When you’re a TV fan and a gamer, you sometimes have to silence your critical nature simply to be able to enjoy yourself. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the shadowy realm where TV shows become games. It’s a land of hastily cranked-out and bug-ridden half-games meant only to generate the quickest possible cash-in on a brief bubble of ephemeral popularity. We all know that games based on movies rarely work, and I dare you to come up with a single example of a TV show based on a game that doesn’t make you want to gouge out your own eyeballs with a seafood fork. So what hope do we have for a decent game based upon a TV show?
I’ll give you five glimmers of hope. Most of you will find at least one game from this list to give you the right combination of TV show fan service and gamer appreciation. And I promise that each one will be far, far better than the “Desperate Housewives” or “Prison Break” game.
Dexter: the Game (iOS): Not simply a TV show game, but a Mark Ecko branded TV show game. So it’s gotta suck, right? Wrong! The worst part about Dexter: The Game (aside from the somewhat hefty app price) is that there isn’t enough of it, which means that what is there is extremely compelling. Part police detective game, part Manhunt-style stealth horror, all rendered in artful 3-D with plenty of original dialogue from Dexter himself. Just like the show, Dexter: The Game proves that your expectations and assumptions can be utterly blown away.
The Simpsons Hit and Run (multiple platforms): A bit of an oldie for this list, but still perhaps the best example of a TV show game. The core game was derived from Grand Theft Auto III, which made the gameplay enjoyable for fans and non-fans alike, but it was the characters and situations of Springfield that took Hit and Run to a new level. Indeed, the plot was developed by the show’s writers themselves, and voiced by series regulars, all of which made it as close to playing an actual episode as any TV-based video game has ever come.
The Walking Dead (multiple platforms): I’m not a big fan of episodic games, and I cringed when I found out that the developer was Telltale, who brought us such gems as the Law and Order game, the CSI game, the Back to the Future game. However, I can honestly say that the various episodes of The Walking Dead game deliver an emotionally wrenching experience well worth the time and cost, faithful to the look and feel of both the TV show and the graphic novel upon which it is based.
NCIS: The TV Game (multiple mobile OS): Puzzle games based on TV shows are often cheap marketing tie-ins. But with NCIS, the show developers helped to create various crime scenes that complemented the feel of the TV show and added to the experience; it’s certainly fan service, but not the usual gratuitous cashing-in kind. From analysis to questioning, this mobile app is an enjoyable primer to criminal forensics.
House M.D. (PC): Now that “House” has been evicted from the airwaves, fans seeking some solace can find that potent mixture of sarcasm and medicine in the largely overlooked PC game of the same name. It’s not a perfect prescription; the mini-games can drive you nuts, and the trademark wit of the TV show isn’t always preserved. But the missions and medical procedures are well-done by any standards. I’ve yet to see a medical video game any better than this – other than Trauma Center for the D.S., of course.
Personally, I’m eagerly looking forward to the upcoming South Park: The Stick of Truth game, which was teased to us at E3. As a joint project by South Park’s creators (Parker and Stone) and Obsidian (who gave us KOTOR and Fallout: New Vegas), the game would have to work very hard to suck. But those of us with plenty of experience watching the horrible things that can happen to TV shows that become games (and vice versa) are well used to major disappointments.
Author Bio: Dwayne Thomas is a technology enthusiast and staff writer for cabletv.com.