Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Unholy Union of Video Games and Film Franchises

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To be honest, the gaming industry doesn't have a stellar track record with merchandising action films into successful - or even  palatable - video games.

Not exactly a world-view breaking observation, but one that needs reminding once in a while... especially with the slew of Marvel, DC, and Disney films glutting theaters these days. Each has their own series of video game toss-offs, and it would be a sin to forget the lessons of the past the next time you visit Game Stop or your local retro store.

It seems like a video game port from an action film would be a no-brainer, but often the rush to turn around and match a game release with the film premier is too tempting - crap oozes freely when just a few more dollars of development time would create something worth playing on it's own merit, not relegating a game to a collectors status as a must have for completionists and fan geeks.

For examples, let's look at retro NES titles -

Total Recall (NES) - Where game play combines a run and gun that makes it near impossible to run further than half a screen. For those who played it- how many made it past the initial earth-originating chase? I've yet to have the patience to make it to Mars, instead being jumped time and time again by that SOB hiding in the alleyway, who shoves me into the sewers. My loss I suppose, but I suspect not.

This Acclaim title truly delved the scuz from the bottom of the programming pool in order for it to be released on time. Poor coding, glitches, and confusing graphics made this game a stinker, and prompts many to suggest the lead actor had something to do with it- something as a Bambino curse but with the the Governator instead. Luckily the sweeping odoriferous stench doesn't hang on all Schwarzenegger tie-ins, but this one most certainly was the worst.

Friday the 13th (NES) -  Jason never seemed so innocuous. Zombies somehow make an appearance as the standard revolving obstacles, and a poorly-enacted 'Eye of the Beholder' style min-dungeon let's you explore simplified cabins for clues. Jason does make an appearance- not as a traditional end boss at least. The game relies on saving fellow counselors and campers before Jason can get to them, and if you cross his path, you can fight him right then and there - though, until your mission is complete, you can't actually defeat him.

Too many elements had to be crafted into this Altus developed and  LJN released game in order for it to make sense, and this detracts heavily from the classic film tale. What's interesting is that this is the game that LJN would build their media-connected titles to going forward, all of which would turn out just as poorly. Friday the 13th is a horror title, where your ultimate bad guy becomes nothing more than an annoyance. Not the Jason I grew up scared witless about, and that's where the let down truly comes in to play.

Jaws (NES) - Gorgeous cover art deceives the player in the LJN release, based on Jaws 4: The Revenge. Simple maps track simple actions, all designed as an early 'grind' system in order to build up strength to defeat Jaws itself. Gameplay requires the player to hunt smaller sea creatures, all the while looking out for the big gray meanie himself- at least, that's the selling idea.

In reality, you navigate a boat over a small stretch of water until you hit something and dive below the waves to explore. Very much a top-down navigator, with side-scroller action that goes nowhere, Jaws was another of the LJN failures in trying to capture the tension many players expected.

Home Alone (NES) - Bethesda Softworks offered LJN an opportunity to be let off the hook for creating bad film ports with their 1991 release of Home Alone.

A screen-shifting static map or the house, the basement, and the tree house require young Kevin to run - well, it's more of a locomotive strut - away from the two burglars from the title. In a 2-D platformer, with bad guys who can't jump, it's simply a matter of dropping 'booby-traps' as you run along in order to not be caught.

To win the game, the player simply runs away for 20 minutes. Can it get more boring than that?

Well, I suppose the IOC could license an Olympic Marathon simulator...

Lastly, I'd prefer not to channel the oft dredged E.T. release for the Atari 2600 at this time, or in this article's tone. It's been done to death, even to an extent that the myths surrounding the game out-shadow the gameplay itself.

No, wait - perhaps just a word or two -

In regard to Howard Scott Warshaw's E.T., it's become pop culture to trash the title. But put simply, Spielberg himself played and approved it prior to release. In fact, he demanded it, and to be honest, the game isn't that bad given the development time restricting the project from expanding further. It plays, it plays well for what it is, and though there most certainly can be some Monday morning quarterbacking concerning programming and associate nit-pickings, it still doesn't deserve the rep it has for bringing down the Atari age.

I haven't even begun to scratch the surface I know, but these are the tops when it comes to my own experience (and my own collection, I might add). 

Thank you t the team from, for without whom I would have had to play these damn titles myself for the captures.

What's your most dreaded film to game port? Am I wrong in believing this? Let me know in the comments below-