Monday, 10 November 2008

The Horror, The Horror - Shitty Video Game Adaptations

It's a general rule of thumb that any video game based on a licensed property is not as good as any video game set in its own universe (with the exception of sports franchise based games). Nowhere is this truer than movie adaptations, and nowhere is that truer than horror movie adaptations.

This is relatively easy to understand, as good horror movies don't tend to be high on action, moving platforms, or escort missions; and good video games don't tend to be based on tense, well constructed plots, cat-and-mouse one-bad-guy-one-good-guy climaxes, or Cthulhoid terrors from beyond.

Here they are, the most ill-advised, badly conceived, or just plain unlucky video game adaptations of horror movies:

HALLOWEEN (ATARI 2600)

The Movie:

Light on blood and high on atmosphere, John Carpenter's Halloween is generally credited as being the film that created the "Teen Slasher" genre - a genre that is notably high on blood and light on atmosphere, proving once again that film theorists are douchebags.

The Game:

You plays as a nameless babysitter (most likely Jamie Lee Curtis), who must save children from a knife-wielding enemy, presumably Michael Myers (the movie serial killer, not the Canadian "comedian"). The player obtains points by either rescuing children and bringing them to "safe rooms" located at both ends of each floor of the house, and by stabbing Michael with the knife (if you can find the bloody thing). The player advances a level either by rescuing five children or stabbing Michael twice. The killer gets faster with each level increase, and the game continues until all of the player's three lives are lost. Just like the movie.

The Problem(s):

Like Wizard's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween was a controversial title at the time due to its "violent content and subject matter". Many game retailers refused to carry the game and the ones who did often kept it behind the counter on a request-only basis. This didn't do sales any favours, as not many games stores had people coming in saying "I'm looking for something shit, what do you recommend?".

Halloween, along with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, drove Wizard Video Games to bankruptcy. While Wizard Video Games were liquidating its merchandise, some copies of the game were shipped and sold without a label, or with a simple white sticker with "HALLOWEEN" hand-written on it to cut costs. Retarded isn't the word.

Today, Halloween is a highly sought after game due to its scarcity.

Compare and Contrast:



THE EVIL DEAD (C64, ZX Spectrum)

The Movie:

Sam Raimi's 1981 movie The Evil Dead is notable for being the best Sam Raimi movie, the best zombie movie, the best Bruce Campbell movie, the best low-budget horror movie, the best horror movie and the best movie.

Five students venture into the hills to spend a weekend in an isolated cabin. There they find the Necromonicon (as you do). Whilst searching the basement of the cabin, the students find a tape recording of demonic incantations from the book, unwittingly resurrecting the slumbering demons that thirst for revenge.

The students are possessed one by one, beginning the first, Cheryl, after she is lured into the forest by an Evil Force at night. Alone and far from the safety of the cabin, the woods come alive in a snake-like fashion and the poor girl is raped by a tree. If you haven't seen this movie, you're missing out.

Much zombies, blood, burning, horror and shitty sequeling ensues.

The Game:

The game is set in the cabin. The player controls Ash, and must close cabin windows to prevent monsters from entering, while also killing monsters that have already managed to get in.

As the player defeats deadites with various weapons (shovels, shotguns, and axes), Ash's energy level decreases. Ash must continuously pick up new weapons in order to increase his energy. Once he has defeated all the monsters, Ash must obtain the Necronomicon and destroy it in order to defeat the evil.

The Problem(s):

The game actually sounds really good. Hell, I've played the thing and I think that that description makes it sound a pretty sweet, tense horror game.

The problem is that I tried playing that game for about six months on a Spectrum emulator, and it's only after looking it up on Wikipedia for that description that I figured out what the bloody hell I was supposed to have been doing all that time.

And I don't really go for neon zombies.

Compare and Contrast:



BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA (Amiga, Game Boy, Game Gear, Mega-Drive, NES, Mega CD, Master System, SNES)

The Movie:

In 1992, Francis Ford Coppola released his adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, claiming it to be the most faithful film adaptation ever released. As the film only deviates from the novel 78% of the time, this is sadly true.

The movie version presents a mix of romance, gothic horror, awesome acting, amazing cinematography and Gary Oldman being awesome. Only a really shitty platform game could possibly ruin it.

The Game:

A really shitty platform game.

The Problem(s):

The developers faced a choice: make an interesting strategy game actually based on the events of the movie/book, providing quick moments of combat and great moments of tension and strategy, or knock out a cheap Castlevania clone.

If you want to see Jonathan Harker jumping up and down in the freezing rain, unleashing a spinning blade attack at some badly rendered flying the monsters, then you've come to the right place.

Fortunately, the interesting strategy game actually based on the events of the movie/book, providing quick moments of combat and great moments of tension and strategy was eventually released as The most awesome board game ever made. Suck that, video gamers.

Compare and Contrast:



THE RING: TERROR'S REALM (Dreamcast)

The Movie:

Based upon Koji Suzuki's novel of the same name, Ring is a haunting tale of supernatural revenge and anger, mediated through a possessed video tape. The video contains some seemingly random images, but all who watch it die exactly seven days later. The film concerns a journalist and her ex-husband who watch the tape, and who attempt to solve the mystery and save their lives.

Ring was one of the first Japanese horror films to make it big outside of its native country and made everyone aware that either the Japanese were incredibly creative and imaginative when it came to writing ghost stories...or they didn't really understand what a ghost was supposed to do and just started winging it with video tapes, eye operations and water tanks.

The Game:

The game replaces the VHS cassette with a possessed computer program that achieves the same 7-day death sentence when the program is booted.

The Problem(s):

It's pretty much a rip-off of Resident Evil, but without the zombies. If you can think of a reason why you might want to play that, please comment.

Compare and Contrast:



THE END?

What is worth noting is that all of these shitty adaptations are pretty old now. There was no video game adaptation of recent horror films, because horror video games are now perfectly able to stand up as their own genre. Games like Eternal Darkness, Resident Evil, Silent Hill and to a lesser extent House of the Dead manage to conjure up a suitable atmosphere, and don't need to rely on paper thin licenses to be able to shift a few copies. The horror movie video-game license is, thankfully, gone forever.


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