Pass up ‘Turbo’
As a rule, movie tie-in games have a terrible reputation in the video game world. Titles like “Turbo: Super Stunt Squad” (PS3, Wii U, X360, 3DS; $39.99: rated E) – based on the recent Dreamworks animated film – are the reason why.
A remarkably mediocre game, “Turbo” seems less like a full-fledged console release and more like the kind of C-list specimen you find in the download marketplaces of the PlayStation Store or Xbox Live Arcade. Perhaps as a concession to this, “Turbo” is priced $20 less than the usual top-shelf console title.
“Turbo” isn’t a terrible game, but it certainly isn’t interested in breaking any new ground. It’s essentially a skateboarding game, with the player controlling Turbo the snail or a handful of the film’s other anthropomorphic gastropods. (Almost poetic, that.)
In single player or multiplayer split-screen mode, Turbo and pals are cut loose in arenas based on scenes from the movie. Using various button combos, the player must achieve certain goals (collecting tomato wedges, say) and earn points by performing skateboarding tricks – flips, turns, jumps, etc. It’s about as fun as it sounds.
For younger gamers who enjoyed the movie, which is pretty good, the game might be a decent distraction for a few days. But for anyone else, it’s entirely skippable. Instead, consider grabbing up some older movie-tie-in titles from the retail bargain bin.
‘Toy Story 3’
“Toy Story 3” (PC, PS2, PS3, X360, Wii, DS, iOS; rated E), released in conjunction with the Pixar film in 2010, is probably the single best movie tie-in ever made. That’s because it’s actually two complete games in one package. Legend holds that the design team pitched two different ideas when the project started, and both were so good that Disney Interactive packaged everything into one game.
The story-based game takes the player through nine levels of platforming and arcade action, with very funny dialogue and superior game design. The parallel open-world game, Woody’s Roundup, is a sandbox-style arena where kids can roam and adventure endlessly, building their own Wild West frontier town. My grade-school-age kids have had this in pretty much constant rotation for three straight years now.
Another Pixar joint, the racing title “Cars 2: The Video Game” (X360, PC, PS3, Wii, 3DS, DS, Mac, PSP: rated E-10+) is another example of overachievement in movie tie-in game design. It’s actually a much better investment than the movie itself, which is the animation studio’s only real misfire.
Similar to but actually better than the Mario Kart racing games, “Cars 2” lets players choose from a few dozen different vehicles – Lightning McQueen, Finn McMissile, Holley Shiftwell – and several racing modes. Each car can be powered up with 007-style gadgets and weapons, including machine guns, missile launchers and remote-control bombs.
The spy missions in career mode are varied and creative, and track designs makes the most of exotic locales in Tokyo, Monaco, London and good old Radiator Springs. Additional play modes are unlocked later in the game, including a very fun capture-the-flag type event that moves the game into the realm of tactical combat.
Finally, you can’t go wrong with the various Lego-brand spin-off games of popular movie franchises. “Lego Star Wars” and “Lego Indiana Jones” are particularly fun, and have been released in various iterations and formats for more than a decade now. You can usually find these in retail bargain bins for $5 or less, or there are several free-to-play versions online for smartphone and tablet.
The puzzle and platforming elements in these games are clever and challenging, but the real fun comes in the very funny cinematic cut scenes, in which famous movie moments are rendered in wordless pantomime. If you search YouTube, you can find several compilation videos that will give you a sense of these videos, which are brilliantly minimalist short films.
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