I remember as a kid, after watching a Rambo cartoon, being inspired to grab the trusty Leo Mattel M-16 Rifle, rummage through my mother’s wardrobe for a red dupatta I could wear as a headband and run around the house yelling ‘Dakka Dakka Dakka!’, saving the stuffed animals from all sorts of peril. Well, it was me who put them in peril in the first place, but dramatic tension was required for the scenario to work.
These days, vicarious activity is a lot simpler, and probably leads to a lot less embarrassing memories. Just fire up Arkham City and you are Batman, delivering thumpings to miscreants on a regular basis. It’s tough to deny just how cathartic that feels.
Though it’s a good thing that Arkham City and its predecessor, Arkham Asylum, are such solid games, since videogame adaptations of existing IPs tend to be lemons for the large part, so this helps redress the balance at least a little bit.
And these days, it looks like it’s mandatory for every superhero movie and animated film released to have an accompanying game, most of which are hardly labours of love since the developers don’t get the liberty of releasing it ‘when it’s done’, but instead need to have it shipped by the time the movie launches, no matter how retail-worthy it actually is. Still, it’s not like the existence of sub-par games tied to other brands is a recent phenomenon. Remember back in 1982 when Atari made an ET game that was so bad that there were eventually mountains of unsold cartridges left in the dumpyard?
Well, trust me, it happened. Ok, I’ll grant you there were a few solid titles like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time, but those things were an anomaly for the most part.
If you’re going to ask me for memorable movie-games, the first ones that pop to mind are Rocksteady’s Arkham games and the Chronicles of Riddick game, which is especially notable for being a far superior experience than the movie it was released alongside. That's not saying a lot, considering the movie was pretty embarrassing, but believe me, the game was a doozie. And if you look at one common trait among these releases, it’s that they didn’t mirror the setting from the movie. For example, the Batman games appear to be on a different timeline or even a parallel universe from the Christopher Nolan movies. But at the same time, playing the game raises interest in the movies, and vice versa. Chronicles of Riddick does one better — it serves as an origins story for Riddick, before the setting from either of the movies. So while it offers a completely new narrative, it also makes you more invested in the character.
While it may have been a flawed game, Enter the Matrix also had the right idea, taking the player through a subplot that was briefly mentioned in the movies, but turns out to play a crucial role in the big picture. The Godfather game had an interesting narrative too — you play a character who features in key moments from the movie, but usually in a behind-the-scenes role. Great concept, though the execution turned out a little hamfisted.
Movie-games don’t have to be sellouts all the time, there are still some genuinely fun things you can get up to developing a game for an entrenched franchise if you get creative. Anyway, you can get back to enjoying Arkham City, but try playing it wearing a long bedsheet for a cape. It’s much more fun, I’m telling you.