We’ve reached an age where if a movie is successful, there just might be a video game based on it. Michael Bay helped kick off a line of semi-successful Transformer games due to his films spent blowing up four cars in 10 seconds, and even Peter Jackson cashed in on his own blockbuster hit King Kong.
Let me start off by saying that making a good movie-based video game is possible, and there are many out there, but companies pumping these games out aren’t known for consistency. These games exist for one reason: to cash in on a topic that is already trending and raking in money. Trends aren’t forever, and when they’ll change is left to speculation. This drives movie studios to find partnerships with developers to help create a game of a trending movie, only for the two to end up polar opposites.
Superhero movies are a big one here. Green Lantern, Thor, Hulk and even Superman had their own games based off of movies that came out only months before. When the movie is already chastised in the reviews, you can bet the game isn’t going to turn out any better. Keep Green Lantern in mind here. On the other hand, having a solid movie such as Thor still won’t guarantee your game sales.
One of the main problems with these games is how they try to connect with the movie’s storyline. These games will often have events that take place shortly after whatever happens in the movie and will reference it as a way to solidify its place in the canon. This is fine, but things start to get muddy whenever the creative team for the game implements their own story into them, really messing with the canon of the movie. Superman Returns: The Video Game is very much guilty of this. So, what few movies actually managed to pull it off? Two easy examples are Hulk and Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Game. Hulk came out on the original Xbox, and though it was very loosely based on the movie, no one played it for the movie’s storyline. We didn’t really care about what happened to Hulk next as much as cared about yeeting an SUV off the overpass. You could be Hulk: what else was there to want?
Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Game is a perfect example of what happens when you treat the game as delicately as you did the movie. Actors who appeared in the movie reprised their roles in the game with brand new, stellar-quality audio. The storyline was so disconnected from the movie, it managed to build up a solid 9+ hour campaign on its own, even giving the player the ability to play as Jack and Kong. In the extras? Multiple logs of concept art ranging from the enemies, characters to environments.
Movie-based video games aren’t inherently bad, but are rushed by a “get it to the market” deadline that forces them to pump out the product before the topic loses its relevance. It’s necessary for business, but can lead to poor quality games attached to blockbuster names. When companies do it right, you have another medium to enjoy the story on, and you can feel as if you’re a part of the story itself.