MOVIE LICENSE HELL May 23 2002

Over the past few hours, I've gone through every closet in the entire apartment to find something to write about. I currently have no internet access, and most of my technical equipment is at my parents' house, so my options are few: I could write about a book in my shelf, or I could write about emulator games. Most of the books I own are good, and I'm not really in the mood for writing positive reviews right now. There's always that book about occult propaganda in Winnie the Pooh, but writing about that one would require reading it first, and I really don't want to. Maybe later.

So, emulator games it is. After this Friday's article about Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves for NES, I thought I'd try some other movie license games and see if one of them could fill an article. They couldn't. They're simply too boring and awful. Instead, I decided to put them all in here together.

First of all, let me tell you what these games all have in common. This will serve as a basis for the scoring system.

Hurry Factor:
These games need to be released as fast as possible, or nobody will buy them. This leads to glitches, cheap solutions and unfinished concepts. For instance, I just remembered that in Robin Hood, you collect money all the way through the game, but you're never given an opportunity to use it.

Leap of Doom Frequency
This seems to be an absolute in most bad platform games, especially in those based on movies: If you jump down to a lower platform you will crash onto an enemy and take damage.

Aggravation Level
All of these games are annoying at some level or other, and at some point you're ready to go postal.

Unfaithfulness Rate
Let's face it, with the exception of The Phantom Menace, no movies were ever written to support video games. Hence, the games must take certain liberties to be any interesting. However, some seem to be created from templates that only need movie-related graphics to be inserted before they are shipped.

All right, let's go.

HOME IMPROVEMENT

Come to think of it, I should have discreetly placed this one between the others, so you wouldn't notice I included a sit-com license. Oh well. In this game, you control Tim Allen. Tim's new tools have been stolen by someone on his set, and he has to run around in the studio to get them back. One of the sets you have to go through is one for a dinosaur movie. Unlike other dinosaur movies, where most dinosaurs are computer generated or animatronic models made by Stan Winston, this production features fully mobile lizards with artificial intelligence, all placed in a giant naturalistic set. They also breathe fire. All right, all right, I know this is a game. It's still stupid. It's so stupid, it would make more sense if the programmers did what they really wanted to do: Send Tim on a journey through time and space.

You may have noticed that of all the levels in this game, both pictures feature the dinosaur levels. I'm sure all the obligatorial themes are included: western, sci-fi, gangster... The thing is, during the third Jurassic level, I was really getting sick of killer ants. Then I got stuck, cursed, and turned the game off. This is one of those games where you suddenly find yourself in a section of a level where there seems to be no way out or back, and you have to find the one unmarked spot where you can use your drill to get even further down. And finding Tim Allen's boxes isn't that important to me.

Hurry Factor: 0/10
This game is based on a syndicated show, so the chances that the whole thing will be off the air before the programming is finished are slim.

Leap of Doom Frequency: 6/10
Gah, those goddamned killer ants are everywhere! Plus, ten percent of the times you jump down to a lower platform, you fall into a bottomless pit.

Aggravation Level: 6/10
Like many directors have experienced, Tim Allen is impossible to control, and pretty much does what he wants to. Plus, when even the graphics and the level design seem to hate you, playing isn't much fun. I made it to the third level, turned the game off, and never looked back.

Unfaithfulness Rate: 6/10
I really can't be sure about this one. I didn't play for very long, and I haven't seen many episodes of the show. Tim's obsession with tools is present, and I'm pretty sure that his weapon of choice would be a staple gun or a sledge hammer. But I seriously doubt he ever fought mechanical dinosaurs, even in the fourth season when everything usually gets a bit crazy.

WAYNE'S WORLD

First of all, I don't like digitized speech and photographs in Super Nintendo games. Every time I hear somebody talking, I know they had to leave out lots of graphics and coding to put some stupid comment in. It was okay in Street Fighter II, where every character combined perhaps had twenty seconds of moaning and shouting, and even when Capcom was generous with the storage space, Ken's mighty hadouken! ended up as a crackling hdookn. And I wouldn't be able to interpret the famous FÖHT! to save my life, hadn't the screen clearly stated it meant 'fight'.

In Wayne's World, things are different. The opening scene alone includes enough speech to fill half a cartridge, and as if that wasn't enough, everything you do in the game triggers a sound file. The most annoying one is by far the exclamation NOT!!, which can be heard every single time you lose energy.

What do I have against scanned photos, you ask? Well, first of all, they're crap once converted to a SNES supported format. Wayne and Garth look like mutated sideshow freaks from a Troma movie, and their torsos seem only slightly attached to the rest of their bodies. Plus, photos look cheap. The programmers might think they'll look like a million strawberry-flavoured bucks, but to me it just indicates that they couldn't be assed into making graphics of their own. It's sort of like listening to pan pipe editions of the best of Elton John. Sure, it's soothing for the elderly, but it's still very very wrong. But once again, I'm raving. Let's talk game.

Wayne and Garth are hanging out at Noah's Arcade when they're suddenly sucked into one of the arcade machines. Sure, it sounds like a bad plot when I put it that way, but it comes across as the best thing since Citizen Kane when Wayne and Garth present it by using words taken from different places in the original movie script. But the plot isn't really what I'm having problems swallowing. Neither is it the stupid bagpipes and cymbals that try to kill me. This is what pushes my buttons:

That's right. To kill all visible enemies with a flash of blue light, yell SHWING! and display your erection. I don't know why this aggravates me so much, I guess it just rubs me the wrong way. Perhaps it's the way he looks at me.

I guess I should mention that this game is created by T*HQ, movie license hog numero uno. This company has a tendency to grab all movie licenses out there and shit on them. If you see their logo on a box, don't touch it. Take it from me.

Hurry Factor: 5/10
A lot of the power-ups make no sense. I never read the manual for this game, but I seriously doubt it would be able to convince me that there's any reason to collect the letters A and F. Plus, the graphics are monotonous as hell.

Leap of Doom Frequency: 4/10
Four seems like a low score, but keep in mind that in a really good game, everything above zero is unacceptable.

Aggravation Level: 6/10
After I finished the first level, Garth showed up. Then, he was taken away by a purple hand. When I finished the second level, the same thing happened. When I started the third level and saw it looked exactly the same as the other two, I yelled "Oh, no you don't!" and stopped playing. You know why? First of all, I like the WW movies. I saw them when I was slowly reaching teenagehood, and they kind of give you that old 'not yet pubescent'-feeling. And the next time I watch them, I don't want to spoil it by being able to point out exactly which not they sampled for this game. Second, I felt had by Noah Vanderhoff. No more quarters from me, goatblower!

Unfaithfulness Rate: 5/10
Going for the old sucked-into-video-game concept seems like a stretch, but when it comes to movie licenses it really isn't.

NOSFERATU

If you haven't seen Nosferatu, let me explain. This silent horror film was created by German director F.W. Murnau in 1922, and is the first screen adaption of the book Dracula by Bram Stoker. I'll leave it at that, since I'll probably want to return to this one in a later article. I can tell you this much, though: it'll scare you shitless.

That I was surprised to find a game based on this film goes without saying. What didn't surprise me was that it had nothing in common with the original. My guess is that they wanted to call the game Dracula, until someone told them the name of the bloodsucker is copyrighted by Universal, The Company That Eats All That Gets In Its Way. What to do? You pull a Murnau, of course: Change the name, keep the game.

This possibility first occurred to me when I saw Nosferatu himself: instead of looking like Homato Yoshi halfway in his mutation into Splinter, he looks like the kind of vampire you see on the covers of semi-pornographic housewife horror novels. The second clue was the hero's choice of clothing: dungaree from top to bottom and white sneakers with red soles. This, friends, is no Hutter! This is no German real-estate dealer! This is the kind of vampire hunter who usually hangs out at dorm parties and dates cheerleaders! Plus, he looks a lot like one of the guys from American Pie.

What about the game? Well, my main objection is that it's Prince of Persia with graphics from Castlevania. I'm not kidding, this game is PoP. The controls are exactly the same, the animation is identical, and the level design works by the same rules. Speaking of level design: the programmers didn't put realism in the front seat when they designed the castle. In fact, I hope Nosferatu doesn't have to use the toilet now that he's undead, as that would necessitate jumping over six pits, climbing over eight-foot ledges, navigating through labyrinths and pulling entire sections of the structure around. While this is perfectly normal in most games, it's pretty annoying in this one. Especially when you include touch panels that seem to open doors half a level back, meaning you run out of time if you go back to try to find them, while other panels open the door that your nose is already touching.

I mentioned some Castlevania elements earlier. It's a well-known fact that Konami established Dracula's social circle when they released this game: Dracula hangs out in his castle with Frankenstein's Monster, Medusa, Death, the Mummy and all the other guys all the time. No wonder these guys are so grumpy: imagine coming home at dawn, tired and beaten from flying around in the shape of a bat. "Hmmm... time to relax a little before bedtime," you think, opening the fridge only to discover that Boris Karloff has eaten all your pickled eyeballs. "Aw crap, now what am I going to eat in front of the TV?" you ask yourself. You grab a stick of lizard jerky, put your slippers on, and patter over to your couch. Well, wouldn't you know it, Wolfman is sitting there with his dirty feet on the table, watching Jackass while brushing cheese doodle crumbs out from his fur. You throw in the towel and decide to go to bed. But guess what? Medusa is occupying the bathroom again, and the Grim Reaper is throwing his fifth noisy party this month! I'm not sure what I'm trying to prove here, but I think I'm moving towards the conclusion that if people would accept these monsters as neighbors in their low-cost housing cooperatives and gave them simple yet fulfilling jobs, they would probably brighten up a bit and stop stalking the living at night. Where was I? Right, Dracula's friends. Nosferatu tops Castlevania by introducing a couple of new tenants:

Twin Killer Monkeys in Briefs! I have no idea where these come from. Congo was released a couple of years later, so they can't be taken from there. Come to think of it, not even this game would want to have anything to do with Congo, so I guess that theory was a dead horse to begin with. The brown one might be Son of Kong, while the other one is his evil blue clone, but I don't think so. I guess the graphical designers figured blue monkeys are scary, but not half as scary as blue monkeys accompanied with ordinary monkeys that emphasize the blueness of the first. Christ, what am I talking about?

Hurry Factor: 0/10
Well, since the movie was released in 1922, rushing it would be the mother of all lost battles.

Leap of Doom Frequency: 4/10
If you've played PoP, you know what you get.

Aggravation Level: 5/10
Mixing Prince of Persia with Castlevania and Double Dragon would seem like a good idea on paper. If you were illiterate and blind. This game manages to combine the worst of all worlds: the monotony of DD, the hopeless controls of Castlevania and the impossibility of PoP.

Unfaithfulness Rate: not measurable
Well, we established that one early on.

I was originally planning to include Beauty And the Beast as well, but you know what? I don't want to. I played for a little while, and I just couldn't stomach it. It was boring, I spent five minutes stuck in one place until I realized roaring revealed a secret platform, you could climb some walls while other identical walls were unclimbable, and above all: wherever I walked or jumped, something killed me. I was also thinking about including Bram Stoker's Dracula, but I figured I could just as well flesh my ideas out a bit and write a full article about it. Might put it on hold a while though, I don't want to go into shock again like I did that time I reviewed three bible-related games in a row. Stay tuned.