I wish it could be Christmas every day (but it cant)
Christmas is the biggest blockbuster holiday of the year. Although unbeknownst to many - a spin-off from the relatively forgotten retro gem that is Pagan winter festivity, the franchise has since ballooned to become an absolute juggernaut in its own right. Imagine that Christmas is Fallout, and the original Pagan celebrations are Wasteland, and youre pretty much there. And as with any other major, successful, AAA release, it now has a plethora of sequels and spin-offs of its own.
Sadly, as is often the way, few of these match up. Despite a great prequel/extended tutorial in the form of American Thanksgiving, many of Christmas sequels just arent of the same calibre. They are, however, an eclectic bunch, so join me if you will, as I work through a rundown of the most disappointing yet still interesting - sequels to Christmas, ever.
The quickie rehash. Fired up by Christmas surprise success, its developers alas took the easy option and churned out this rapid follow-up all-too-swiftly. Released the very next day and in quantities too small to even manage a US launch Boxing Day is pretty much just more of the same, only a little less special.
Yes, theres another bout of eating, drinking, being merry, and lying around in front of the TV having a good time with your friends and relatives, but theres an overwhelming sense that weve seen it all before. The food is good, but it doesnt feels as fresh as in the original Christmas release more akin to leftovers from the original development, if you will and after the spectacle of Christmas, everything in this lower-key, glorified remake is just a little tired and sleepy. Lazy even. Many a player can attest to nodding off halfway through, in fact.
New Years Eve
With more time to work on the next follow-up, New Years Eve should have been a dazzling return to form. Alas, it turned out to be disappointingly superficial, adapting much of Christmas sparkly visual design, but lacking its satisfying depth of player experience. It also suffers from major pacing issues, opening with a slow, steady build-up that ultimately seems to last forever before anything actually happens, at which point everything happens at once, the campaign swiftly over almost before it feels like its begun.
The Halo 5 of holidays, basically. Maybe even The Order 1886.
New Years Day
At this point, creative indecision was clearly starting to show. After the over-hyped, over-priced failure of New Years Eve, the pressure was really on for a return to form. But, still unable to fully recapture the real magic of Christmas, New Years Day could only hope to fall back on the now-growing nostalgia for the safe-but-unspectacular fun of Boxing Day. Alas, a remake of a remake rarely works out well.
In New Years Day, we have the same sleepy, worn-out vibe, but without Christmas as a direct point of inspiration, it all feels rather hollow and unsatisfying. Worse, desperation led to gimmick PR, U2 recruited to provide the holidays needless theme song, a flailing attempt at publicity that proved about as popular and effective as Destinys use of Paul McCartney. But it was about to get a whole lot worse
That bit between New Year and anything exciting happening
The inevitable gritty reboot. This often happens when a series focus and success have badly unravelled, but in terms of viability, the approachs chances are rarely better than 50/50. After all, if direct sequels arent recapturing the magic, throwing it all away for a drastic change is an utter crapshoot, just as liable to turn off old fans as it is to drawn in new ones. And in this case, it didnt go well at all.
Too radical in its reworking and subversion of the original Christmas spirit, this bleak, existential, survival-horror nightmare was just too ironic and mean-spirited a take on the source material to pick up any real audience traction. Arguably the least popular entry in the franchise to date, its boring, uneventful, visually uninspiring everythings just so cold, but without any of the festive cheer that made Christmas frosty production design such a hit and entirely too long.
With the franchise in tatters, and the series heyday all but a distant memory, this cheap, kid-focused cash-in - I mean animal mascots? Really? Who even does those any more? was a real kick in the nuts.
And talk about repetitive level design
Probably Christmas most successful sequel so far, but still not a return to full form, Easter does a decent job of recapturing the upbeat, sparky, family vibe of the original holiday, but is perhaps a little too single-minded in its intent, and slightly mis-fires in its execution. Taking the easy option by transplanting the setting from the dark, frozen depths of winter to the warm, bright-and-breezy environs of spring, it maintains the spirit of giving and sharing, but comes across as slightly one-note, alas lacking most of Christmas rich, tonal depth.
Its certainly a decent bout of knockabout fun, but its a shortlived experience with an overly sugary, saccharine nature that might nevertheless leave you feeling slightly sick of it before the end.