|The YS Complete Guide To Film And TV Licences|
|Published in the Dec 1990 YS60 issue|
Batman: The Movie Big Trouble In Little China Blockbusters Count Duckula Ghostbusters II Howard The Duck Licence To Kill Postman Pat Predator Rambo Sooty And Sweep Star Wars Street Hawk The Flintstones Yes Prime Minister
Knowing full well what a square-eyed bunch you are, we thought it was about time you were
given the facts on film and television licenced games. Once again, JONATHAN DAVIES was in the
wrong place at the wrong time.
(Cough, Deep, manly voice.) 'In the beginning there were loads and loads of Speccy games. Loads of them. They sold all right, but not exactly in enormous numbers. The trouble was, you see, that none of them seemed particularity exciting. They had nothing that caught the public eye. They were just computer games. Had no 'cred'.
Then a small cog within a long-since-extinct software house had an idea.
"Why don't we give our next game the same name as an incredibly popular film? Then everyone would buy it just because they'd seen film and they'd foolishly think the game would be just as good. How about it, eh?"
"Er, we could do, I suppose."
"But what if the film company finds out? They might sue us or something."
"I know - we could ask them first."
"That's a point. Go on then."
"Yeah. Give them a ring and ask if they'd mind."
"Oo-er. Cripes. Okay then."
(Dials very long trans-Atlantic phone number.)
"Hullo, We'd like to name our new game after your film and we were wandering if it was okay by you. Right... yes... oh, I see."
(Cups hand over receiver.)
"They want us to give them lots of money."
"Erm, well in that case we'd better."
"Yes, that'll be fine. We'll send you some right away. Bye."
"How are we going to come up with a game that's anything like the film?"
"I don't know really."
"How about if we have a bloke walking around shooting people?"
"That sounds fine, I"ll program it right away."
And so the film and telly licence was born. It... cough. Choke.'
Oops. There goes the deep, manly voice.
Anyway, film and telly games, eh? Everyone's doing them these days, as they're one of the few remaining ways of making serious money with computer games. Run a grubby finger down the charts and you"ll find nearly all the top-sellers are film and telly licences, (Or arcade conversions, of course.)
But why do we keep buying them? After all, just because a game's named after a really brill film doesn't mean it's going to be any good, does it? Surely we aren't buying them simply because of the flashy name on the box? Erm, well.
In the old days, software houses assumed this to be the case, and chucked out a stream of absolutely appalling games with "big name" titles. Things like Miami Vice, The Dukes Of Hazard and Highlander were all pretty dreadful, but it was hoped that they'd sell on the strength of their names. But we weren't fooled. Oh no. The games didn't sell well, and the companies were forced to think again.
Eventually they came up with... the "bloke walking around shooting things" idea. And they"ve used it more or less ever since. Lucky then that they tend to be jolly good all the same, and sometimes come up with the odd orginal idea to spice things up (like The Untouchables did, or perhaps Back To The Future Part II).
WHAT'S A FILM AND TELLY GAME THEN? HMM?
That"s easy. It's a game for which the software house producing it has had to hand over a vast wad of money to a film or television so they can call their game The Sound Of Music or Newsnight or whatever. Distinguishing features are, as you may have gathered, the name a of a famous film or telly programme splashed across the box and a bloke who walks round shooting things. Apart from that, though, just about anything can happen in them. They might be shoot-'em-ups or collect-'em-ups. They might scroll or they might "flip". Thet might multiload or they might not. (They usually do though.)
So they're not very hard to spot at all then, which makes writing this guide a whole lot easier.
THE FIRST-EVER FILM AND TELLY GAME
(Purses lips and inhales very slowly.) That"s a tricky one. It ought to be pretty easy to pin down Film and Telly Game Number One, as they haven"t been around for too long compared to other sorts of game. Well, I reckon (but don't quote me on this) it was Terrahawks from CRL, the game of the puppet programme. The thing is, though, I"m sure there was a Blue Thunder game floating around quite a long time before, but I can't find any references to it anywhere. So we'll stick with Terrahawks, eh? And, as was usually the case with these "first-ever" games, it was pretty useless. There weren't actually any puppets in it for a start, just a whole bunch of 3D wire-frame building things which you had to explore (in a spaceship) in the hope of finding a vortex through which to exit. Our reviewers weren't too impressed and gave it 2 out of 5. Still, the pioneering spirit was there, and the game was a few months ahead of the first-ever film game - Activision's Ghostbusters. That was pretty hopeless as well, but did extraordinarily well.
As always seems to be the case, the trusty old ratings system doesn't really seem adequate when it comes to film and telly games. So here's what we've put together instead...
These form the largest category by far. Just about every major film has a game to go with it, and as there are lots of films that means lots of games. What they're actually like tends to vary though. In some cases they're just ordinary beat-'em-ups or shoot-'em-ups with a very tenuous link with the film (generally just the name). Cobra and Highlander both went for this approach. Or they might be much the same sort of thing, but divided up into levels which are meant to refer to scenes from the film. Since most films are just beat-'em-ups and shoot-'em-ups anyway this tends to work pretty well, as with Robocop and Total Recall. Last of all are the games which are split up into completely different levels, like the early Bond efforts. There might be driving bits, walking bits and puzzle-solving bits, and they're usually pretty faithful to segments in the film. They do tend to pay a heavy price in terms of quality though (so be careful).
Moving into television territory here, and these are generally the most popular telly games, especially on budget labels (witness Hong Kong Phooey, Count Duckula, all that sort of thing). The licences are probably pretty cheap to acquire, especially if the cartoon hasn't been on for about 20 years, and they're a doddle to convert to the computer. Cartoony graphics are about the easiest to pull off successfully on the Speccy, so they always look good. What you get under the surface though tends to be a very ordinary beat-'em-up or arcade adventure.
Another popular category, this, as television game shows are just begging to be computerised. They're mainly just a case of answering silly questions and filling in spaces on a scoreboard (or something), both things the Speccy is ideally suited to. There's usually the odd digitised piccy of your 'host' thrown in for luck, and lots of irritating tunes from the telly programme. Whether they're any good or not is very much a matter of opinion. The programming's usually well up to scratch, and they're always faithful replicas of the telly versions. But, as TV game shows are utter dross, the games tend to be too. Check out Sporting Triangles and Bob's Full House (if you must).
OTHER TELLY GAMES
There are all sorts of things left over, of course. There are the Gerry Anderson puppet programmes, which have formed the basis of the odd decent game. There are crusty old series like Flash Gordon. There are modern(ish) American programmes like Knight Rider and Miami Vice which haven't proved too successful on the Spectrum. There are 'cult' programmes like The Munsters and Monty Python's Flying Circus. There are kiddies' shows like Postman Pat. All sorts of things really.
This one goes back a bit, being
one of the first film games ever. (Quite possibly number two after Ghostbusters.)
And, of course, it stars Rambo who walks round shooting people. He's got
a large map to wander round though and plenty of weapons to collect,
along with an overhead view to make them easier to spot. After plodding
round the jungle fighting off enemy soldiers for a bit he comes across
the enemy village which can only be got into at a certain point (a
bridge, in fact). In there he finds the hostage he's after, who needs
cutting free, and then moves on to find a helicopter and fly it to
Thank goodness The
Flintstones isn't on anymore, eh? Long, boring and raising only
the most canned of laughter, it made 5.30 to 6pm a nightmare every time
it was on. Almost makes you grateful that Neighbours came along and took
over, doesn't it?
The film was probably a bit
crap (I didn't actually see it), and so's the game unfortunately.
It's a very ordinary scrolling beat-'em- up where you've got to rescue a
couple of chicks who've been kidnapped by some baddie or other. There
are a couple of novelties. The most exciting one is that it scrolls from
left to right (i.e. Your character walks along from right to left),
which means that the other innovation isn't very thrilling at all. You
actually control three characters, although two of them just follow the
third around. You've got to swop between them to take advantage of the
special skills of each.
The 'hilarious' Downing
Street-based sitcom would seem to be virtually impossible to convert to
the Spectrum, and indeed Mosaic (who?) had to come up with a completely
original structure for the game. Thankfully they avoided a predictable
'walk around Whitehall collecting things and beating people up' game and
plumped instead for a semi-adventure game where you've got solve
prime-ministerial problems over a period of five days to get your poll
ratings up to a decent level.
Actually this is more of an
arcade conversion than a film and telly game, but we were a bit
desperate. It's the game of the really old arcade game of the film, you
see, but it just about sneaks into our definition of things. It's
actually quite good as film games go as it makes an excellent attempt to
stick to the film's plot without getting too bitty and generally crap.
Also, and most critically, it doesn't have a bloke walking round
The telly version of this was
one of those one-series wonders that was once very popular but fizzled
out after no time at all. Which was a bit unfortunate for Ocean really,
who took absolutely ages to get this game out, after completely
rewriting it at one stage, so that it arrived at rather an awkward time.
Along with Robocop,
which is probably the biggest-selling game of any kind ever, this was
one of Ocean's biggest sellers last year. Its success was obviously a
result of the film's popularity rather than anything great about the
game itself, although it's very well put together and enjoyable all the
Here's another film game, and
like so many others its star is Arnold Schwarzenegger. That means, of
course, that it's a scrolling shoot-'em-up. It's set in the South
American jungle where Arnie's up against not only the usual rebel
guerillas but a mysterious alien foe as well.
Domark didn't have much luck with their early Bond games. They weren't desperately bad, but the programming smacked of amateurism and they were generally considered to be wasted opportunities. What those first games had though, which Licence To Kill doesn't, is a reasonable level of originality. They were multiloaders with several very different (if slightly crap) levels, while this one is more of a vertically-scrolling shoot-'em-up with very minor differences between levels.
There are flying levels, driving levels, walking levels and even swimming levels. They're all vertically-scrolling. And they're all quite good. Yes, although it's not brilliant, this Bond game has at least been properly put together. The graphics are fine, it plays quite well and ties in with the film pretty convincingly. But it's still only 'quite' a good film game. It proves Domark can program properly if they really try, but it doesn't really further the cause of licences by extracting much inspiration from the film.
Howard The Duck started off as a cartoon, progressed to a pretty chronic film (which attracted a limp cult following) and then moved onto the Spectrum. And like the film, the game was projected to be a huge success but wasn't really at all. Howard, then, is a duck, but not a nice, chummy one like Donald or Daffy. He wields a Neutron Disintegrator and is a Quack Fu Master. Rather handy, that, as he's faced with the prospect of having to rescue some of his pals who've been stranded on an island by the Dark Overlord.
So, presumably Howard walks round shooting people? Well, yes he does, but for a change you get an overhead view and Howard's in a maze. There are pools of slime to jump over, rivers to cross with the aid of a jet pack, and plenty of things to collect. And after that there are various mini-games to complete before you get to take on the Dark Overlord. It's all very well programmed and everything, but not all that inspiring.
was the first film game then. And it was a huge hit as well, the first
Speccy release to sell over, erm, some huge number of copies, despite
being a bit rubbish. So a Ghostbusters II game seemed
only natural (or as natural as a small piece of plastic with two holes
in it can look), and this is it.
Bob fans will find that this
one's worth getting if only for the digitised pictures of their ageing
hero to be found within. They're even animated (sort of), so Bob reads
out the questions and grins broadly when you get one right. Everything
else is there too, like the signature tune, the Gold Run and even the
odd "Can I have a P please, Bob?" if you keep your eyes
Here's another mystifyingly
well-known program. But why make a game out of it? It was bound to end
up as a walking-around-collecting-things game. Sweep's left his bones
lying around all over the house and, rather than kicking his teeth in,
Sooty decides to help him clear them all up. This means wandering round,
picking up bones and trying to avoid all the creepy-crawlies that have
sneaked in from the garden.
At last a decent licence and a
half-decent game. Count Duckula is a mildly amusing
cartoon along the same lines as Danger Mouse (who's got
a couple of computer games of his own), and its central character is a
vampire duck. He's a 'nice' vampire, naturally, and your job is to help
him, erm, walk round collecting things. Sob. But that's what we're stuck
with, so let's make the most of it, eh?
Postman Pat, as you probably
know, is a lump of plastic that stars in one of television's more
nauseating kiddies' programs. He's irritatingly smug, overwhelmingly
tacky and inexplicably popular. There's Postman Ruddy Pat merchandise
everywhere you look, and the licence was bound to be snapped up by some
eager cheapie software house.
(As near as dammit)
|Jonathan Davies has kindly authorised this site|
|LOOKING FOR EX-YS WRITERS! Do you know where any are?|
|READERS NOTE: The original YS articles on this site were written many many years ago, and should provide no indication WHATSOEVER of the author's present writing style. Judge these people on their current work, not articles they wrote decades ago.|
|All original YS text is still copyright to their original owners, including BOTH publishers and authors. Permission has been granted to reproduce these articles by a few of these owners - if you see your work on here and would like it to be taken down, e-mail me and I'll do it straightaway. All other pages have similar restrictions - email me for more details.|
None of the pages on this website may be reproduced in any way, nor sold to the general public (i.e. put onto a CD-ROM) without the consent of Nick Humphries and the author of each article. If you want to include any of these articles on a site or a CD, contact me for more instructions.