Tuesday, 1 March 2016
Code: Inappropriate - Weirdo Computer Game Tie-Ins
Code: Inappropriate - Weirdo Computer Game Tie-Ins
In the multi-platform, cross-pollinating, symbiotically engorged futurescape we now all call home, video game adaptations of box-office behemoths fit their cinematic forebears with such wit and gleaming precision that they are considered less artistically bankrupt cash-ins than they are extensions of the director's original artistically bankrupt vision. 'Avatar: The Game', for instance was designed in conjunction with James Cameron's tub-thumping blue eye-melt in order to allow the player greater insight to the world of Pandora. But wasn't always thuswise.
Back in the Eighties, silicone and celluloid weren't such intimate bedfellows. Early game tie-ins were often off-the-peg platformers featuring hastily re-christened characters or badly executed cockamamie that frequently baffled to deceive. Then there were those titles that - for reasons of taste, applicability or simple horse sense - had no business whatsoever in making the journey from the silver screen to your bedroom portable.
We count down our pick of the ten odder examples. You don't even have to press fire to start...
Number Ten: The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Just who in the name of hell's horses imagined that the cider-wazzed students, Camp Freddies and Lambrini-loosened typing pools that make up the core audience for Richard O'Brien's enduring fishnet opera were the same crowd who'd enjoy sitting through a tortuous fifteen minutes of excruciating ZX Spectrum loading howl in order to corpse through a humdrum - if properly strange - amulet-collecting button-jabber is lost to the ages. On the other hand, the minimal amount of higgledy-piggledy he/she carnal chaos that survives the original will hopefully have messed with the sexual gyroscopes of the few misguided Pointdexters who happened across it. They're probably all Tory MPs now.
Number Nine: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The shrieks! The shock! The looks on their innocent little faces! Yes, many a freckly little sprog must have lost their mess on Christmas morning 1983 when they tore the wrapping paper off this little nugget. Fast-forward a couple of hours, a few tantrums and a whole lot of headscratching later and little Johnny's ditched Leatherface and his feeble collection of wheelchairs and is channeling his disappointment by performing experimental surgery on Mary Lou's Cabbage Patch doll with the electric carving knife whilst hopped up on brandysnaps.
Number Eight: The Untouchables
Not an unreasonable tie-in per se. A text adventure where you have to track Capone, deploy your forces across Chicago and crack his codebooks could have made for a fittingly dour spin-off game. Or perhaps a top-down strategy version of the same. Or even a first person shooter - like this decent SNES effort - where you Tommy gun your way through a slew of Chi-Town gunsels before taking on the fearsome Frank Nitti and then Scarface Al. What The Untouchables doesn't lend itself most naturally to, however, is a ultra-generic ZX Spectrum platformer that's backed with an impossibly chipper faux-ragtime score and in which Eliot Ness bounds about as if he's just stood on an upturned plug while wearing what looks a lot like a deerstalker.
Number Seven: Hudson Hawk
The video game spin on everybody's least favourite bizzaro clockpunk conspiracy caper-com shares much of the jarring surrealism of its progenitor. Rhino stampedes through the Vatican; rapacious kangaroos; a fleet of daschunds who will attempt to throw the Hawk of the roof of an auction house: Yes, the gang's all here. One footnote to this animalistic effrontery is that Bruce Willis doesn't show up on any of the packaging, and in the game the Hawk is presented as having a massive slick of bouffant hair. Legal wranglings, or did the marketing bods decide that the kids might not get behind an over-indulged baldyman going through his Return of Bruno phase..?
Number Six: Nosferatu The Vampyre
Murnau's silent horror classic rendered as a crunky, puce-coloured isometric puzzler scored to Sinclair's trademark 'frying fat' sound effects? Where do we sign?!?
Number Five: Death Wish 3
"Where's little Johnny?"
"He's upstairs playing Death Wish 3 on his computer."
We can't find any evidence that the first two installments of Charles Bronson's vigilantisploitation cycle were gifted a computer game run out, which makes us wonder what was so special about the third that it entered the post-school slaughter schedule of any right-thinking Amstrad owner. Whatever the case, the game is a forerunner of the Swiftian excesses of Grand Theft Auto that allows you to wallow in the filth and moral degradation of pre-Giuliani New York from the comfort of your bunk-bed.
Number Four: 2010 - The Graphic Adventure Game
Somehow managing to be even more dull and stodgy than Peter Hyams' talky, narratively undernourished potboiler, this older brother of a game is aimed at all those little boys who - rather than dreaming of zero-G spacewalks off the shoulder of Orion - dreamed of working as a circuitboard repairman in a remote, fusty lab deep within the beige bowels of some faceless NASA contractor based out of a retail park in Shitwheel, Wyoming.
Number Three: Moonwalker
Join Michael on his quest to 'rescue' kidnapped children from the clutches of some perceived 'Mr. Big'. The King of Pop's messiah complex is indulged via magic powers and occasional heavenly intervention as he battles zombies, buff, shirtless Thirties stevedores, remote-controlled armored dobermans, a grasp on the corporeal that was only ever tenuous to begin with, and, finally, a massive clockwork lunar spider. Oh, and just to scramble our minds that little bit more, every time Michael stumbles across the truant Bubbles, he powers-up into a killer robot who shoots lasers from out of his eyes. Chuck in some elective surgery and a few placebo weddings and the whole thing would be all but indistinguishable from MJ himself.
Number Two: Platoon
It's only to keep up some semblance of thematic coherence that the ERH Mixed Message Desk plumped for Ocean's entirely staggering home computer adaptation of Ollie Stone's lachrymose Vietnam War lament over Atari's troubling arcade shoot-'em-up take on Robert Altman's flip Korea-set campus-com M*A*S*H*. Here, the geo-political complexities and front-line exigencies of the SE Asian conflict are boiled down to a simple 48K broth and served up with noodles of confusion as a lone grunt runs around a version of Vietnam that resembles an especially well manicured golf course blithely slotting anyone who gets between him and the nearest hash pipe.
Number One: Porky's
Yes, folks - Porky's. For the cinematically benighted amongst you who've not had the pleasure, Porky's moral pitch rests somewhere between American Pie, a genial Mexican snuff movie and a virulent dose of the clap. Directed with the sort of elan you might expect from the man who gave us The Karate Dog and Baby Geniuses, it follows a group of Horny Teens on a mission to lose their cherries at a dilapidated cathouse mouldering in a stretch of militarized Florida swampland. The game is as baffling and counter-instinctual as adolescence itself, as a priapic knee-high soda-jerk careens up and down sundry ladders in a fruitless attempt to blow the titular knocking shop to sexy smithereens whilst being chased by an irate Southern whoremaster armed with an endless supply of tuning forks.
PS If anyone can provide video evidence of the computer game adaptation of Paul McCartney's obnoxiously irrelevant Give My Regards to Broad Street movie, there's an ERH t-shirt in it for them.