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It's a rare occurrence that a video game based on a licensed franchise is ever decent, yet store shelves are full of them. The vast majority of titles boast shoddy gameplay mechanics, disgusting visuals, and are about as much fun to play as setting your own face on fire. The most games licensed from films get annihilated in reviews, which is respectable justice in terms of the damage they cause to their players.
From Wayne’s World, Charlie’s Angels and The Matrix to kids favorites like Shrek and Toy Story; there have been a lot of games based on licenses. Why? Because they’re a great way for developers to make a lot of easy money. Kids will want to buy something if it has their favorite character on the front, so what do they care if the game doesn’t actually play well? They require minimal effort to create; the license is already popular enough to sell the game for them.
That’s not the only reason they stuck either. Out of all the films you’ve watched, how many have focused on the protagonists exploits in collecting one hundred small objects that are of no use to anyone whatsoever? What about all those films you've watched where the main protagonist can't actually go anywhere, as that power-up he's addicted to runs out every thirty seconds? How about a film that only features eight scenes, with each character's progression into the next scene being halted by a magical, invisible barrier which will only disappear when everyone in the room is killed? You get the point. Most games based on licenses tend to stick to a generic platform formula, especially the ones aimed at a younger audience. Kids don’t tend to care if they’re running around aimlessly collecting pointless objects, as long as they get to do it as their favorite characters. The average movie is about two hours long, so developers are posed with the challenge of extending a two hour storyline into eight or ten hours’ worth of gameplay. Ideas end up getting dragged out, new characters and story lines baring no relevance to the original license get thrown in, and the end result often ends up being an abomination. The majority of the movie tie-in titles that really suck are the dreaded franchise sequels, often targeted at a younger audience.
Here’s where things start to get confusing. The main issue with licensed games is their fluctuating quality. Whilst the majority of them do really suck, some licensed games can turn out to be decent. Hell, some of them can even turn out to be incredible. Goldeneye for the N64 is regarded by many as being the best FPS ever released for any console. Goldeneye handled the control system for the N64 incredibly well, boasted incredible visuals and featured enemy AI that responded a lot better than most of the shooters we play today. It’s a shame that the barrage of Bond games released afterwards have come even close to the degree of excellence displayed in Goldeneye. Another noticeably decent shooter was The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. The game received an acclaimed response from critics, and showcases that games can stray from their original storylines and be successful - it's just a case of doing it well.
A young target audience shouldn’t be an excuse to develop a poor game. Some of my favorite titles when I was younger were platformers such as Aladdin, Toy Story, The Lion King and A Bugs Life. Because of this reason, it’s difficult to pin down the choice of genre for being the reason why license games are often so poor.
World of Illusion starring Micky Mouse and Donald Duck. I played this game a couple of years ago and it was still as enjoyable as when I played it for the very first time. Apart from obvious choices such as Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie, Bugs Bunny: Lost in Time for the Playstation is one of the best platformers I’ve ever played. All these games were enjoyable because it’s evident that a lot of thought had been put into their creation. Levels were carefully planned out and could often be very challenging at times.
So what does all this suggest? For one, it confirms my own opinion that the movie tie-in games I enjoyed so much when I was younger was not just because of their enticing colours or recognisable characters. This begs me to ask if developers nowadays are simply becoming too lazy when creating a game based off a license. With the exception of developers such as Lucas Arts putting the effort in, or collaborative efforts such as the Kingdom Hearts games, I believe they are. Unfortunately, it seems to be the case that every time a decent film hits our cinema screens, gaming stores will have more garbage thrown onto their shelves.