By Pjalne @ Encyclopedia Obscura
Hi there. I'm pleased to say that I have the rare opportunity to write a minimock
for I-Mockery. Actually, they took me hostage and forced me to. :(
After some thinking (and enough coffee to keep me up until Lord Jesus returns lo and behold like a thief in the night), I decided to make a list of the stupidest TV & movie licenses video game developers ever got their pale little hands on. Keep in mind that we're not talking bad games created from Schwarzenegger movies here - we're talking movies who simply don't have a game in them. Movies who don't even have a decent car chase that can be turned into a racer. Movies like Platoon:
Now, before you tell me that there's plenty of game material in Platoon, let me remind you that this is a movie about the meaninglessness of war. It's about the limited strength of the human psyche and the few, thin threads you hang by in a situation like this. About Tom Berenger pulling a Brando and going monkey in the jungle. While war can be great game material, a study in human behavior is not. Apparently, someone caught this asymmetry and implemented a morale bar (above). As far as I know, this is the only game where you have to make sure you don't let your morale drop and start questioning authority.
The second snapshot above pretty much sums up everything the gameplay has to offer: endless jungle labyrinths where everywhere looks the same. There's no way to navigate, and you lose track after ten seconds. Which also is the case in the next game I'll mention: Gilligan's Island.
New rule: Don't create games from sit-coms. Your average sit-com consists of a series of punch lines with some plot around. How are you supposed to include the conventions of this medium in a game? You write three jokes and let the characters repeat these over and over. Example:
Gilligan: Isn't this beautiful scenery, Skipper!
Skipper: Just lovely! It would look better, if we weren't shipwrecked.
It could have been worse, though. They could have run the Track & Field cheering track whenever someone told a joke.
The gameplay: You're the Skipper, out to find wood for the Professor's latest invention. Gilligan tags along, and you have to make sure he doesn't get lost. One could say that this game is more about babysitting a jackass than escaping an island, as you'll spend more time saving your helper from wild boars than you'll spend actually gathering wood. In fact, I never found any wood at all, but I have to admit I didn't play for very long.
The quicksand. I could not find a way to get out of the sand once I fell in. I tried using the piece of rope I found while keeping Bob Denver away from malevolent birds, but it didn't work. What's interesting about this game's inventory system, is that even if an item has no effect at the time you try to use it, it will disappear forever. Which means that you have to be one hundred percent sure you theory will work before you put it into action.
Speaking of sit-coms: here is another one. Home Improvement may not seem like the perfect basis for a game, and it isn't. In fact, the designer himself admits that the game is shit on his own website.
In the middle of Tool Time, Tim discovers that someone has stolen his tools. To get them back, he has to travel through the other sets of the studio to get them back. And like all other public access shows, Tool Time is produced in a studio that completely dwarfs the MGM lot and shoots a dinosaur film, a medieval epic and other multi-million dollar projects at the same time. Complete with fire-breathing animatronic raptors and disgruntled knight extras that want to kill you. And lava, I'm sure. Again, I didn't play for very long.
Wayne's World is infamous. I've heard rumors about a Monkey Islandesque adventure out there, which as far as I can imagine would be the one way you could maybe make a game from this movie with a shred of logic. Which is why T*HQ made a platformer for the NES and SNES. While the two games are pretty different in some ways, there are more than a few similarities. First of all, each scenario is introduced by Wayne and Garth with dialogue taken from the movie, only compressed, censored and mixed with what I can only imagine are in-jokes only a couple of the T*HQ staff understand. The images are also taken from the movie, but turned green or freakish.
Also, both games feature instrument-themed enemies, and they are both shit. I played quite a bit into the SNES version, but I never bothered trying to get far into the NES one, mainly because you're set back two levels if you die.
Bram Stoker's Dracula was also released on both the NES and the SNES, one a Super Mario and the other a Castlevania clone. I do not know why anybody thought creating these was a good idea. First of all, Jonathan Harker is no action hero, neither in the book nor in the film. In fact, he's quite the anti-hero. In the game however, he runs straight across Transylvania and England, slicin' and dicin' through Romanian farmers, skeleton warriors, giant Tom Waits and Gary Oldman, banshees and nuns. Secondly, the film is a pretty arty and dwelling, which should automatically be reason for disqualification, if anyone would listen to me.
All right, all right, Superman is based on a comic more than on a movie. But since General Zod and his gang are in the game, I'd say my bases are covered.
Another correction a couple of you readers might have read is that Superman easily can be turned into a great game. In that case, please name one decent Superman title. the problem with the guy is that he's too damn super. How are you supposed to make a game about someone who's near-immortal? Kemco's solution is not to give a fuck. Superman is a pussy in this awful Simon's Quest/Mario hybrid. He can take less damage than Ryu Hayabusa, who admittedly should be pretty hardcore being a ninja and all, but a Kryptonian he ain't. He can also be killed falling into water, and his super powers are not only exhaustible, they also never make any real damage. To top it off, he can only fly to certain positions on the map. If you want to go somewhere else, you'll have to take the, and I swear this is true, subway.
Again, I didn't play very long. The first mission was pretty straightforward if you don't include the tricycle enemies and the cymbal-hat martial art midgets (and considering the fact that your average Metropolitan is about three fourths the height of a normal desk, that's a pretty fucking small midget): track down Zod's minions before they make everyone kneel. The problems arise afterwards: the stock market is in serious trouble! And since Wall Street Man apparently is busy, this evidently is a job for Superman. I could never figure out how to solve the case, mainly because I don't give a shit about the stock market, but also because no clues given to you from the Metropolitans are helpful, and the only way to find your target is to walk through every building in town. Here is a random selection of helpful clues from the various morons and duck-mutants you meet:
All right, that's enough. I could go on forever, and I'm sure you can name a hundred more games that should make the list (Home Alone, I'm looking at you), but my point is made and I've already gone on far longer than I planned.
Well, how to conclude this? You've probably not only heard it a thousand times before, you've probably said it a thousand times yourself: 8/16-bit games are a completely different medium than a movie, and to try and unite them is nearly impossible. The results are usually catastrophic. But things have changed lately, games have a more cinematic form today, and licenses like The Lord of the Rings and even the relatively old Blade Runner are proof that things can be done right these days.
Other way around: making a decent Tomb Raider or Resident Evil movie should also be theoretically possible, things just didn't turn out that way. I have to admit I haven't seen the RE movie (which many people seem to like), mainly because I just haven't gotten around to do so, but also because earlier attempts to build the platform from games to motion pictures have failed terribly. Super Mario Bros., Street Fighter, Double Dragon... You know the list. I have to admit though, I kinda miss those days, and I'm honestly looking forward to finding a lizard-tongued Dennis Hopper on DVD in my mailbox in a couple of weeks. Those days are gone, and the movies you longed for as a kid will never see the light of day. It's probably for the best.
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