Original videogames will always top the best-seller charts, but tie-in games have become more and more important to the videogame industry, especially now that the typical game-development budget is in the millions of dollars. Creativity fearing executive weasels want a return on their investment, and attaching a game to an “intellectual property” is low-risk and high-reward — presuming the license is Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers as opposed to “Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever,” and presuming there’s enough money left after the licensing fee to afford a decent game-development studio. Here, then, is my arbitrary list of the best five tie-in videogames of 2002.
Newly rich, famous, married, and pregnant J.K Rowling might be struggling to complete the fifth book in the series, but EA had no trouble bringing the second film in the series to interactive life. The game’s inarguably more enjoyable than the movie, since fans of the books can actually explore Hogwarts here, instead of being forced into director Chris Columbus’s point of view. If you own multiple game consoles, avoid the PS2 version, which suffers from brutal load times and a lesser degree of difficulty.
The world’s leading developer of role-playing games cross-pollinates with the struggling Walt Disney Co. in a brilliant merger (other than the abominable “Gummi Ship,” of which the less said the better) that thrusts the player into 3D realizations of Disney’s most popular flicks (“Aladdin,” “The Lion King,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” et al). “Kingdom Hearts” also features the most impressive cast of voice-acting talent in videogame history, with Hollywood A- and B-listers either reprising their Disney roles (James Woods as Hades, Robby Benson as the Beast, Tony Goldwyn as Tarzan) or vocalizing Square’s original creations (Haley Joel Osment as Sora, Billy Zane as Ansem, and Mandy Moore as the fanboy-beloved Aerith).
The action/adventure games from Universal Interactive (based on the books) were awful, but Stormfront’s beat’ em up game (based on the flick) is wonderful, because it focuses entirely on the action instead of trying and failing to imitate Tolkien’s distinctive prose. Its only real weakness is that it’s too damn short, although you’ll surely play through it once as each playable character Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn. (Gandalf’s being held in reserve for “The Return of the King” tie-in.)
While it’s not as good as Activision’s earlier Spidey-games (which were based on the comics and developed by Neversoft, which has since hatched the “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater” franchise), “Spider-Man” is still a fine next-generation debut for the franchise, and while it wildly differs from the movie’s storyline, “Spider-Man” also benefits from the frequently hilarious voice work of Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, and Bruce Campbell. (Kirsten Dunst’s voice and nipples are sadly MIA.)
John Carpenter’s 1982 horror film classic is reborn as a survival-horror sequel with loads of profanity (2002 was a record-setting year for videogame invocations of the words “f**k” and “s**t”) and the wonderful idea of using paranoia as a central gameplay mechanic. The movie never got the props it deserved, and neither did the game, but this was easily Universal’s best tie-in effort of the year.
Writer and avid gamer Zach Meston gives us the low down on what recent movie and television show based videogames are worth your time and allowance. Funny thing is, some of these games end up being more entertaining than their counterparts.