Why do licensed kiddie games suck?

Fair enough. Some of the Pixar/THQ games have been prettydecent (I personally wrote a strategy guide for Cars, and didn’t totally hate it).

Above: The Cars game did what it needed to do reasonably well - it added to the Cars world while remaining true to the original film,and wasfairly entertaining to play. Kudos, THQ

You have to admit though, a lot of the kiddie fare is completely soulless.Consider Hannah Montana: Spotlight World Tour again. What is good about it, other than thatit effectively takes advantage of one of Disney’s popular franchises? What makes it better or different than other rhythm games? Where do we get the impression that there was an effort to really capture the "Hannah Montana experience" and make it shine? I don't have to be a fan of Miley Cyrus to know when a game is subpar.

Above: Great? Mediocre maybe. And Miley looks weird

Here's where I start to doubt myself. Maybe we really don't understand.A lot of people liked Spotlight World Tour. A lot of people liked a lot ofthe kiddie games we've chastised in the past.

For example, inour reviewwe called SpongeBob SquarePants: Globs of Doom a “tear-inducingly monotonous platform/beat-’em-up hybrid.” Then we called it “humiliatingly slow” and “tedious.” Then, after all that, we went on to imply that buying it for your children amounts to hating them. So what did parents who purchased it from Amazon think?

“Globs of Fun for the Kids!”
“It's fun because the hero and villian aren't in the same show. The boys got a kick out of seeing them together.”
“I also like that even if the character falls into the goo over and over, the character doesn't die, so he can keep trying. This is a great game!”
“After Spiderman on the PS3, this is my 5 yr olds 2nd favorite game.”

Oh god, that's it then? No consideration of whether the game was good or not, just that your kids had fun? Absurd! Crap, I'm parodying myself now - apparently I've forgotten how to do this snarky Internet writing thing.

Things have changed. When I was a kid, games were hard, and that's just how it was. Oh, you're five? That's great - have a billion projectiles cascading across the screen and try not to get hit, bitch. There were no games that our parents praised for being easy, and we didn't run to them when we couldn't get past a level - we just kept trying.

Games were a lot simpler too. Capcom was able to essentially re-skin the same basic game to create multiple Disney games. Today's developers are trying to mimic a ton of different gameplay styles (platformers, rhythm games,racers, shooters, and so on)whilst keepingtheir products"kid friendly" and staying within the bounds of their licenses. It is actually a lot to ask.

Nostalgia, as Lyle mentioned, is part of the problem as well. When we really try to think of all the classic licensed kiddie games we used to love, we can only come up with a few great examples. A lot of them sucked back then, too.

Above: Karate Kid on the NES was frustratingly difficult, and probably not worth playing at all. Somehow I have fond memories of it anyway

Parents and kids are going to buy these game whether we like it or not, and the games probably aren't going to get any better. Why should they? If they contain characters the kids like, aren't too hard, and aren't outright broken, what's the problem? The kids will enjoy them, they won't frustrate parents, and they'll sell by the gazillions. So if we get a brilliant cartoon-based game in the future, as opposed to the typical "meh" fare, it'll probably be the result of a complete fluke.