With the long-awaited video game South Park: The Stick of Truth out this week, and people still hopelessly addicted to The Simpsons: Tapped Out on their iPhones, you’d think games based on TV shows would be as plentiful as cuss words out of Cartman’s mouth.
But the truth is that unlike movies, TV shows don’t often inspire big-name video game spin-offs. And when they do, more often than not they’re pretty terrible.
As you venture forth with Cartman, Stan, Kyle and Kenny to conquer the world of South Park in The Stick of Truth, spare a thought for these other forgotten TV show video games. Even if you didn’t know they existed in the first place.
Lost: Via Domus (2008)
From smoke monsters to polar bears, the TV show Lost was fertile ground for all kinds of mysterious weirdness, and this episodic game had some good ideas: you play as a plane crash survivor not featured in the TV series, but who interacts with the other characters and takes part in some key events. Still, it was ultimately too clunky and silly to appeal to any but the most diehard fans of the series.
Deadliest Catch: Alaskan Storm (2008)
The idea of being the captain of a fishing boat trawling the waters off Alaska actually sounds like a cool idea for a game, with a mix of strategy, simulation and wave-crashing action. Sadly, the game didn’t excel at any of these things, and its 2010 sequel, Deadliest Catch: Sea of Chaos, was somehow even worse.
The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct (2013)
Don’t confuse this one with the excellent Walking Dead adventure games by development studio Telltale Games, which are inspired by the Robert Kirkman comics. This one is based on the AMC hit TV show, but despite starring the voices and likenesses of Daryl and Merle Dixon (Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker), it’s about as enjoyable as a zombie gnawing on your naughty bits.
Prison Break: The Conspiracy (2010)
Released a year after the series ended – the first of several warning signs – this game cast you as an agent of the shadowy organization looking to make sure Lincoln Burrows is sent to the electric chair. With tedious stealth-based gameplay and terrible voice performances by the series regulars, it was a game not even a fan could love.
The Shield (2007)
You’d think a game based on a squad of corrupt cops would be a no-brainer – heck, it would make a great premise for the next Grand Theft Auto title. But like so many other TV to video game adaptations, this one is neither well enough done to stand on its own merits as a game, nor a compelling piece of fan service for devotees of the show. Vic Mackey would not be pleased. And he’s not a guy you want to make angry.
Yes, they really did make a video game based on the Jennifer Love Hewitt paranormal drama. It’s a hidden-object adventure game – you solve cases by talking to people and hunting around the environments for clues – and it may well be the best game of all time. But we don’t know, because we literally can’t find a single person who’s played it.
You’ve got to give kudos to the folks behind Defiance for their grand experiment in tying together a sci-fi TV series (seen in Canada on Showcase) and a World of Warcraft-style online game. The show, which comes back for a second season in June, is not bad. The game, however, leaves a lot to be desired. But don’t write it off just yet… they have some new TV-to-game tie-in storylines coming up, and it will (hopefully) continue to improve.