Hit and miss

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 July, 2008, 12:00am

As the summer movie season heats up, major Hollywood studios and their video-game developer allies are hoping their collaborations will boost company coffers. The general consensus from consumers, however, is that most movie tie-in games tend to fall short of expectations, tarnishing the good name earned by their source material.

Recent examples of hyped movie-tie-in games that became commercial and critical flops include Fight Club (2004), from Genuine Games and Vivendi, and Superman Returns: The Videogame (2006), from Electronic Arts-Tiburon and Warner Bros Entertainment.

The shoddy performance of many titles in this market segment has been blamed on the tight budgets and even tighter production deadlines pressed upon developers. It is hard enough to try and recreate a hit movie's magic with a video game, but developers must also shortcut the creative process in order to release the product in time for the movie.

Efforts to translate popular video-game series into big-budget movies have also seen many debacles, with Doom (2005) and Super Mario Bros (1993) - the first major motion picture based on a video game - as examples. But that's another story.

The following round-up of this year's major movie tie-in games aims to tip off astute gamers on the titles worth playing.

Iron Man

Developer Secret Level, Artificial Mind and Movement

Platform Xbox 360, Windows PC, PlayStation 2 and 3, PlayStation Portable, Wii, Nintendo DS

What it is This is the poster boy for a movie tie-in game that fails to measure up to the well-made hit film. Launched in May to coincide with the movie's release, this single-player action game has been widely panned for its dull graphics, control problems and tedious gameplay. It is a combination fighter-plane first-person shooter game that allows a player to fly around open spaces and blast everything in sight. Players can either blow things up or rip items apart. The novelty wears off quickly because of the repetitive gameplay. This is recommended only to die-hard fans of the Marvel Comics superhero.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Developer Traveller's Tales

Platform Xbox 360, Windows PC, PlayStation 2 and 3, Wii, Nintendo DS

What it is This is a typical platformer - in which characters jump to and from platforms, and over obstacles - and is suitable for its target audience: young fans of the fantasy novel series written by C.S. Lewis. The game follows the movie's plot but the narration is poorly executed. It features simple repetitive puzzles and plenty of button-mashing action.

The Incredible Hulk (below)

Developer Edge of Reality, Amaze Entertainment

Platform Xbox 360, Windows PC, PlayStation 2 and 3, Wii, Nintendo DS

What it is One of Marvel's most powerful superheroes unleashes epic destruction in this third-person action game, which features key moments from the movie and additional plotlines and characters. But it suffers from repetitive gameplay, glitch-prone graphics and badly rendered 3D character modelling - except for the Hulk, who looks good. If you are not a Hulk fan, avoid this game like you would gamma radiation.

Kung Fu Panda

Developer Luxoflux, Beenox, Vicarious Visions, Xpec Entertainment

Platform Xbox 360, Windows PC, PlayStation 2 and 3, Wii, Nintendo DS

What it is The first must-get game in this list. Great graphics, easy-to-use controls and a good combination-attack system make this action-adventure game highly enjoyable. All the major characters from the movie, including the villain Tai Lung, can be played. Both old and young players will enjoy the rich variety of gameplay. The only letdown is that voice parts were not performed by the movie's actors.

Wall E

Developer Heavy Iron Studios

Platform Xbox 360, Windows PC, PlayStation 2 and 3, PlayStation Portable, Wii, Nintendo DS, Macintosh

What it is An uninspiring platformer, despite using the same storyline, characters and key locations from the well-received Disney-Pixar computer-animated film. Players are supposed to carry out intense missions, dodge dangerous enemies and navigate their way through a futuristic world. However, nothing new is offered, the graphics and audio are disappointing and gameplay is beset by glitches. The only reason to buy the game is to appease your children, who will surely feel let down after playing it.

Hellboy: The Science of Evil

Developer Krome Studios, Big Ant Studios

Platform Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable

What it is Sadly, this is a disappointing movie tie- in game of the cult-favourite film franchise. The repetitive gameplay is boring and the graphics appear as if they were made for previous generation game consoles. Worse still, the developers wasted the time of the movie's lead actors - Ron Perlman, Selma Blair and Doug Jones - by asking them to lend their voices to this horrible game.

Robert Ludlum's The Bournce Conspiracy

Developer Sierra Entertainment's High Moon Studios

Platform Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

What it is This is a must-have, third-person espionage game based on the plot of The Bourne Identity (2002), the first movie in the trilogy starring Matt Damon. The game delivers an excellent hand-to-hand combat system that mirrors the film's exciting action sequences. Its 3D characters, however, look nothing like their movie counterparts. Negative reviews have mainly criticised its driving and shooting mechanics.

Space Chimps(above)

Developer Redtribe, Brash Entertainment

Platform Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, Wii, Nintendo DS

What it is This action-adventure game follows Ham, a circus-performer-turned-space-chimp, as he overcomes the perils of an alien planet in search of Earth's lost 'infinity space probe'. Whether this game hits the mark or not will remain unknown until its release this month.

Lego Batman

Developer Traveller's Tales

Platform Xbox 360, Windows PC, PlayStation 2 and 3, PlayStation Portable, Wii, Nintendo DS

What it is Holy plastic blocks, Batman! This ought to be a good game, based on the developer's success in adapting the Star Wars and Indiana Jones film series to a virtual world made of Lego blocks and figurines. Caped crusaders Batman and Robin track down their greatest foes, including The Joker and The Penguin, who escape from Arkham Asylum and create mayhem throughout Gotham City. In the game, due for release in September, players must go through various puzzles to capture the villains.

Quantum Solace (top right)

Developers Treyarch, Eurocom, Beenox, Vicarious Visions

Platform Xbox 360, Windows PC, PlayStation 3, Wii

What it is This is the first James Bond title from publisher Activision, which secured the licence for video games of the super spy in 2006. The action game, which is released in October, will cover the storyline of actor Daniel Craig's first Bond film, Casino Royale, and its sequel, Quantum of Science. It has good potential, based on the developer's use of the proprietary gaming engine from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, a best-selling first-person shooter game.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Developer EA Bright Light Studio

Platform Xbox 360, Windows PC, PlayStation 2 and 3, PlayStation Portable, Wii, Nintendo DS, Macintosh

What it is An upcoming third-person action-adventure game starring the boy wizard, rwho returns to Hogwarts to engage in duels and take to the air to lead the Gryffindor quidditch team to victory. The strong following of the film franchise and the fantasy novels, along with improvements made in the game series, makes this one worth keeping an eye on. The game is scheduled for release in November.

Additional reporting by Bien Perez.