Movie games used to be merchandise. They were seen as toys that went with the main event at the cinema. But as video games have gotten more advanced, they have ended up rivaling the films they once aped.
The video game versions of Pixar's "Brave" and "The Amazing Spider-Man" are proof enough that the quality gap is narrowing.
With "Brave," the developer, Behaviour Interactive, appears to go the traditional route. Like so many other titles, the team tries to retell the film's story, but something strange happened along the way. The game and film diverged.
Instead "Brave," the video game, is a bizarre alternate version of the film. The premise is the same. Merida has to save her mother, who has turned into a bear, but characters are reversed, flipped and twisted. The witch is a helpful ally, while Mor'du, the enormous bear, is the real villain, spewing cursed phantom creatures in the heroine's direction.
Although the odd scenario is unintelligible to those who watched the flick, it does set up the foundation for a decent game. It's action-oriented, as players slash at these smoke monsters by mashing buttons and shooting arrows at targets and other foes by tilting the right analog stick. The control scheme is responsive and works well as players upgrade Merida's abilities so she can learn to dodge and string combos together.
As for the structure, Behaviour cleverly adapts the film's stone rings as the game's hub. The rocks
All of this makes "Brave" a decent game, but it fails to reach the emotional highs of the film. It hits the mark with spot-on controls, but the level design and gameplay are too conventional. The story's presentation didn't help, either, giving the film the edge in this comparison.
"The Amazing Spider-Man" game picks up where the movie left off. It's almost an unofficial sequel, letting the developer spin its own Spidey tale. It's a great opportunity for Beenox, the team responsible for the past two Spider-Man entries, and they don't waste it.
They create an open-world Spider-Man game, where Peter Parker has to save Oscorp employees, including Gwen Stacy, who are infected with a new strain of the cross-species virus.
To do that, he'll need help from a former foe, and he'll have to fend off robots and take down cross-species creatures running amok in Manhattan. It's not exactly the most elaborate plot, but it gets the job done and feels fresh, while the film feels like a fancier retelling.
When it comes to the gameplay, Beenox tries to make a title that rivals Rocksteady's "Batman" series. Visually, "The Amazing Spider-Man" is almost there. The realistic graphics are a major improvement over its past effort. Meanwhile, the team nails the sensation of swinging through the city, and the stealth combat is good.
But what separates "Batman: Arkham City" from other superhero titles ("The Amazing Spider-Man" included) is the polish that Rocksteady put into it.
In Spidey's latest adventure, his combat doesn't flow as smoothly, nor is it as varied. The game's Web Rush function tries to let players fine-tune their movements by pausing the game and letting players choose their destination, but it isn't as intuitive.
Although "The Amazing Spider-Man" doesn't measure up to its "Batman" peer, it surpasses the film with better writing and grander moments. There are several battles that surpass anything fans will see in the movie. It's a good game that's closer to superhero perfection than the film.
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii,
Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac
Rating: Everyone 10+