Good licensed games are pretty hard to come by.
So we got into a discussion in the staff chat about licensed games about the time last year where I ordered every tie-in game for the Harry Potter series from the original Xbox and PlayStation 3. This spun off into us talking about our favorite licensed game. So now, let us talk about each of our favorite licensed game.
Allan Muir – Site Admin/Co-EiC/Xbox Stalwart
X-Men Origins: Wolverine Uncaged Edition (2009)
2009 saw the release of X-Men: Origins Wolverine for multiple platforms such as the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, and more. It broke the mold for licensed games and was more faithful to the Wolverine character than the film would ultimately end up being. When compared to the last Wolverine-centric game: Wolverine’s Revenge, Origins is the complete opposite. It feels like an actual Wolverine adventure fell out of a comic book.
The only downside with the game is the fact that it is connected to the movie. While the opening cinematic and end cinematic are not connected to anything film related it at the very least looked more interesting than anything that went on with the in-game story.
The gameplay was akin to other hack and slash games at the time. The thing that separated it from games like Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and God of War III was the feeling that you were a ball of rage that could destroy anything that got close to you. Add in characters like Mystique and Gambit and you have one hell of a game.
Josh Miller – The Family Man
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game (1989)
Growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were huge. Between the movies, comics, toys, and cartoon; kids had no respite from these turtles in a half shell. Not that we complained, especially when it came to TMNT II: The Arcade Game. While other kids skated during class field trips to Skateland, I played this game. It was one of my most rented and played NES games growing up. I even bought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus on the PlayStation 2 just to unlock the chance of playing it again. I love the arcade game.
I’m not a fool though. I know that it suffers from the arcade game trappings of high difficulty for quarter feeding results and that it would be bested in quality by its sequel Turtles in Time. Much like I mentioned in the last roundtable though, nostalgia puts this game on a higher pedastal for me than any subsequent releases. Plus, it’s still incredibly fun, blemishes and all.
For those who grew up with the Ninja Turtles of that era, those games were great fanservice. While the last few TMNT games have been disappointing, I don’t want this property to disappear. Luckily where big companies fail, there are still fans giving the turtles the love they deserve.
Emmett Watkins Jr – The PlayStation Stan
SpongeBob Squarepants: Battle For Bikini Bottom (2003)
Before I was obsessed with G4 and all media surrounding and including video games, as a very young kid, I was obsessed with Nickelodeon. Even since my birth year, I watched loads of Rugrats and Blue’s Clues well into the new millennium. And once I could walk and speak, my new obsession was SpongeBob Squarepants, a show I love so intensely that it’s still a big part of my life. I mean look at my Twitter handle! So, when I discovered that a new SpongeBob Squarepants game was coming to the PlayStation 2 in the form of Battle for Bikini Bottom, I had to have it.
Turns out, that game was actually great as well! It was the first time I saw the tone and humor of the show translated into a video game effectively, and it felt like those who developed it did so with a lot of respect for the source material. Most of the original voice actors reprise their roles, and the artstyle and animations, despite the limitations of the PS2, matched those seen in the show.
Plus, this was a game made during what many of us SpongeBob fans consider the golden era of the series. Stephen Hillenburg, the series creator, was also the showrunner for the series up to the end of the 3rd season and was closely involved in the first SpongeBob feature film. After the end of the 3rd season in 2004, he stepped away from that position, and the show, despite having a number of great episodes since, hasn’t been as consistently great as those first few seasons. Even now, a little over a year since Hillenburg’s death, there are already two spin off series in development, something Hillenburg never wanted to pursue when he was alive. So, Battle for Bikini Bottom was created with noticeably more care than later SpongeBob games like Nicktoons Unite and The Yellow Avenger.
Gameplay was fairly typical of other 3rd person platformers of that generation, but considering my only knowledge of them at the time was Ratchet and Clank, I didn’t find it derivative. I found the gameplay loop of collecting items and finding secrets to unlock new levels super compelling, a scratch that I would eventually turn to Ratchet and Clank completely to itch. And despite the limited abilities for Spongebob early on, they always managed to used them in unique and interesting ways.
In fact, that was one of the most impressive things about the game, the variety of things to do once you get deeper in the game. Yes, SpongeBob himself had a few bubble and jellyfishing based abilities. But later on, you could play as Patrick and unlock a more physical, wrestling inspired moveset complete with watermelon tossing. Then later in the game, you unlocked Sandy, who could use her lasso both on enemies and to reach new areas.
However, all these options were so overwhelming to me that I actually never ended up beating it. Shortly after unlocking Sandy my small brain got distracted by something else and I never made and effort to boot it back up. But, thanks to THQNordic, I’ll be able to finally right that wrong soon, as they’ll soon release SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated on modern consoles. Hopefully it’ll bring back all those nostalgic memories and, now with trophies, give me enough motivation to see the game through to completion, and maybe even snag all the collectables!
Graydon Webb – The Contrarian American
The Simpsons Game (2007)
I absolutely loved this topic from the minute it was brainstormed in our group chat. I mean… our super secret base of operations. On our high-tech drawing board of awesome ideas. Yeah, that.
Anyway, a ton of ideas instantly flooded to my mind, and quite a few of them involved Spider-Man. Ultimately, I decided I talk about that guy far too often around these parts. So I found myself stuck between either the Transformers movie game on the Wii – which was the only version that let you transform on the fly – or The Simpsons Game, loosely based on The Simpsons Movie from 2007.
I chose the latter because it brings back so many memories of my childhood. I was literally 10 when this game came out, and it brought me so much joy and frustration. I’ve been meaning to find a copy and jump into it again, because when I think back on it, there are just so many pieces out of place that make up this game. I recall mind-controlled dolphins, Homer’s ability to inflate himself, a level that took place in Nazi Germany, a boss fight against Lard Lad, and a… Dance Dance Revolution battle against God?
Mind you, this is all going off of memories from nearly 13 years ago. Though I’m fairly certain they all actually happened. The Simpsons Game was just dumb fun. I have no idea if it used the real voices from the show or if they were terrible fakes, but at the time I didn’t really care! I recall the animation being super colorful and vibrant, and the levels being open and creative. There was a lot of content packed into this little game, and the best part is, it was on every system at the time! This was just a genuinely smart licensed game with a lot of heart, and I really hope I get the chance to take it for another spin sometime soon.