We have all seen a crappy movie based on a videogame. We have all also played a crappy videogame based on a movie. We often see movies based on books (in fact, for a long time nearly all feature films were adapted from novels). Likewise, there are plenty of books based on videogames. Why is it, then, that we so rarely see videogames based on books? It seems like a no-brainer: videogames based on books would have plot, they would have a built-in audience, they would encourage parents to see the up side to gaming. There's only one downsidethey would suck. Here's five reasons books and videogames don't mix:
The War of the Worlds (1983)
If you've ever of the ZX Spectrum, you already know more about this game than most people. If video games on cassette seem very reminiscent of The Oregon Trail, you'll recognize a few other things about this game as well. While this game involves an alien invasion (thank God they got that much right), your choices in the game are mostly limited to stand still, hide, or run (set a grueling pace!) and frustration was common for players who regularly died of hunger and thirst, presumably because they set their rations too low and no Indians would trade them food or bullets.
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1984)
Surprisingly, this book series received several video-game ports. There was a typical top-down shooter with so little in common with the books they wouldn't have recognized each other at Douglas Adams' funeral. There was also an adventure game which loosely followed the plot to venture to Magrathea and had a cancelled sequel. Did I mention the exuberantly difficult optional puzzle near the beginning of the game which, if failed, renders the game unbeatable? Yeah, there's that, too. There are even rumors of an earlier game which did not have the licensing rights to the title which was stripped of all Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy references and released under a different name.
The adventure game came with novelty items called "feelies". These feelies came with the game to attempt to make it a more interactive experience. Despite this genius marketing ploy, the game was more or less a failure and its sequel was never released because there was "no solid game design [and] nobody to program it
" It didn't stop you the first time but, hey, your call.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1988)
This attempted Famicon/NES adaptation of the famous Robert Stevenson novella is a great example of why classic literature is not often seen on the interactive electronics medium. The game itself has little in relation with the book. In fact, the similarities can be listed very easily:
1) There's a character with dual personalities
So rest at ease knowing you wont learn anything about classic literature by accidentally playing this game. You may accidentally have fallen across a good reason to commit suicide, however, as this game is nearly unplayable. Despite the sheer lack of rhyme or reason for much of this game's sans-level plot, there are two possible endings (making the number of endings two more than the number of plot lines). The game is more like a port of The Hulk than Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In fact, if Bruce Banner was an old man with a useless cane living in a town of people who apparently hate him, it would be an exact match.
Tom Sawyer (1989)
Lending its name to one of the most loved rock songs ever recorded, Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is one of America's most beloved and controversial classics. It also gave birth to an RPG without an overhead map, weapons, or openendedness. In Japan. Which was never released in the United States. It is also one of the most racially insensitive games ever released. Now, I know what you're saying: "Seriously dude, you couldn't have even played the game. It wasn't released in the U.S. and you're too stupid to speak a foreign language." True. However, if you take a look at the way Jim is depicted during conversations with Tom, it makes the novel look like a politically correct cakewalk of equality. All I'm saying is if we have trouble keeping this book in our schools, it's no wonder the game never hit our stores. The game is said to keep decently well to the storyline of the book, but considering Becky Thatcher isn't even in it, it is clear that the novel the programmers read was translated pretty incorrectly.
Of course, the Japanese version of the game was still more accurate and more playable than the American version, which entails fighting pirates and dragons in an action/adventure platformer. One-hit kills and frustratingly low plot accuracy make this game the second most frightening adaptation of a Mark Twain work in history.
Frankenstein (1990 and 1995)
A couple games have been based on Mary Shelley's classic horror novel. The first, developed by Bandai (the publisher of other quality titles like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Gilligan's Island, and Chubby Cherub), was intended to be a sequel to the novel. Set after the monster's death, Frankenstein: The Monster Returns pits the player against the power of a born-again again monster who has returned from the dead to exact revenge on the villagers. Other mystical creatures also make appearances, crossing the genre from "Science Fiction" to "Fantasy." Hey, there's a reason they're shelved in the same place at your bookstore.