Who's the tie-in now?
There's nothing like a quick bit of serendipity to restore your waning enthusiasm. A happy little accident born of bad news, a victory stolen from the jaws of defeat. What J.R.R. Tolkien called the 'u-catastrophe'. Few things can embody this concept better than an unlikely successful tie-in title, a video game based on a bad movie that somehow, someway ends up being good. Make no mistake about it, these cases are rarer than a straight answer from a senator, or any other politician for that matter. After all, official movie games have always had something of a reputation for delivering dross, especially when saddled with a lame duck property.
Bucking that trend is tough old ask. So tough in fact, that it was almost impossible to fill out this list without dipping into the ancient days of the 1980s. These then, are the games that not only defied our expectations, but made us look like a bunch of judgemental jackasses in the process. These are the exceptions to the iron clad laws of gaming, the eight atrocious movies that somehow spawned fantastic games. Away!
Ecks Vs. Sever
The Movie - An amorphous Lovecraftian horror masquerading as an insipid action flick. Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever starred - or should I say 'subjected us to' - both Lucy Liu and Antonio Banderas to the roles of competing secret agents, who in an apparent effort to wipe out all evidence of this eldritch abomination, begin by completing invalidating said movie's title. How do they do that exactly? Why, by teaming up together instead. Great job title guy. Ballistic: 'Ecks and his good pal Sever' is today considered to be one of the single worst movies ever committed to celluloid. Still need some convincing? Alright, how about the fact that the film wasn't even nominated for a single Golden Raspberry award? That's right, even the anti-Oscars didn't want anything to do with it. It's a bit like EvS exists on its special movie leper colony, just counting down the days until Michael Bay moves in.
The Game - Based on an earlier draft of the Ballistic script - that's right, they actually wrote it down - this GBA exclusive conspired to outshine its counterpart in almost every respect. A Doom-like shooter praised for its tight gunplay, engaging action and expansive multiplayer, Ecks vs. Sever remains one of the very best FPS available on the platform.
The Movie - How do you go about filming a novel that's every bit as cavernous, gargantuan and completely unruly as the sandworms that inhabit its pages? The smart answer is that you don't. You step inside of your spaceship and fly far, far away. Failing that, you pick a slightly less labyrinthine series to bring to the silver screen, say War & Peace? *Raucous gentleman's club laughter*. Clearly, the people behind this mid '80s adaptation - including one David Lynch - didnt see it that way, though they really should have done, considering just what an expensive mess Dune turned out to be. It ultimately failed to recoup its 40 million dollar investment, whereas by contrast, the top 5 highest earning films of 1984 each cost an average of 18.4 million to produce. Yikes. Oh, and if that wasn't enough - Sting runs around in a pair of winged metallic y-fronts, looking for all the world like a coked up Terrence Stamp. If that's not a sign your movie needs a rethink, I dont know is.
The Game - While all Dune titles are technically based on the books, Dune 2 for the Amiga, Mega-Drive and MS-DOS was actually based on the movie, utilising the same aesthetic designs that were initially developed for use in the film. As a landmark in video gaming evolution, Dune 2 remains unsurpassed, at least by anything that appears on this list - establishing as it did the core tenets of the ever-popular RTS genre.
Blazing Lazers (Gunhed)
The Movie - Any director brave enough to make a live action mech movie in the late 1980s deserves at least a small measure of our respect. Why? Because prior to the rise of truly competent CG, a decade-or-so later, even trying to simulate a massive robo punch up was tantamount to stabbing your entire audience in the eyes. So, here's to you Harada-san, thanks for trying shame it's still a massive pile of slag. For those of you who're interested, warped little rubberneckers that you are, Gunhed tells the tale of a hapless group of scavengers who accidentally awaken an evil supercomputer. Said comp soon threatens all of humanity and must be put down with the help of a damaged battle bot. Oh, and the designated pilot has a fear of flying - cue gripping drama.
The Game - Sadly, Gunhed the game was all-but stripped of its licensing by the time it hit Western shores, debuting in the United States as 'Blazing Lazers', a top down shoot 'em up in the vein of Ikaruga. Thankfully said game proved to be a cut above its filmic counterpart, and is remembered today as one of the finer titles on the TurboGrafx-16 - a competition it contests with around 4 other games Get it, because it didn't have that many games? Thankyou, I'm here all week.
LEGO Star Wars (Episodes I-III)
The Movie - Ah the Star Wars prequels, what a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Now admittedly, most folks will claim an affection - slight though it may be - for at least one of the three films. Where some will side with The Phantom Menace, forgiving its gross imposition of Jar Jar for that outrageously entertaining saber sequence, others will instead opt for the grittier, more narratively substantive third instalment. Oh, and a couple of die-hard Jango Fett fans will go for Clones, I suppose. These minor loyalties aside, most enthusiasts will agree that the second Star Wars trilogy was a bigger letdown than pilot Porkins crashing into the Death Star. Irritating acting, wooden dialogue, vague at best motivations - and that's just Hayden Christensen - these movies are so darn bad they very nearly expunged 20 years worth of good will towards creator George Lucas.
The Game - It's hard to recall a time before LEGO tie-in titles, before the dark times, before the Empire... These identikit actioners may have become ten a penny today, encompassing every franchise from DC Comics to Breaking Bad (well, kind of ), but it all started off here. The original LEGO Star Wars was at once somehow fresh and yet familiar, superficially simple, but with an enormous level of replayability. It may not have been the SW game of our dreams, but it was damn near close enough.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
The Movie - Hugh Jackman's 181st appearance as the claw-wielding Canadian also marks the X-Men franchise' poorest critical performance to date. Having previously set the scene for the mass of superhero flicks currently propping up Hollywood, things took a sharp turn for the worse right around the time that someone in charge opted to include the most outspoken man in comics (i.e. Deadpool) only to then mute him. They may as well have turned Professor X into a phony TV psychic or replaced Cyclops with a man who inadvertently poked his own eye out - still, he'd probably be more effective than the version they eventually went with, but I digress. The point is that it felt like no one involved in this project really did a great deal of thinking before committing the entire sordid mess to celluloid, there to annoy and bewilder fans for the rest of time.
The Game - A gloriously gory, enchantingly violent retread of the early Wolverine mythos, mixing in classic Logan moments with other film-appropriate setpieces. Though by no means a classic, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is so massively improved over its originator as to inspire a stunned sense of awe. "You mean to tell me this bloody and bombastic romp came from that!?". You better believe it, bub.
The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay
The Movie - Talk about a missed opportunity. All three Riddick flicks are guilty of wasting the same perfectly compelling setting, of building up an intriguing mythos before burying it under waves of languid action. None more so than the series' middling centrepiece, 2004's The Chronicles of Riddick. Buoyed on by some excellent design work, the film nevertheless fails to find its footing, feeling at once too large, and yet also curiously unambitious. Simply put, it exists inside of a bloody big sandbox, one that it has no idea how to effectively fill. Still, there is that one scene featuring death by tea cup, something that only usually occurs when the ride operators at Blackpool Pleasure Beach have been up all night banging back scotch.
The Game - Few games have exceeded their inspirations, surpassed expectations and produced quite so much perspiration as Starbreeze Studios' Escape from Butcher Bay. Stealthy but never slow, deep but never overbearing, the game, frankly, is excellent. Big Vin is on absolute top form here, cajoling cons, smashing skulls and generally causing chaos. More than just a cracking sci-fi title or another great shooter, Escape From Butcher Bay's massive, slow-burn adventure finally allows players to live out some semblance of their prison break fantasies, and with nary a papier mache head in sight.
The Movie - There are bad movies, and then there are movies like The Room - an anaemic, listless and unintentionally brilliant romp through the lives of several unremarkable urbanites. Costing in the region of four million dollars to produce (no, I cant quite believe it either) Tommy Wiseau's cinematic masterpiece consists of little more than bland conversations, bungled motivations and an apparent sexual predator named Denny. Major plot points come and go, faces are made, and half-rotten vampire lords parade around in the nude. It's a mess, but a beautifully misjudged one at that, featuring such classic lines as "You're tearing me apart Lisa!" and "oh, hi Mark!". If you haven't seen it, see it.
The Game -The Room, released in 2010 - not to be confused with that other game named The Room, released two years later, or in fact, Silent Hill 4 - is an old school 2D adventure title boasting additional RPG elements. Though never officially endorsed, this on-point parody game proved to be far more than mere pastiche, receiving a slew of positive reviews and a glowing endorsement from the film's resident loverat Greg Sestero. Best of all, it's a free flash game, so play it here.
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1986 Version)
The Movie - How do you go about crafting a horror villain that hasn't already been done to death? Well, you could just choose to accept the inevitability of iteration, i.e. the fact that all forms of art ultimately evoke and inspire one another. Or you can pick something so stupendously idiotic no one else would even consider it. Guess which category Attack of the Killer Tomatoes falls into? That's not to say that the film doesn't have some redeeming qualities. For one, it eventually ends, thereby allowing viewers to move on with their lives, irrevocably jaded though they may be by that point. It may be a kind of parod, but even as an admitted goof Tomatoes falls flat.
The Game - An isometric adventure title for the ZX Spectrum. Players assume the role of a 'Wimp' security bot, charged with overseeing the day-to-day running of a tomato pureeing plant. When the titular tomatoes gain sentience and decide to run amok, it's up to Wimp and Wimp alone to hammer out all these misbehaving fruits (and yes, Tomatoes are a fruit, because the world is a sick, strange little place). While considered nothing special by today's standards, it's important to note that the game receiving glowing reviews back in the dark days of 1986. And that counts for something right?