31 Days of Gaming Terror – Day 27: Horror Movie Games

Mark B: Horror games based on movies generally have two things in common: they’re not scary and they’re really bad. This isn’t ALWAYS the case, of course; the Sega Master System and Sega Genesis versions of Ghostbusters were pretty enjoyable, as were several of the Alien and Predator games, and… uh… yeah. Right. The problem, simply put, is that horror movies don’t tend to translate well to horror games; most of the time, horror movies don’t rake in huge bucks in the box office and often involve plot mechanics that would feel good in Clock Tower, a game that didn’t make a lot of money either. In most cases, people avoid licensing horror films simply because there’s not expected to be a lot of money in them, and while there are the odd cases where such is not the case, most of the time, it’s cheaper to make your own IP and hope it succeeds than to attach a film to the IP and have your success rest on the success of the film. That said, there are a few horror games based on movies, so as a general reference, here you go:

Friday the 13th: The only notable game to come from this franchise appeared on the NES, and since we discussed it in the Worst Horror Games countdown, well, I think that says everything that needs to be said. It’s pretty awful.

A Nightmare on Elm Street: Two games came from this franchise, surprisingly enough. The one most people are familiar with is the NES game, which was a side-scrolling platformer that… wasn’t TERRIBLE, but wasn’t particularly good, either. The OTHER game was a weird overhead action game, similar to a Fester’s Quest sort of experience where you would run around trying to survive and defeat Freddy, all the while trying to avoid his traps and attacks until you had the necessary items to kill him. It was also “okay” in the best of cases.

Evil Dead: Three games have come from this series, and none of them are particularly stellar. Hail to the King, which we also covered in the Worst Horror Games countdown, is indescribably bad for about as many reasons as you have digits. A Fistful of Boomstick and Regeneration are designed to be less offensive than Hail to the King, and while they certainly succeed in that respect, they are, at best, “passable”. You can play them, and hey, Bruce Campbell provides voice work in the game, but then again, Bruce Campbell provides voice work to Spider-Man 3 and I wouldn’t recommend anyone play that, either.

The Ring: As I’ve explained twice now, The Ring: Terror’s Realm is one of the worst THINGS ever, and should be avoided unless you hate yourself.

The Thing: Another entry on the Worst Horror Games countdown, though in defense of the product, I can safely say that if you stop playing the game at the point where your character is taken into custody by the Army, you’ll enjoy it a lot more. The first half of the game is perfectly fine; it’s the SECOND half of the game that completely sucks. No, I don’t know how that works, either.

Aliens/Predator: I’m lumping both franchises together here because they’ve both been featured together in enough games that they might as well be the same for the purposes of discussion. That said: aside from a few of the FPS titles, on the PC and otherwise, none of the games have even come remotely close to generating the feeling of “horror” the movies create in their viewers, though the Capcom arcade beat-em-up is a perfectly fine game. Sega’s forthcoming Aliens: Colonial Marines may well be the game that properly brings the “horror” feeling to the products, so there’s certainly some hope for the franchise, albeit a small amount. As for Predator, well, most of the games dealing with the franchise cast you AS the titular monster, so I would venture to say that there is never going to be a horror-themed game in this franchise in any of our lifetimes.

Though a Batman vs. Predator game? I’d buy that twice.

The Blair Witch Project: I’m fairly certain Alex is going to talk about these in some form or fashion, but for the record: the games, by and large, were based off of the Nocturne engine (as in, the game that ISN’T the Shin Megami Tensei title), and yet, somehow actually managed to be pretty good, even when that wasn’t. Since they’re all PC games, finding and playing them should be easy and cheap enough, and they’re surprisingly interesting and enjoyable despite being based on a franchise that petered out after one whole movie.

Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler’s Green: Here’s a simple question you can ponder at home. Let’s say you were given the rights to make a game based on a George Romero property. Given the available options, which would you think would be the WORST thing to do to the game:

1.) Make it an FPS title instead of, say, a horror game,
2.) Make it so ugly that you can barely stand to play it for more than ten minutes without your eyes hurting,
3.) Make the combat uninteresting and hard to work with,
4.) Make it so that shooting zombies in, say, the chest or arms will kill them, despite the fact that the movies more than readily note that the only way to kill them is headshots, or
5.) Make the zombies utterly stupid and limited in number, so as to COMPLETELY drain any of the horror elements from the experience?

In case you’re wondering, the answer is “I don’t know, because Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler’s Green did all of these and more”.

While I am absolutely certain there are more games in this category, I’d imagine this is a thorough enough list to give you an idea of how well Horror Movie Video Games actually work, so I’ll leave you with one last thought: amidst all of the poking around I did to remind myself of all of the terrible horror movie video games there are out there in the world, I happened to stumble upon a list of horror games that are upcoming, and along with games like Ghostbusters and Aliens: Colonial Marine, I discovered that there is a video game in the works based on Saw.

I have not the words.

Guy Desmarais: Ghostbusters is definitely my favorite movie of all time, with Ghostbusters 2 somewhere behind in my top ten. As much as I love the franchise, nobody has ever been able to produce a good game starring the paranormal investigators. The first attempt was the simple and quite boring Ghostbusters game for many personnal computers that was eventually ported to the NES. Its gameplay consisted of a Ghostbusters icon navigating a maze that was supposed to represent New York. “Catching” ghosts was not really enthralling at all, and outside from the fact that a MIDI version of the theme was playing in a loop, nothing memorable ever came from it.

When Ghostbusters 2 was released, the NES was by then an established system, so you would expect them to try harder this time and not treat the game as an afterthought. That was more or less the case, as the graphics were pretty impressive for an NES game. The problem is that once again, the gameplay was so bad that I simply continued playing because I heard that there was a driving stage somewhere down the line, and that driving the Ecto-1 had been a dream of mine up to that point. Once I managed to make my way past the horribly designed first level, I did end up in a driving stage, which was so bad that I never bothered to play again. The only positive point in that game is the “game over” screen, which sees Vigo turning the sky purple and smiling as only he can. That scared the crap out of my brother as a kid, and I always got a kick out of dying on purpose when he was around just so I could show him.

The only good game based on the franchise which I have played so far is the European version of Ghostbusters 2. I don’t know why, but the European version was handled by HAL instead of Activision, and the results were much better. Now titled NEW Ghostbusters 2 (Even they wanted to dissociate themselves from the turd that was released in America), it featured an action/adventure format instead of the side-scrolling affair of the first game. You controlled two ghostbusters of your choosing. The first one was the character you actually controlled, whose task is to fire the proton pack. The second one follows you around and fires the trap when you press the B button. There are many stages reproducing settings from the movie, even though they are not entirely accurate. For example, I didn’t remember Dana’s apartment being so big, as the game makes it look as if she was living in a mansion. As for the rest, the game is actually a lot of fun, and playable, which are two things the Activision version was not. It is also notable for being the only game to allow us to play as accountant extraordinaire and Ghostbusters in training Louis Tully.

Of course, there were Game Boy version of the games, and probably other games based on the cartoons which I have probably never played. All I know is that what looks like the definitive Ghostbusters experience is still in development and was NOT picked up by Activision after all. WHY? This looks like it is going to be the first time that someone actually captures the experience correctly, and if I judge from the buzz around the net, it would sell millions. Please, someone pick this up for distribution. Or else I’ll have to go on a continent-wide rampage until my demands are met.

Alexander Lucard: The one horror movie turned video game that spring to mind first and foremost is a pretty obscure one. It’s called Bloodwings: Pumpkinhead’s Revenge. Although the first Pumpkinhead movie was pretty good, the second a a steaming pile of awfulness. Oddly enough the video game based on this movie (which i already named above) turned about to be quite good and even the stars of the film and creator of Pumpkinhead consider it to be better than the film. How often do you hear that? This game is an odd blend of first person shooter and adventure game using a lot of footage from the movie including bits that were taken out. As such, this is generally considered the Director’s Cut of Pumpkinhead II and why the actors and director prefer it to the film. This is also the only video game I know of where you can cause the deaths of Roger Clinton, brother of Bill, and Soleil Moon Frye, better known as Punky Brewster. I wouldn’t recommend this game to anyone, but it is quite rare and it has some good FMV bits to it, so if you’re a collector of the obscure, this might be worth a few seconds on Ebay to track down.

Alas, I can’t cover the Blair Witch games as Mark had hoped, as I hated both movies so much, i never touched the games. Everyone I’ve heard that has played them says they are far superior to the films though.

I do want to touch on the very FIRST game in the Evil Dead franchise which Mark missed. Simply entitled The Evil Dead, this game came out in 1984 for the Commodore 64 and it is one of the first true survival horror titles. Basically you play as Ash trying to keep the weird Evil Dead energy from entering the house and possessing your friends. If the force manages to get in, you then have to hack one of your friends to bits. The goal is to survive long enough to wrack up a high enough point score to cause the Necronomicon to appear. Once it does, you have to grab it and throw it into the fireplace before the Evil Dead disembowel you. Again, this is a REALLY obscure and rare game, but it’s quite fun and pretty impressive for its time. You can see dismembered arms and legs and torsos on your screen and it’s fun to watch Ash cut through green zombie monsters.

The last two games that I feel are worth mentioning are the two Nightbreed games for the PC. Both were published by Ocean Software, but they played very differently. One was an action game, while the other was an adventure game. The third game, which was supposed to be an RPG, was never released. The action game was kind of a boring platformer with decent graphics for its day. There are five levels and it’s pretty much the same thing where you work your way to the end of the level. It somewhat follows the movie, but it’s still forgettable. The Adventure game, especially the Amiga version was amazing. It pretty much followed the plot of the movie, but it also mixed things up from the usual point n’ click grind. There was a button mashing sequence, a first person shooter like sequence, and a lot of fighting. I remember having a lot of fun with this one, and it’s easily the best video game Clive Barker has ever lent his name to. Jericho? Undying? Ick to both.







4 responses to “31 Days of Gaming Terror – Day 27: Horror Movie Games”

  1. Joel La Puma Avatar
    Joel La Puma

    Wow, I didn’t even know there was an Evil Dead game for the Commodore 64. That’s wild. I may have to track that one down if possible.

    No mention of Halloween or Texas Chainsaw Massacre for Atari? Or Jaws for NES (which based itself on Jaws 4, no less)? I recall there being a Nosferatu game for SNES and possibly Genesis, as well. I’ve also heard tell of a computer Friday the 13th game, but I’ve never seen it.

    I’m actually a fan of the terrible Friday the 13th NES game, and I don’t know how to justify that. Tycho from Penny Arcade wrote recently (about the new Alone in the Dark, if I recall) that he’s obsessed with finding out the intention of a game, and sometimes will play a bad game to the point where he starts to consider it good. I think that’s what happened to me with F13. I think the game has a few potentially good ideas for the era (the ability to switch between six different characters is a pretty cool notion), but implements them in such ass-backwards ways that it’s hard to get behind. Plus, trying to emulate the movies to the point where it’s nearly impossible to survive an encounter in the open is certifiable, Quint. Not to mention Jason coming back from death multiple times.

    The Nightmare on Elm Street games I actually enjoy, mainly because the NES one has the dream power abilities and evokes the films pretty well at times, and the computer one lets you play as the actual characters from Dream Warriors. That’s a shamefully important thing to me.

  2. Mark B. Avatar
    Mark B.

    I didn’t own a Commodore 64. I was one of the odd kids who had a Franklin, because my mommy didn’t love me.

    Halloween and Texas Chainsaw Massacre… I dunno. I forgot, and I guess Alex forgot, too. Jaws was more of a case of simply not thinking of it, probably because the PS2 game of the same name was still fresh in my mind.

    Oh, and Nosferatu was available on the SNES, but wasn’t based on the movie; it’s actually a Prince of Persia sort of game that doesn’t seem to be tied to anything except, y’know, killing a vampire.

  3. […] 31 Days of Gaming Terror – Day 27: Horror Movie Games Mark B: Horror games based on movies generally have two things in common: they’re not scary and they’re really bad. This isn’t ALWAYS the case, of course; the Sega Master System and Sega Genesis versions of Ghostbusters were pretty … […]

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