Do you remember a time before films had awful tie-in games? Those days didn’t exist for long and even in the 1980′s Sylvester Stallone was seen as a way to sell more copies. Were they all bad games though? Retrobear gives us the answer with his look at those titles.

Originally Posted to on July 16th 2010

Rambo C64 Cover

Rambo C64 Cover Art

This week sees the release of Inception here in the UK. The next big budget blockbuster starring Leonardo what’s-his-face (you know the one who was more wooden than the plank he was holding onto before he drowned in Titanic) is meant to be sort of like The Matrix but not. So this got me thinking – can we expect yet another game of the film that’s total rubbish? I mean let’s face it if we all had pound coins for every time we played a bad computer game adaptation of a great film there would be no economic crisis. Just a shortage of pound coins.

My thoughts progressed to previous games of films, good or bad, that have cluttered up our cupboards and game shelves over the years. For every Batman The Movie there is a Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I’ve played countless of these in my time but there are such a lot of them, including ones for films you’d never even think warranted a video game release. It’s no mean feat to whizz through this quickly, so this week I shall deal with the 1980′s, next week the 90′s and finally the 00′s.

Of course I cannot possibly list every single game that there was. It’s hard to put them into some kind of order or ranking because that would take forever and I have a deadline to work to. So below are my Top six film tie-ins of the 1980′s

So with leg warmers fully pulled up and my Filofax handy, here we go with the 1980′s:

  • The Empire Strikes Back (1982, Atari 2600) – repetitive yes, never ending yes but for its time a good sideways scrolling blaster. Shoot down reams of AT-ATs in your Snowspeeder and watch them change colour the more damage you inflict.
  • Star Wars (1983, various) – vector graphic reproduction of the original film. Shoot down TIE fighters, blow up towers and take the final run before blowing the Death Star to smithereens. The 16-bit versions had sampled speech from the film. You too can believe an 8-bit computer can do vector graphics with varying results.
  • Ghostbusters (1984, various) – I ain’t afraid of no move tie in. The game that showed you can take a licence, use it well and make a great game. Unless it was the 2600 version which was truly awful – I still have nightmares about that music.
  • Rambo First Blood Part II (1986, 8 bits) – at the end of the day it’s only a Commando clone. However if you owned the C64 version it’s an audio delight. All hail Martin Galway and his magic SID chip of tricks.
  • Robocop (1988, various) – not a conversion of the arcade machine but an original-ish platformer. Captured the spirit of the film well. I completed the Amiga version ! Basically the blueprint for most of Ocean’s film conversions to come.
  • Batman The Movie (1989, various) – ok so it’s not all that different from Robocop. Chuck out 2 platform levels and substitute them for driving levels and essentially it’s the same game. However, this was an absolute corker of a game. I still remember the speed and thrills of the driving levels on the Amiga.

Of course there were many other fine games that were good enough to be considered, so there should be an “honourable mentions list” which would include Raiders Of The Lost Ark (Atari 2600), Aliens (1986, 8 bits), Platoon (1987, various), Predator (1987, various), The Untouchables (1988, various), and Rambo III (1989, Mega Drive). Pats on the back all round and increased box office receipts as a result for such a good placing.

Of course what you are wanting to know is what games stunk. Eating away at you inside, you’ve had the good now give me the bad. What games were so putrid or such shameless cash-ins that they deserve nothing other than to feel my wrath. Well there will be plenty more stinkers to come in the following decades and as will follow I have selected six total turkeys that were not worth the cartridge/tape/disc they were manufactured on:

  • ET (1982, Atari 2600) – in space no one can believe you can create a game in six weeks. No one did, this stunk like a week old kipper and is pointed to in disgust as one of the two reasons the video game crash of 1983 happened (the other was the 2600 version of Pac Man if you didn’t know – there could be a column in that somewhere)
  • Porkys (1983, Atari 8 bit and 2600) – you remember Porkys ? The notorious “sex” comedy that spawned two sequels, equally as bad as first. Not one of the notorious adult titles Atari produced but a lame platformer/collector game. If you purchased this you would have been feeling well and truly porked.
  • Friday The 13th (1985, various) – notorious for the hockey mask cover and the free blood capsules given away with the game. This game caused such a fuss with consumer groups before release that it could never live up to it. It didn’t, it was shit. About as scary as a trip to a fluffy toy factory. That is unless you have a fear of fluffy toys in which case you’d be petrified.
  • Biggles (1986, 8 bits) – Biggles ??  – who wants to watch a film about an upper class twit and his poncy best mate mess about with Sopwith Camels ? The same deranged individual who wants to play a game about it i.e. no one. And it wasn’t even a good film, or anything remotely like the books. Apparently.
  • Death Wish 3 (1987, various) – you control Charles Bronson walking from screen to screen wasting bad guys and causing havoc. That is until you run out of ammo and then pressing the fire button merely makes Charles turn towards you, shrug his shoulders and carry on getting the crap beaten out of him. What the hell am I meant to do? Did anyone play-test this garbage?
  • The Running Man (1989, various) – I could have gone for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but I chose this horrible beat ‘em up from Grandslam instead. Grandslam were responsible for both The Flintstones and Peter Beardsley’s International Football. Then they made this. I am sure all Arnie films are meant to have that cheap, cheerful, can’t f**king believe it quality about them, but surely not the games too? Total unplayable mess that will make your eyes bleed.

Next week the 1990′s and we try and find the best games that weren’t made by Ocean that were platform based with just different characters and backgrounds each time. Not the nine versions of Jurassic Park (also made by Ocean) either. With the sudden influx of games based on films from years ago – a tough task indeed.

Till the next time – I’m Carmen Sandiego and I know where in the world I am.