It’s only natural to want to be a part of your favorite movie or TV show. The best visual media provokes fantasy, the wish to be a part of a world more interesting, more exciting or more dangerous than the day-to-day drag of our own. Unfortunately, too many of these gaming experiences have historically come off as cash-grabs – attempts by a publisher to pull in more dollars from the allegiance of a fan base to a brand.
The popularity of iOS as a gaming platform has made the problem both better and worse. Now, any publisher with an app developer on staff can make a game with assets from a movie; the surest way to visibility on the App Store is a familiar name, after all, and if the price is right, a player will try anything. There’s less risk in spending $3 on a game as opposed to spending $60.
‘The Princess Bride: The Official Game’
The slow release month of January has brought us a number of these games, based on television and cinema, both old and new. Perhaps most surprising is the arrival of “The Princess Bride: The Official Game” (iOS; $3.99; Rated 9+), a new game based on a movie made nearly 30 years ago.
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Unfortunately, the game does not live up to its namesake. It is a collection of four mini-games that plays mercilessly upon the nostalgia of its target audience. Its closest kin are the awful browser games you’d find on cartoon websites years ago. You can play whack-a-mole with the shrieking eels, swordfight (actually a “Fruit Ninja” knockoff) with Inigo Montoya, climb the Cliffs of Insanity or wrestle the giant.
It is fun in bursts, and surprisingly challenging, though it’s tempting to think the challenge is purely for the sake of the in-app purchase of Miracle Max’s miracle pills, which allow players to continue where they left off. The animation is cute too, but not all that impressive.
‘Sons of Anarchy: The Prospect’
At half the price and twice the innovation is “Sons of Anarchy: The Prospect” (iOS; $1.99; Rated 17+), a perfect way for a fan of the now-ended series to get more of a good thing.
“The Prospect” follows in the footsteps of the recent spate of TellTale games like “The Walking Dead” and the ongoing “Game of Thrones” games, by putting together a point-and-click adventure that puts you in the shoes of a new character. A story is told over a number of episodes, and decisions you make in each episode affect events that happen in the following ones. Only the first episode is available so far, but judging by that, solid voice acting and a fearlessness of tone allow “The Prospect” to live up to its source material.
Plus, you get to shoot somebody in the first five minutes – but only if you want the repercussions of that violent act to show up later.
‘The Lego Movie Videogame’
Finally, “The Lego Movie Videogame” (iOS; $4.99; Rated 4+) is perhaps the oddest inclusion here, given that the movie itself is a solid year old, and most of the game versions of that movie were released ages ago. The iOS version is basically the 3DS/PSVita version, so if you’ve played those, there’s no reason to go there. If you haven’t played the earlier versions, however, this is a movie game well-suited to the mobile experience, with plenty of sharp punchlines, quick challenges and short levels tailor-made for quick bursts of play.
Of the three games, “The Lego Movie Videogame” has the potential to keep you busy the longest.
Truthfully, none of these games will rival “Angry Birds” or “Clash of Clans” in popularity anytime soon. Still, each one of them – even “The Princess Bride” – will appeal to a certain audience, especially given that all these movies have vocal, devoted fanbases.
Plus, it’s only around $10 for the three combined. What do you have to lose?
New this week: The second episode of the aforementioned “Game of Thrones” (multiplatform) game releases this week. Expect equal amounts of gore and concerned gazes.