This week, I’m trawling through the utterly baffling world of licensed video games.
It’s weird to think that we live in a time where licensed games are no longer an inevitability. Sure, they’re still around now, but in the 80’s and 90’s, it seemed every movie and TV show had some sort of game based on it. These days, they tend to be disposable mobile phone games, but back in the day, they were on every games system you could imagine.
But there were some licenses that were pretty inappropriate subjects to adapt into a piece of interactive fiction. Or some that made sense to develop into a certain genre of game, but ended up as a completely different one that doesn’t make sense. Welcome to my list of utterly baffling licensed games.
The comedy show Little Britain was one of those shows that were absolutely massive for a brief time in the 2000’s but quickly disappeared without a trace. A recent rewatch reminded me that this a show of which the humour is, shall we say, a little troublesome at times. However, it stuck around long enough to get its own game on PC, PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable.
The only thing worse than a licensed game based on a property that doesn’t need a video game is one that’s an absolute atrocity. Little Britain: The Video Game can be best summed up as worse than shovelware. It’s a selection of awful minigames featuring many of the show’s characters. I was hoping to capture and present footage of all of Little Britain’s mini-games in this video, but unfortunately, you have to unlock them by earning a certain number of points. Which is not an entirely fun experience. After playing the first two mini-games, I most certainly did not feel the need to play anymore.
In this particular minigame, you’re skating two laps along an isometrically viewed track that somehow loops around even though it’s perfectly straight. You need to pick up CDs to earn points while avoiding obstacles by moving around or jumping over them. The controls are annoyingly unresponsive, while the canned sound effects are irritatingly repetitive.
Meanwhile, the second minigame involves Lou and Andy as they go to the local swimming baths. Playing as Andy, you must mash to X button to move him out of his wheelchair, and choose from one of three diving boards, doing tricks and getting back to your wheelchair before Lou finishes his conversation and looks around at you.
I can only imagine that the rest of these minigames are just as bad, if not worse. So with that said, just take my word that this game is a huge pile of manure that didn’t need to happen and let’s move on, right?
Oliver Stone’s 1986 film, Platoon is the harrowing account of a young U.S. Army volunteer’s Hellish experience on his tour of duty in 1967, and there is little in this picture that paints the violence of war as anything other than an atrocity. Famous for its soundtrack, including the beautiful musical piece Adagio for Strings, as well as solid acting performances by a cast including a young Charlie Sheen, Willem Defoe and Tom Berenger, Platoon is a hard-hitting piece of cinema.
So, I think you’ll agree that it’s the perfect movie to adapt into an action-packed video game. Nothing is more anti-war that exploring the Vietcong, mowing down the enemy and avoiding booby traps. It’s got both side-scrolling and first-person segments, and while it does feature certain elements from the movie, you do wonder what the thought process of licensing Platoon was. The thing that irritates me most about this game is that you can’t walk two steps without an enemy appearing somewhere on the screen, which you’ll have to deal with incredibly quickly. It’s very frustrating when you just want to get from point A to point B.
This game was released on multiple platforms, from the Apple II, various microcomputers and even the NES version that the footage you’re currently watching is from. I actually had this game on the Amstrad CPC and it came with a cassette tape of Smokey Robinson’s Tracks of My Tears, just because it’s on the movie’s soundtrack. I was 5 at the time, and I wouldn’t see the movie for another decade at least, so this game confused the Hell out of me. Still, the game itself does have a pretty cool soundtrack.
Let this game be a reminder to licensors and licensees that when you’re working out a licensing partnership, you should at least do your homework and make an appropriate product at the end of the day.
On a similar note, just because you can make a game adaptation of 1999’s Fight Club, does not mean that you should. Coming to PS2 and Xbox five years after the release of the Brad Pitt and Edward Norton-starring flick, Vivendi Universal distil’s David Fincher’s cult classic into a simplistic 3D brawler.
And it’s really simplistic. There are three different fighting styles – Brawler, Street Fighting and Kung-Fu and they all feel pretty similar and revolve around mashing the buttons until you win. Obviously, you wouldn’t expect the developers to spring for the likenesses of Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, but they made the effort to hire Meatloaf to reprise his role as the err….large breasted pugilist, Bob.
But do you know what the worst thing about this game is? Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst is an unlockable character. Why? He’s your reward for completing the Story Mode for some strange reason. What a reward, eh? Thanks for playing our shitty game, now you can play as this arsehole. By the way, we made him look much athletic than he actually is in real life. Sure, the frontman of Limp Bizkit is no stranger to video games, having been a hidden character in a couple of WWE titles, but being that his inclusion here only appears to be because there are a couple of Limp Bizkit songs on its soundtrack, makes it a puzzling decision.
Television is no stranger to weird video-game adaptations. Aussie soap Neighbours had its own game and even 80’s soap Dallas had a graphical adventure, while someone out there felt that Desperate Housewives needed its own video game too.
But all of these pale in comparison when compared to Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit for the Super Nintendo. Tim Allen’s 90’s sitcom was for some reason, made into a game and it is just absolutely weird.
Here is a standard platformer where the aim is to collect a number of crates containing Tim “The Toolman” Taylor’s stolen tools. Now, you’re looking at this gameplay footage and thinking – Why the Hell are we in the age of the dinosaur? Well, the whole conceit is that the stolen tools have been scattered throughout the various studio lots where Tim’s show, Tool Time is filmed. These lots are the locations for filming various genres of movie, so it gives the game the excuse of having levels featuring prehistoric dinosaurs and fire ants, stages set in Egyptian pyramids and visions of the future.
As you can imagine, Tim’s offensive techniques include the use of various power tools such as nail guns, chainsaws etc. The premise of these game is incredibly dumb, as is the idea of creating a licensed game around such a pedestrian sitcom. Still, at least this game is somewhat playable if a little generic.
Some of the games on this list are inappropriate because they contradict the source material’s themes or messages, or were grossly unnecessary in the first place. Stargate for the Game Boy seems to grossly misunderstand what the movie it’s based on is all about. In the 90’s we were used to licensed games being action platform games, so when a developer tried something different, of course, it was welcome. But when I think of the 1994 sci-fi movie, Stargate, what I do not think of is a Tetris-style puzzle game.
Despite an endless mode and Battle Modes for single and two players, it’s not exactly an enthralling falling block puzzler. You’re given several glyphs at the top of the screen, and you need to align columns of three for each glyph to make them disappear and tick them off the list. It’s not even that bad a game, if a little bit dull, but it does make you wonder what the entire point of slapping the Stargate license on this was. Sure, there are hieroglyphics and occasional appearances by the characters from the movie, but it’s not exactly making the best use of the license.
We finish up with a license that has so many video games based on it already – In fact, a new one is still released, every year. Games based on the pro wrestling world of WWE are still popular, even if they’ve been of mixed quality in recent years. However, the game we are looking at here falls into the “what were they thinking” category.
WWE Crush Hour takes your favourite and not so favourite WWE Superstars (™) and put them into stupid looking cars. Then, they take part in a car combat scenario in the Twisted Metal style, where you’re put in an arena and have to score points for different actions, depending on the type of match (of which they’re named after various WWE events. Most of the time you have to destroy your opponents to get points, other times you’ll need to collect stars, and so on.
It’s a silly idea, especially as the narrative reasons for Crush Hour taking place in a world where the WWE have control over all television networks, with their latest show being Crush Hour. Taking place in single events or an entire Season Mode, it’s unfortunately just a little bit boring. It’s a low-budget, poor man’s Twisted Metal, only it’s dull and there’s an unnecessary license tacked on. It wouldn’t be a badly thought out license without some awful repeating voice clips either, while the in-game commentary is just so badly done to the point where it’s laughable. You try and keep a straight face when Jim Ross tells you that someone has Twisty Rockets with the most disjointed intonation in his voice.
So there you have it, a selection of licensed video games that range from the ridiculous to the unnecessary. It doesn’t help that not one of these video games is actually good, but such is the way of these sort of games. I’ll be back next week with another trip into the world of video games, but until then – Thanks for watching, and happy gaming.