Why video game developers should consider licensing 80s flicks

July 1, 2016
Words: Jasper Willems

In today’s mainstream video games, murderous robots, apocalyptic battlefields and mutant abominations seem omnipresent. OCC chief editor Jasper Willems believes that licensing classic 80s en 90s flicks would breathe some fresh air into the gaming industry. Not to mention lots of joyous, joyous nostalgia.

Admittedly, I’m not the avid gamer I was back in my teens. That said, my teenage self would’ve undoubtedly go bonkers over the almost cinematic experience video games present today. As a thirty-three year old adult with not a whole lot of free time to spare, I am in no place to begrudgingly reminisce the pick-up-and-play halcyon days of the 8-bit era. Embarking on a 55 hour Fallout 4 session has become tedious, especially for someone with already questionable time management skills. I can still afford taking a break from work with the occasional horizontal scalping or tweaking AI in NBA2K (I rarely actually play the game, I’m more fascinated with simming it. But that’s a new article altogether).

Needless to say, expecting a reboot of Alex Kidd In Miracle World at this year’s E3 was wishful thinking. But I was hoping to at least stumble on some upcoming games that didn’t present such an insane learning curve. A game that gets me excited to play right away without wrapping my head around complicated interfaces. Or be hornswoggled by money-drunk game developers, prodding me to tally an extra fifty for the latest season pass/downloadable content. One game that truly stood out was Dead Rising 4: a deliciously senseless zombie hack-and-slash game that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

But otherwise, it was the usual unidealized, dystopian imagery all too prevalent in today’s popular culture. Killer robots? Check. The umpteenth FPS skirmish-fest? Affirmative. Another gaudy sandbox game to amble about in? Yawns. It seems that the more complicated and realistic video games get, the more homogeneous. As the console wars appear to stagnate further and further with hackneyed paradigms, free-thinking indie developers are prospering out in the open, heedlessly exploring fresh concepts. It’s kind of the same in music, except the difference is: the mainstream game companies are still making billions in revenue.

Of course it begs the question: why am I not diving headfirst into indie games instead? I’m doing the same with indie music, after all. The difference is: interacting with music isn’t per se a corporeal thing, it can be spiritual as well, whereas gaming most definitely is. My thirty-something mind is too ensconced in the escapist function of video games, more so than the cerebral. Succinctly speaking: I don’t want to think too damn much when I kill the bad guys and save the day. Just like my favorite B-flicks allow me to wholly indulge in asinine it-never-gets-old wisecracks.

So maybe that’s the answer: why not combine the two? Surely, if the E.T. The Game landfill saga proved one thing, movie licensing makes quality control quite difficult. Production-wise, you operate on a tight schedule, because everything needs to be released in sync. With so much more detail being put into video games, that’s what you call a bubble headed for the spike. But! If you license movies that have been out for a great length of time, that problem is instantly solved.

In the eighties, movie makers didn’t care as much about blue screen effects, coherent dialogue or even realistic physics. Which means, game developers can let their imagination and geekgasms run wild again. Who said pure entertainment needs to be bound to realism’s ball & chain? That Back To The Future game a few years ago was a step in the right direction. But here are five more movie franchises that deserve a second life within the video game format.

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Critters

Why it should happen: Are you kidding me? Who wouldn’t buy a game that finds the player crudely leveling a rural township with ginormous space-guns just to exterminate a small conclave of vicious little Krites?

The blueprint: Definitely a first person shooter of the Doom variety. Also, the bounty hunters ‘Charlie and Johnny Steele’ are essentially shapeshifting aliens, which makes Critters tailor-made for multi-player modes that utilize a create-a-player engine.

The overpriced DLC: Maybe a bonus level on the Krites’ home planet that gives some exposition why these stoic bounty hunters and decadent furballs are clashing in the first place? Cause, uhm, that’s still kind of lost on us.

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Tremors

Why it should happen: This is simply a no brainer. Tremors is just classic. Blowing up giant underground earthworms in the middle of the Nevada Desert? That’s endless unmitigated fun! These bastards can basically pop out of the soil any moment, which surely beckons some creative strategies and gameplay mechanics. Imagine the shock of not knowing if you’re attacked by a Graboid or stepping in one of those “damn prairie dog burrows“. Val and Earl are two of the best ‘buddy-protagonists’ in movie history: a nice excuse for Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward to reprise their roles.

The blueprint: An open world survival/RPG game like Bethesda’s Fallout-series makes a lot of sense for a monster movie in a far-flung desert community. Relatively speaking, the biggest locations in Fallout games generally have about thirty NPC’s inhabiting them. I estimate that the town of Bixby – the promised land Val and Earl sought before everything went to hell – has a similar populace. Oh, and a pole vaulting mini-game is mandatory.

The overpriced DLC: But of course. Burt Gummer’s most prized possession: the elephant gun.

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Big Trouble In Little China

Why it should happen: Well, since one of the most successful fighting game franchises is pretty much entirely based on this John Carpenter cult classic, why the hell not?

The blueprint: One of those action packed dungeon crawler games would make perfect sense, especially when you consider half of the movie takes place in an underground temple. Want to know what it’s like to be in buffoonish anti-hero Jack Burton’s shoes for a day? Engaging in a tedious quicktime event to push off an armored sentry is def the way to go. Plus, the impending reboot of this movie is blasphemous, and making a fun game based on the real deal isn’t!

The overpriced DLC:  Skins of all the Mortal Kombat fighters directly inspired by this movie, as a common courtesy.

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The ‘burbs

Why it should happen: Joe Dante’s black comedy hilariously follows a trinity of suburbanites, goody two shoes Ray Peterson (Tom Hanks), the obnoxious Art Weingartner (Rick Ducommun) and klutzy war vet Lt. Mark Rumsfield (Bruce Dern), snoopin’ around the spooky, anachronistic residence of their mysterious neighbours, the Klopeks. This premise easily fits the mold of an espionage-game, albeit a more dorky, slapstick variation of it.

The blueprint: A Heavy Rain-like interactive adventure game based on The ‘burbs? Sign me up! Just to be able to read all of Peterson’s thoughts as he reluctantly chows down on his unsavory treat is worth the price of admission. Making one of the most painfully awkward scenes even more awkward? Priceless.

The overpriced DLC: An action level based on Ray Peterson’s oogly nightmare sequence would be a healthy change of pace from quicktime events that merely accomplish mundane chores, like mowing the lawn for the 800th time.

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The Princess Bride

Why it should happen: Out of all the suggestions, The Princess Bride probably has the most potential to be a long-running game franchise. Just hear me out. You see, the movie’s protagonist, Westley, is just one of bearers of the moniker ‘The Dread Pirate Roberts’. This means that within this universe, you can explore all the mythologies of the Dread Pirates that came before or after Westley. That’s a lot of potential right there. Which brings me to…

The blueprint: … Assassins Creed, a franchise that highlights a different protagonist each game. Playing as the nimble and cunning Dread Pirate Roberts from another generation would be a hand-in-glove fit. That said, even today’s video games cannot possibly recreate the greatest action sequence in the history of cinema.

The overpriced DLC: Well, with all that’s been said, there’s nothing quite like playing as certified badasses Westley and Inigo Montoya.

Innerspace

Innerspace

Why it should happen: Last time I checked, there probably aren’t a whole lot of games that explore the human anatomy. A video game based on 1987 sci-fi comedy Innerspace has the potential to be both fun and educational. The prospect of curing cancer AND kicking major ass doing it? Yes, please.

The blueprint: Innerspace gives game developers simply an abundance of fantastic, potentially groundbreaking options. Maybe a No Man’s Sky-ish space-exploration game? Even better: a two-games-in-one kind of concept, allowing the player to switch controls from Tuck Pendleton inside the pod to Jack Putter outside of it. The two vastly different game interfaces will have to coordinate properly to solve puzzles or get out of sticky situations. For example, when Jack gets hurt, Tuck can either heal him up or send him into an adrenaline-fueled frenzy. Gosh, the possibilities are endless.

The overpriced DLC: Tough one. I honestly don’t know. You can’t exactly release an incomplete game from the get-to for realism’s sake, unless you want to make Jack Putter a leper to start the game. That might be the deal breaker.

Do you have any similar suggestions? Sound off below!

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Comments (1)
  • C

    “sons of b*tches”

    Coen  |  July 1, 15:57