sense. I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to do to move forward. After 30 minutes of trial and loads of error, including unsuccessful help from my college roommates, I gave up and never played it again. To this day, it still sits collecting dust at the bottom of a stack of Xbox 360 discs.
I’m not much of a gamer at all. The last game I remember playing based on a film property was ‘The Goonies‘ for my Laser 128 back in the 1980s. I’m not sure if it was a poorly made game or if it was just me, but as much as I tried, I couldn’t get past the second level. After a few days, I just gave up playing it and went back to ‘Lode Runner’.
‘Friday the 13th‘ for NES is a love/hate videogame for me. I love it for its nostalgic value, the musical score, and being based on a horror film franchise that I love. I hate it because it’s a boring, drab and uninteresting game that doesn’t follow the movies. Basically, you play one of six camp counselors at Camp Crystal Lake, where you have to survive three days and nights and kill the big bad Jason Vorhees. Along your way, you’ll have to kill wolves, birds and zombies, which makes no sense. At some points, you can battle Jason in the vein of ‘Mike Tyson’s Punch Out’, which cracked me up. You can also battle Jason’s mom, who is more of a floating apparition than a real person. Just talking about this game makes me want to find a copy and play it again. At the same time, I’d hate myself for it.
I’m an old-school gamer, so my choices in both categories will go back a few console generations. For best movie tie-in, I love the ‘Batman‘ game for the NES, based on Tim Burton’s first Bat-film. At the time, its state-of-the-art 8-bit graphics for cut-scenes that vaguely resembled shots from the movie were awe-inspiring. I was all like, “Hey, I remember that! That was totally in the movie! Whoa!!” Of course, gameplay had very little to do with the movie. Blatantly based on the mechanics of the hugely-popular ‘Ninja Gaiden’, your little purple Batman (because black wouldn’t show up very clearly against the dark backgrounds) climbs up walls and tosses little Batarangs at random henchmen. But ‘Ninja Gaiden’ was great fun, and this was an excellent knock-off. To this day, the 8-bit theme music still runs through my head at random moments.
As for the worst… Ugh… Fool that I was, I thought that ‘South Park‘ was a property well suited to gaming, and eagerly bought the first game based on the show for the original PlayStation. That was a mistake. Anyone remember this thing? Allegedly inspired by a Thanksgiving episode, it’s a First Person Shooter (already, wha…??!!) in which you run around town as Cartman throwing snowballs at turkeys. Let that sink in. First Person Shooter, throwing snowballs at turkeys. That was that game. Really. What a crapfest. I’m made to understand that there have been other videogames based on ‘South Park’, and hopefully some of them turned out better than this one, but I never tried them.
Surely you’ve also played videogames based on movies or TV shows in your day. Tell us about your experiences in the Comments.