The Bargain Bin Episode 1 with brianbloodaxe and PhilipGHarris
Franchises are the mainstay of many popular TV Series, whether from a film, (like Stargate), or a set of books (such as True Blood), the success of the franchise tends to spawn games.
It’s easy to criticise film games. Often the development studio is rushed, leading to ineffectual game play. Franchises are a little different though – so here we go!
Star Trek: Encounters
Possibly the granddaddy of the franchise market and one of the first ever videogames based on the Star Trek premise, you’d think that all that glistens from this franchise would be gold.
4J Studios’ Encounters tried to do something different and it’s success or failure was dependant on merging the various elements well. What you get is a twin stick shooter, with scenarios based around classic episodes from the five TV shows. They have added elements of Khan’s failure in The Wrath of Khan, identified by Spock as “two-dimensional thinking”, allowing you to move the ship up and down.
Merging two solid game play elements is always a risk, and where Encounters succeeds in look, style and music, it loses much in gaming. Controls seem un-intuitive, scenarios (especially the training ones) are terribly dull and often elements are not explained well to. Encounters are poorly paced as you seem to be able to complete missions with ease, but have to spend ages in between combat following warp signature breadcrumb trails through asteroid fields. This quickly becomes dull, sapping any enthusiasm you got from seeing other enemies and unlocking more of the game.
It’s quite a shame as, on the drawing board, you could see this working, and as visual and sound elements were added you could understand the development teams excitement building. In the cold, harsh reality of day it drags on and makes for an experience best forgotten.
The Mummy – The Animated Series
The Mummy – The Animated Series was itself a spin off from the film and not a great success according to Wiki. It was popular enough to spawn a videogame developed by Asobo Studio (remember Fuel?) though.
The format will be instantly familiar to anyone who has played video games at some point in the last fifteen years. You are tasked with exploring elaborate crypts temples and tombs. Inside, you will fend off vicious bats and rattling skeletons, solve puzzles involving blocks and doors, climb crumbling walls and break as many ancient urns as you can find. So yes, it’s Tomb Raider for kids.
That is of course no bad thing. The Tomb Raider series is a classic one and The Mummy does a nice, colourful take on it. Even though there are some minor issues with camera control (a little more look up and down would be nice) the monsters are well designed and an auto lock-on feature means that younger players will not be disappointed.
A nice selection of room designs help too. Each has a differing challenge and your “mystical” vision helps identify solutions to the problems. Rock Steady Games could learn a trick or two about how to avoid making something (which is ultimately useful) become annoying to use. Your powers also allow you to lift and throw large objects.
It’s all very accessible and friendly and when we grudgingly moved onto the next game we realised we had been having fun.
The Sopranos – Road to Respect
The Sopranos was a well respected drama dealing with a family, their business and the therapy they went through. The ambience was created by the fact that the family in question was The Mafia. Road to Respect starts well, with an impressive FMV sequence voiced by the correct actors, but then FMV doesn’t need good controls.
Being able to run in a straight line is one of those things that, when it’s right, is unnoticeable, but when it’s wrong… In Road To Respect trying to run down a corridor is like a six year old chasing a mouse.
A lot of the rest of the game is reasonably well put together. The environments are particularly sharp and the voice work is good throughout. A lot of thought has gone into giving the game a believable story, although here the developers were only partially successful due to the linear nature of the game. Being asked the same question until you say, “Yes”, being a telltale sign, even if the people in the game do react sensibly. If you beat someone up in the bar or fire a gun down the docks someone is alerted.
The game is a series of mash-the-button fights interspaced by an awful lot of terminally boring ‘walk down the corridor’ sections. There’s some Texas Hold ‘Em too. Broken by the fact you just go all in and everyone else folds, at least in our experience.
Ultimately Road to Respect disappoints by being too linear, too slow and by completely failing to capture the character and humour that made the TV series so successful. If all you want to do is talk tough and beat up petty criminal after petty criminal ad nauseum then you might find some fun here. If you want even a little depth or variety though, look elsewhere.