Great iOS tie-in games inspired by popular film franchises

by Phil Hornshaw

Every so often, new and popular movie tie-in games hit the iTunes App Store that are meant to be crossover marketing ploys. It happens in console and PC games as well, with an understanding among most gamers in the know: Licensed titles are almost invariably terrible.

That’s not always the case when it comes to mobile games. It might have something to do with lower expectations, since mobile games work with smaller files and often have a tighter focus than their console counterparts. Whatever the reason, there are actually a number of cool licensed titles for the iPhone and iPad.

The newest and best-known has to be Angry Birds Star Wars, although it’s not your typical licensed title. Developer Rovio’s game cheats the licensing curse because it isn’t making a game based on Star Wars, it’s working Star Wars elements into an existing formula. The result is a game that works really well, in fact, because the movie-inspired elements effectively help improve the gameplay of Angry Birds. The result is an Angry Birds game, not a Star Wars game, so the final product gets the benefit of both worlds.

The good news is, there are quite a few other licensed titles that manage to strike chords a little closer to their movie counterparts, and they’re worth downloading both for mobile gamers and fans of their franchises.

Get your Hulk Smash on

This summer’s The Avengers was a box-office smash, and there’s a great deal of smashing going on in the mobile game based loosely on the film and comic book franchise. You get to play as The Incredible Hulk, which means you channel his enormous strength through green fists of fury.

Avengers Initiative takes its cues from the Infinity Blade series, putting Hulk in one-on-one battles with villains, like The Skrulls, from the franchise. The title excels because of great graphics and the battles feel very immediate. The attacks of Hulk and his enemies crash into one another, and you feel like you really are wielding the kind of strength the Hulk possesses (as much as is possible through a video game).

For what are probably obvious reasons, superhero movies also seem to transition well to video games. Gameloft’s mobile-gamization of the final Christopher Nolan-directed Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, manages to capture the story of the film while giving players access to lots of Batman’s gadgets and capabilities. It takes a lot of inspiration from the Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City games on console and PC, which was a smart move.

Nailing the need for speed

Lots of superhero games have graced the iTunes App Store, and they’re pretty easy to find. A little more under the radar is a quality racing title that bears a movie moniker: Fast Five.

A racing title based on the film, Fast Five packs some strong visuals, which helps get players into the game. It’s a Gameloft title and does a great job of capturing the racing elements that make the movies so much gear-shifting fun. The developer has a pretty good pedigree with racing titles, as they’re responsible for the Asphalt series.

Having experience with Asphalt means that Gameloft added a lot more features to the game than what might be involved in just the movie. There’s multiplayer capabilities, additional game modes, and more. Fast Five is a full-fledged game, rather than just a quick tie-in, and it shows.

Creating good licensed games is definitely possible, and many developers have shown that great things can come from titles based on other film franchises. The trick, it seems, is that they have to be working to create a game first and foremost, and leveraging a brand second.

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