Almost as long as there have been games, there have been games based on movies. Tie-ins are big business, as they help drive up hype for movies, which until recent years, tended to make far more money than games ever could. Unfortunately for gamers, they are also notoriously rushed products that often feature bland gameplay, confusing storylines, and reek of being rushed (Raiders of the Lost Ark for the Atari 2600 and Hudson Hawk for the NES, for example, set the bar incredibly low).
Still, there are a few diamonds in the rough that give us a consistent glimmer of hope that good movie-based games can happen. The iPhone is a relatively new gaming platform, but there are already a handful of games, both great and truly abysmal. The following is a list of the stand-outs and the heinously offensive.
5. Toy Story Mania (3 out of 4)
Toy Story Mania is based on a theme park ride that is based on a movie, but it still contains all the lovable characters from the beloved Pixar films. Reviews were somewhat mixed, but we at Slide To Play enjoyed this minigame compilation, and it does recreate (to a pint-sized degree) the excitement of the “4-D” attraction at Disney’s parks. If you need your Disney kick, this is one of their best options on the platform, and it can certainly be a lot of fun in small doses.
4. G-Force: The Game (3 out of 4)
It may be hard to believe that two of our top five are based on Disney flicks, but we can’t deny a good game when we see it. This is the iPhone’s Metal Gear Solid, considering that Metal Gear Solid Touch lacks the series’ signature sneaking elements. What G-Force lacks in replayability it makes up for by being virtually one-of-a-kind on the platform. The movie may have done nothing for you, but this just goes to show that sometimes a game based on a movie can be better than the movie itself.
3. Iron Man: Aerial Assault (4 out of 4)
One of the best Marvel comic book movies yet is also one of the best iPhone games based on a movie. It may have flown under your radar when it was released late last year, but it’s never too late to snag this highly rated gem. Flying games are becoming more commonplace in the App Store, but strapping on a rocket pack provides a completely different type of adrenaline rush. This is a game that is best enjoyed in short bursts, making this portable version the best of all the versions. With a drastic price cut (down to $0.99 from its original $7.99), you should grab this one immediately.
2. Top Gun (4 out of 4)
The iPhone has been graced with a number of top notch flight games, both in the arcade and simulation vein. Top Gun is not the best of the best, but it has managed to hold its own despite being in the App Store for so long. Furthermore, it’s based on the hit movie hit movie from 1986, so managing to still be relevant and fun isn’t easy. If you dig aerial dogfights and find yourself missing the antics of Maverick and Ice Man, then purchasing this will be money well spent.
1. Terminator: Salvation (4 out of 4)
Further solidifying the fact that a game based on a movie can be better than the movie itself is Terminator: Salvation. Just because Arnold is busying himself in the California governor’s mansion doesn’t mean that you can’t still be excited for one of the best science fiction franchises of the past few decades. This is one of the first iPhone games that showed the world that Gameloft would be a dominant player in the iPhone market. They developed an all new 3D graphics engine that confirmed for us the iPhone’s technical prowess, and this third-person shooter delivered on the gameplay front as well. More advanced shooters may have been released since, but this is still a great movie-licensed game.
5. Angels & Demons (2 out of 4)
How do you make a game about a best-selling book and ho hum movie full of intrigue, excitement, and theological exploration? You make a game of Chinese checkers. Wait… what? While the game tries to tie these puzzles into mysterious clues, this one so far misses the point of being a tie-in game as to be no longer relevant. Seriously, if we wanted to be bored, we could go watch The Da Vinci Code.
4. Underworld Rise of the Lycans (not reviewed)
What’s more exciting than a game about the eternal struggle between vampires and werewolves? A lot, apparently. You’re more likely to enjoy Twilight’s emo romance over this barebones, boring game based on the Underworld sequel that probably should never have been made. This basic brawler offers only three “levels,” that might last you a half hour, if your attention holds that long. Decent graphics can’t hide the shallow gameplay, either. The game is free, so we didn’t expect much, and we suppose you could say that our expectations were met.
3. Watchmen: Justice is Coming (not reviewed)
If we’re going to play an MMO based on the movie version of a wildly successful graphic novel, we want it to be one that works. Watchmen isn’t technically broken, and a few patches have addressed a lot of the issues that plagued the initial release, but that isn’t a recipe for fun. The combat is stilted and uninteresting, and wandering dark city streets in a perpetual grindfest quickly wore on our patience. We applaud the effort, but the game’s concept is too simple to appeal to hardcore MMO players and too uninspired to attract anyone else. If you play today, you’ll find the streets mostly empty.
2. Pandorum (1 out of 4)
This clunker wants desperately to be Doom 3 or Dead Space, but it fails in every attempt. Dark, confusingly laid-out corridors, poor dialog, and an inadequate control scheme bring down this 3D shooter faster than a demon with a rocket launcher. The movie was a stinker, and this iPhone adaptation will do little to make it more memorable. You should avoid this one and play the far superior Doom Resurrection if you want to blast demons lurking in the darkness.
1. Ghostbusters (1 out of 4)
What happens when you take one of cinema’s most beloved franchises, suck out all of its classic humor, and squeeze it into a thin shell of an existing game? You get this steaming pile of ectoplasm. Ghostbusters for iPhone has no saving graces: it’s as ugly as Slimer, has generic level design, and fails to capitalize on any of the platform’s unique strengths. This is the epitome of a shameless movie tie-in if we’ve ever seen one, and even at under a buck, we wouldn’t recommend it to even the biggest fans of the series. Who ya gonna call? Someone else.