When it comes to adapting popular TV and movies into video games, developers have a poor track record of producing quality results. That doesn’t mean all TV based games are bad. Occasionally a game developer defies the odds and produces something that doesn’t reek of uninspired, phone-it-in game design. In part 2, we’ll look at 4 games based on popular TV shows (at one point or another) worth playing.
Didn’t see which TV based games made the cut in Part 1?
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“Road Runner’s Death Valley Rally” – SNES 1992
I have fond childhood memories waiting anxiously all week for Saturday morning cartoons. Of those, the Looney Tunes were always on my must watch list; Bugs, Daffy, Marvin the Martian, Taz… the list of memorable characters is nearly endless. Of course, one of my personal favorite Looney Tunes duo’s has always been The Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote.
So, before one of you screams out, “But! But! Road Runner started out as theatrical shorts, not TV! So nyah!” let me assure you that I know about their non-TV lineage. However, most people playing video games associate these two with TV, and “Death Valley Rally” is a good game. I want to include it, so “nyah!” to you.
Anyway, “Death Valley Rally” wasn’t the first time Road Runner was adapted into a video game (nor the last). It is, as far as I know, the only good one.
“Road Runner: Death Valley Rally” plays almost like a cartoon. You control the mega-fast Road Runner while you make your way through the levels avoiding obstacles and baddies. Meanwhile, Wile E. is constantly trying to nab you at every turn in hilarious ways, and you need to use your wits to outsmart him in clever ways. The feel of the controls hasn’t aged well, but this games gives a sense of speed that gives the classic Sonic games a run for their money.
“1 vs. 100” – Xbox 360 2009
Video games based on game shows are typically run-of-the-mill adaptations that usually never quite live up to the feeling of playing the actual game. Even those that do a good job of recreating the game on a console, like several Family Feud games and an endless supply of games based on Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, they’re still nothing to write home about.
To date, there has only been one game show adaptation that’s worth writing about. In late 2009, Microsoft adapted the (shortly) popular TV game show 1 vs 100 into a massively multi-player, live game show that (in many, many ways) was actually better than watching the actual show on TV.
It’s uniqueness may have also been its greatest weakness. Unlike a typical game that you can simply fire up and play when you want, “1 vs. 100” was only playable at scheduled times during each season, just like a real game show (to its credit, the US and UK versions had actual live hosts (voiced by Chris Cashman in the US and Canada) that conducted the show and read questions, even if the image of the host was an XBOX Live Avatar.
I only got the chance to play it once, but it was a crazy cool experience. Unfortunately, the only way you’ll get to play this game is if Microsoft decides to bring it back for a third season. Otherwise, you’ll just have to go through life knowing that you missed out on something very cool.
“THE X-FILES” Game – Playstation 1999
Here’s an interesting and controversial pick for you. There have been a few X-FILES games since this one debuted on the Playstation 1 more than 10 years ago, but the reason I’m calling this out on my 7 TV games worth playing list is because this game, for better or worse, is an episode of the X-FILES you haven’t seen yet.
Unlike the X-FILES games since, this one is contains a lot of live action video, and many of the shows top stars make cameo appearances (although many would argue not enough). In any event, even if you were to scrape off the gaming layer and piece together the video, it would make have made a decent episode for the actual TV series.
The gaming part is fairly forgettable, but isn’t bad enough to hold anyone back from experiencing one last X-FILES mystery.
Star Trek TNG: A Final Unity – MS-DOS 1995
Believe it or not, the very first Star Trek video game made its debut in 1971. In fact “video game” may not even be the best way to describe it considering this, and many of the early Trek games, were text adventures; some are even very highly regarded.
Video games (as you would think of them) and the Star Trek franchise have a long and spotty history to say the least, spanning nearly 40 years across every kind of PC OS and console known to man. To be blunt, most of them pretty much suck, butt there have been a few gems like the CD version of the classic “Star Trek: 25th Anniversary,” “Star Trek: Starfleet Academy,” “Star Trek: Away Team,” and even the recent “Star Trek: Online” MMO. The very best of all these, however, was Spectrum Holobyte’s “Star Trek: The Next Generation – A Final Unity.”
“Star Trek: TNG – A Final Unity” was written by one of the screenplay writers for the TV show, which resulted in a great story that easily could stand on its own as an actual episode. It offered a variety of game mechanics, including point-and-click style adventure as well as ship-to-ship combat. However, the presentation of the game makes the player truly feel like they’re playing an actual TV show, something that few TV based games have achieved.
For its time, “A Final Unity” was in a league of its own. It pushed the limits of PC hardware beyond the norm, offering fully 3D rendered cut-scenes, texture mapped 3D graphics, and FPU assisted spacial combat.
The most awesome aspect, however, is that every character in the game was voiced by their actual TV counterpart. Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, and the rest all give spectacular performances.
In retrospect, it’s a real shame “A Final Unity” wasn’t a commercial success. For any Next Generation fan, there’s one last classic episode you never knew existed that puts YOU in control of the ship and crew. All you need is DOSBox, a little time for an away mission, and “Star Trek: The Next Generation – A Final Unity” in your CD drive. Good luck finding a copy; few Trek fans would let it go (and no, mine’s not for sale either).
Satisfy your inner geek while fueling your TV addiction… TV Tech Fix is a column by Matt Whitlock, editor of the TechLore.com Consumer Electronics Community (plus several other gadget-focused community websites), and lover of both technology and TV. In this column, he’ll cover a wide variety of tech topics aimed squarely at the TV addicts of the world – from tips and tricks to help you better your TV experience, to gear recommendations, to the impact technology is having on the TV shows we love.