Have you ever gone to see a film and left the cinema thinking 'Wow, that was awesome. Id love to play a video game of that', then experienced the sheer joy of seeing a video game adaptation of said film the very next day? A video game of the film you love, just like you asked for. And you can buy it. So you do! Aaaaand its not at all what you expected.
Even besides the predictable stinkers, some licensed offerings games are actually fundamentally alright. They're just not the kind of games they should have been in the first place, which is somehow even worse. Complete wastes of a brilliant license, in other words. Games that won the rights to incredible characters and brands and decided to let you play as Joe Schmoe instead. Or decided a trivia game was absolutely the best way forward for the hottest property on TV. Get ready for anger, this is going to be frustrating
All but one South Park games (Multi, 1996-)
What it is: Well, take your pick. South Park: Chefs Luv Shack is a quiz game based on trivia from the show. South Park Rally is a kart racer (why, oh why, wasnt it called Super Kart-man?) based on characters from the show. And South Park, the N64 FPS, is simply an abomination. With hilarious yellow snow and--appropriately--turkeys.
What it should have been: Were talking about South Park here. Paper cut-outs animated so basically you could feasibly make your own episode for a school project. Even N64 could do reams of speech if the compression was decent enough. I mean, did nobody at the various publishers stop and think 'what would Brian Boitano do?' Any South Park game should be a playable episode of the show! Something we finally got with the amazing South Park: The Stick of Truth, albeit some 17 years later than the first opportunity arose. We could even have had a dedicated Chinpokomon game, FFS. I would've chosen Shoe.
E.T. The Extra-terrestrial (Atari 2600, 1982)
What it is: An abysmal collect-em-up that sees you playing as everyones favourite lightbulb-fingered alien. Its actually a watershed moment for gaming. Quite how anyone could translate the magic of the Spielberg film into the fugliest, boring-est and oh-god-I-cant-believe-I-spent-actual-money-on-this-est game ever made is a mystery and one that deserves recognition.
What it should have been: Let's put aside the fact that such beautiful subject material should probably never have been translated onto the Atari hardware in the first place. Isnt it obvious that the gameplay potential lies with Elliott and not E.T. himself? Free all the frogs! Escape on your bike! Find weird half-dead ET before he gets eaten by raccoons! And of course, it should have a port of Asteroids as a minigame, where you have to beat the top score of 69,000.
Cities of Gold: Secret Paths (PC/iOS/3DS/Wii U, 2014)
What it is: Children of the sun / see your time has just begun Remember the kids TV show in the late 1980s? Well, its finally got a second season. Yes! And theres a game for PC and 3DS! Its massively disappointing. Isometric-angled puzzling with levers and switches as you control Tao, Zia and Esteban in turn. Yawn. OK, it's probably meant for children, but as Kokapetl would say: "Run for the hills!"
What it should have been: The first season is perfect for an RPG gaming adaptation. After the Barcelona intro and ship voyage, Esteban and Zia meet up with Tao, which opens up the Solaris (a ship) that would act as world map traversal. Later, the Golden Condor would allow flight over the entire game world. There are even ready-made distinct musical themes for battles, discovery and mystery. Imagine! We could have explored mountain trails on the path of the setting sun that leads to El Dorado! Not baffled brainless guards by jumping into a pot in plain sight. *Facepalm*.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (360/PS3, 2007)
What it is: A third-person hack 'n' slash adventure with exploration quests and impressive likenesses. Indeed, despite the game's age, it remains one of the best examples of capturing real actors' likenesses in a licensed game. What a shame the combat is so dull. Slash. Slash. Slash that turns the enemy around. Slash to kill. New enemy. Repeat...
What it should have been: Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, of course. A proper pirate game, only it could have had characters and locations from the films instead of Animus nonsense. And don't give me that rubbish about how Black Flag was only possible because of the late-life mastery of the consoles' hardware. At World's End not only looks gorgeous on 360, it also has ships. On the sea. If only the sequel, Armada of the Damned, hadn't been cancelled...
Iron Man (Multi, 2008)
What it is: A really, really poor third-person shooting game, that degenerates into pushing the fire button until target reticules change colour to indicate the enemy has exploded. The flying is decent, but controls badly at low speed. Oh, and the dialogue repeats every time you die. As my review at the time asked: "If Iron Man can fly, why has he stumbled into every pitfall of the superhero genre?" Nice.
What it should have been: Surely a first-person game would play better. You could actually be Iron Man, instead of just jerkily pulling the strings that control him. But then you wouldn't ever SEE Iron man, unless you walked past a mirror, making fans sad. But even then, you could still have cut-scenes. I mean, it worked for Metroid, didn't it?
Enter The Matrix (Multi, 2003)
What it is: A third-person brawler with enjoyable hacking minigame that somehow managed to forget that everybody wanted to play as Neo, not Niobe and Ghost. Sure, there was a sequel (Path of Neo) that did let you play as Keanu, but by then everyone was fed up with The Matrix and wishing there had only ever been one film in the needless trilogy.
What it should have been: A straight recreation of the events of the film, only allowing you to experience them for yourself, albeit in 3rd-person. There's nothing wrong with the game engine, which is smooth and detailed, even on PS2. Tutorial sequences would work perfectly in the training program environment and there could be exciting parkour chase sections like those in Uncharted 3, but with added mega-leaps. That lobby shoot-out could even be playable in co-op. But it should have been made alongside the film, starring the ensemble cast. Bit late in the day now.
Wreck-It Ralph (3DS/DS/Wii, 2013)
What it is: A 2.5D platformer set directly after the events of the brilliant movie, the game sees you switching between the eponymous Ralph and his new buddy, Fix-It Felix Jnr. Its a child-friendly platformer with repetitive soundbites, basic graphics and derivative gameplay. Great success!
What it should have been: Isn't it obvious? We could have had an actual Sugar Rush Speedway racing game. In fact, it could even have been an arcade-only title, installed in cinema lobbies around the world to coincide with the films release, looking just like the racing game in the film. Modern graphics could have rendered the action using the exact assets from the film, and Ralph could have been a secret unlockable racer. Sure, hes in Sonic & All-Stars racing Transformed, but it could have been so much more.
Indiana Jones (Multi, 1982-)
What it is: There have been some Indiana Jones games, ranging from the downright dreadful Raiders of the Lost Ark on Atari 2600 in 1982, through to Indiana Jones Adventure World on Facebook in 2012 (how the times have changed). And sure, the odd 3D adventure has been decent, such as Indiana Jones and the Emperors Tomb on PC, PS2 and Xbox, but basically the name has been used to sell a lot of tat for a long time.
What it should have been: Uncharted. Somebody should have made Uncharted before Naughty Dog did, hired Harrison Ford to provide his voice for a young CG Indy (instead of making Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), and put Indiana Jones in the lead role. Same action, same production values, but with added lion tamers whip. And Indy and his father instead of Drake and Sully. Oh man, Sean Connery could have voiced it too. Goddammit, LucasArts!
Game of Thrones (360/PS3/PC, 2012)
What it is: A Game of Thrones game where you dont even get to play as anyone from Game of Thrones. And the events in the game run parallel to the events of the TV series (itself adapted from the books, of course), meaning you dont get to recreate or participate in your favourite scenes. Did they learn nothing from The Matrix?
What it should have been: HODOR!
(Disclaimer: I have never actually watched Game of Thrones, but everyone seems to laugh whenever someone says 'Hodor'. Like painting by numbers where you havent even seen the paint, thus is the output of the Towell Joke Factory.)
Got an ouchie too?
There are countless licensed games out there. Maybe you wished Wayne's World had been a Guitar Hero-esque game instead of a crappy platformer (with Kung Fu kicks?!), or even some kind of Mr Donut Head Man horror spin-off. Aw, man, that would have been awesome... Either way, let us know in the comments. Be creative!