Screen Grabs

If you liked the film, you'll love the video game -- at least that's what retailers are hoping.

January 02, 2003|By Kevin Washington | Kevin Washington,SUN STAFF

VIDEO games linked to movies often have bad raps. They've been criticized for ignoring the story line and failing to capture the essence of the films on which they're based.

But this year's crop of games with movie tie-ins includes titles that actually provide a semblance of the film experience, as well as enjoyable play in their own right. For example, if you enjoyed Lilo & Stitch, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, or The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, you can relive them through games made for the PC, Nintendo GameCube, Sony Play- Station/PS2 and Microsoft Xbox.

If you enjoyed James Bond's latest outing, Die Another Day, you won't find a game that follows the plot lines, but you will find a title that immerses you in a world similar to the movie's.

Just be aware that some of these games demand a veteran's dexterity with a controller to move from one level to the next without dying -- and suffering the boredom of repeating scenes over and over. If you buy a game just so you can be a movie's hero, it may be frustrating to find when it's so hard you never move beyond the first stage.

On the other hand, some games provide tutorials to give you practice before you move into the real action, or set up adventures that move gradually from novice to expert level, so you don't have to spend weeks trying to learn which combination of buttons to push when you're in a tough spot.

We reviewed these movie-based titles and here's what we found:

`Ring'-a-ding

EA Games' The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (PlayStation 2, GameBoy Advance; coming to the GameCube and Xbox) is the best of the movie-related games this year, thanks to the simple approach its developers took.

Like the movie, they focused the action on Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, the non-Hobbit members of the Fellowship of the Ring who most often engage in battle.

Although it lacks real tutorials, its combination moves are easily understood, and game play requires only a 10-year-old's skills (be aware that this title has a "Teen" rating for blood and gore).

Even so, I still got stuck at Weathertop, the game's second level, as I tried to remember what Aragorn did to destroy the Ringwraiths (hint: fire is the weapon, just as in the movie).

Some veteran gamers complain because The Two Towers isn't more of a role-playing title, with more puzzles to give Hobbits Frodo and Sam screen time. Instead, the game rocks with action as players swing axes, launch fire arrows or engage in swordplay with the demonic soldiers unleashed by the evil wizard Saruman the White and the dark lord Sauron.

To its credit, The Two Towers does a fantastic job of integrating bits and pieces of the movie, including cut scenes and interviews with actors and filmmakers that unlock as you progress through the game.

Disney demolition

At the other end of the movie-game experience is Disney's Stitch: Experiment 626 for the PlayStation 2. This one is a "prequel" to the movie Lilo and Stitch, which can be rented on video cassette or DVD.

Stitch is the result of a genetic experiment to create a monster whose purpose is to destroy and cause chaos. As a third person-shooter, it gives you a chance to shoot and blow up all manner of things as you collect strands of DNA across multiple game levels. Unfortunately, it has almost no lighting or other graphic effects to make it interesting.

Game play seems more geared toward veterans, which may leave the movie's younger fans on the sidelines. The original Lilo and Stitch, a game for the PlayStation and PSOne, follows the movie more closely and is more appropriate for youngsters under age 10.

`Potter' wizardry

Younger players (ages 7 to 9) will have more fun with EA Games' Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (PSOne, PS2, Xbox, Game- Cube, GameBoy Color and GameBoy Advance; coming to the PC).

Hardcore gamers will find this third-person action title a bit simple (until they get deep into the later levels), but most elementary school-age children will be challenged for many hours.

If they loved the movie, they'll enjoy casting spells and solving simple puzzles. There are lots of little extras here -- mini-quests included -- whose purpose wasn't very clear to me, but probably will be to those familiar with J.K. Rowling's Potter books.

Rich graphics and a beautiful recreation of the the Hogwarts School environment enhance the game experience. And meeting the Basilisk is as much a challenge as Harry's adventures with the slithering creature are in the movie.

Wall-crawling action

For older teens with a hardcore gaming background, Activision's Spider-Man game is a more challenging choice -- enough of a challenge to disappoint gaming novices who are merely looking for basic thrills webbing their way from one location to the next.

Spider-Man's fighting skills are simple enough to master, but getting from one place to the next is nearly impossible. Practicing with the tutorials is helpful.

My name is Bond ...

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