Licensed, too ill?

A word that will strike fear into the hearts of gamers the world over, a word so terrible that most of us scoff a hearty scoff when we hear it but really we fear it.  A word that sometimes means that a game will be dire before we have even seen anything of it, a word that means we might get an easy 1,000 achievement points but at what cost?  A word that nearly always means the game will be in the bargain bins within a short time.  What is the word? Well, unless you have sight problems it is right above, Licensed. Aaarghh, quick, run away, another licensed game rushed out to cash in on whatever event /film/book approaches. Am I sweeping in generalisation too much? Probably, but it is sad to say that most licensed games are utter trash – poorly made, rushed, incomplete etc. etc. Has this always been the case? Sadly, yes.

Can you see E.T.?
Can you see E.T.?

The game that most people will cite in reference to licensed games is E.T. for the Atari 2600.  It was programmed quicker than you can boil eggs and had as much effort poured on it as boiling a kettle; apparently the game had to be made and published in a very short space of time to meet deadlines.  The end result was appalling, sold terribly and if the rumours are to be believed, ended up as landfill in America somewhere.  My first licensed disappointment was the game of “A View to a Kill,” for the ZX Spectrum.  I had waited ages for it and had saved up my £10.99 (really dear at the time for a game) to buy it.  The day it came out I rushed to the shops, bought it and took it home to load up.  First level, a chase through Paris – tricky controls but very short.  I then had to load the next level from tape, it was also tricky and short and if I remember rightly, that was it finished.  I felt conned, the game was bad, overpriced and just plain rubbish, but the box was cool.  This started my love/hate relationship with licensed games.  I also remember the game of awesome TV series “V”, being just plain shit!  At the time I had no idea that these games were often rushed out and poor clones of other games, indeed I just found out recently that a great many licensed games were ports of already existing games from other countries with the film/books logo plastered all over them.

Can you see the streets of Paris?
Can you see the streets of Paris?

I am not going to ignore the fact that there have also been great licensed games, though.  Some that spring to mind are Teenage Mutant Turtles arcade, The Simpsons arcade, Star Wars arcade (hmmm I sense a running theme here) and of course X Men Origins Wolverine, to pick a few.  The reason the arcade games were so good was that they were not rushed out, they had some time and effort lavished on them and the end result was clear to see.  It is a great shame that more developers don’t take a little time over the licensed games, as the end results could be stunning.  In the not too distant future we have a new Transformers game to coincide with the new movie, going to be good?  Ghostbusters is coming out very soon, good or ball busting bad?  Alien versus Predator is out next year and looks like one to add to the great licensed game pile.

This is how it should be done
This is how it should be done

Over the past month or so I have played two of the most recent licensed games.  Both Wolverine and Terminator were released to be on the shelves at the same time as their relevant films.  One of the games was truly awesome and one was truly mediocre.  Wolverine had been in development for some time before the license was attached to it and it really does show.  There is an understanding of the character in the game, graphics are lush, blood is spilled lots and fun is had.  Terminator, on the other hand, didn’t have as much time in development and it does show.  It is not anywhere near as bad as E.T. was, but  it’s not as polished as Wolverine.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed playing through them both but there was just so much more to Wolverine that kept me coming back.  My call goes out to all developers, if you are working on a licensed game increase the dev time by a year and let us play a thoroughly decent game instead of a mediocre to be traded-in game.







5 responses to “Licensed, too ill?”

  1. RMA avatar

    Couldn’t agree more! My time with licensed games stretches back as far as yours. I remember the diabolical Star Wars games on the Atari (which one of my friends seems determined to get his obsessed hands on for some reason) and was unfortunate to share in the detritus released for the NES (simpsons, back to the future anyone?), Superman 64 (possibly the worst licensed game of all time) and, recently, Watchen: The End Is Nigh…thankfully avoided that last one. Hell even Street Fighter wasn’t immune from being a bad licensed game!

    It is important to cover the ones that worked too, starting with the recent Wolverine game, we’ve also had two decent Simpsons games in Hit & Run & …The Game, Robocop on the Spectrum, Ghostbusters on the Mega Drive, The Lego games deserve a mention and let’s not forget the king of all licensed games Golden Eye 007…among many others.

    Licensed games get a bad rap, deserved in the main, but when a company gets it right they tend to get it very right!

  2. RMA avatar

    Oh…and I forgot the Star Wars games on the SNES as being my personal favourites!

  3. Snozzeltoff avatar

    Problem is it’s not up to the developers. The publisher comes to you with the game for the film, usually late asking we want this film but in a game to be released with the film.
    But the game can’t really be started or finalised until the film is, so it can match it closely, therefore your always left with a short time.

    This get’s harder and harder with each new console, pushing more polygons and power with in turn requires more man power and more time.

  4. lordstar avatar

    ahhh SHELL SHOCK!!!

    the sounds in that are awesome

  5. Lorna avatar

    The Riddick games seem to get consistently good write ups and I still have high hopes for Ghostbusters…I know Arkham Asylum is more an off-shoot of the comics that the film but it looks damn good…there is hope 🙂

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