Turning a summer film into a box office hit often requires over $100 million in advertising. Apparently, when you're spending that much money it's okay to just throw a million or two on some experimentally-designed video games. That's the only explanation we have for why film companies keep making game apps that seem to fulfill the "game" qualification in the most left-field way possible. Seriously, each of these games took a staff of people working long hours on a deadline, all of them undoubtedly wondering what exactly they were making. We took a look at the 5 most oddball apps of the 2011 film season:
Rise of the Planet of the Apes:
9 numbers appear on the screen. Then they are replaced by blanks. The player must then touch the blanks in the correct order. Then the game tells the player how much dumber than a monkey they are. Well, duh: For starters, the number of monkeys who have downloaded this app remains zero, so they're automatically smarter than the player. Here is a clip of me playing the game:
As you can see, I was distracted by something more entertaining.
All things considered, this game gets a thumbs-up for its scientific significance. Scientists have found that monkeys do better at this "game" than humans. Counting monkeys are pretty interesting, although this test just proves that monkeys have way more patience for really educational games. It's amazing how easily one gets amused when one is locked in a lab and tested on all day.
Download the app for free.
Kung Fu Panda 2
You know that creepy man whose always staring. On the bus, the train, at your family reunions, etc. Their yellow, unwavering eyes send worms up the spines of normal commuters.
It turns out, they're just looking for someone to play staring contest. It's no wonder, however, that he can't find any competition: staring contests are boring. Seriously, any game that can be consistently won by a tree is not a game.
Despite this, one can get all the excitement of eye-itchiness in an app promoting Kung Fu Panda 2. It's pretty much like you'd expect: two eyes stare at you, hypnotically weighing your eyelids down until you blink. This is supposed to promote a children's action movie, evidently by combining the two exciting actions of sitting and staring.
We sat down and patiently tried to play this "game." These creepy panda eyes stare out, and stuff appears on the screen. We click up, right, down, or left based on where the item appears. No matter what we did, Jack Black yelled dumb non-humor at us, so we felt like losers.
Download the app, here. It's free (no s**t). see more on Kung Fu Panda 2
Cowboys and Aliens
Here, the makers of the game are promising a lot of excitement by combining the exciting power to excite of aliens, cowboys, and Coca-Cola. Does it deliver on this promise? Just take a look at this exciting screenshot to see:
No it does not. Apparently, the one thing uniting cowboys and aliens is our interspecial love for carbonated processed bean beverages. Aliens are probably confused after seeing American media, and think that cola drinks are a weapon used to set people's hair on fire.
The point of the game seems to be to grab the Coca-Cola bottles before the aliens do. Where is this game taking place that there are actually bottles of Coca-Cola? Mexico? Why are cowboys and aliens having a grand battle for Mexico?
More importantly than all that, what is the marketing paradigm behind making a bad, glitchy game to promote a glossy feature film? Does this actually create some sort of buzz that puts butts in seats, "let's go see that film: I like Coca-Cola!" Console video games based on movies are profitable, mainly because they capitalize off of the brand buzz created by the film. But this works the opposite way, people are supposed to play the app then be enticed to see the film. How? There's dozens of programmers sitting around a room wasting their time doing 32-bit animations of Coca-Cola bottles, when they could be using their skills for something important (programming 3D porn).
Download it, here.
What we find most shocking is that the makers of this film decided to spend any money promoting it, at all. But, if the film has a meandering, hard to grasp plot and an utter lack of explanation, then this game reflects it perfectly.
Basically, you go wandering through a zoo, playing games at each of the various animal cages. Judging from the comments section, it looks like these mini-games come with little to no instruction. ITunes has these raving customer reviews on the front page of the game site:
"Slow Game. Not much excitement."
"It won't let me go play the stupid game"
"App just keeps crashing when I click on the button to play the game. Kids are super disappointed."
These all of the comments on the page that's supposed to sell you on the game. Although, we feel kind of sorry for the last commenter. If your kids are even the slightest bit disappointed about not playing a free game based on a Kevin James film, your life sucks.
Believe it or not, this film flopped. Apparently, successfully having monkeys program an iphone app wasn't enough promotion to make this film a hit.
Download the app here, but don't say we didn't warn you.
The title of the film is "Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer." Apparently, the creators of this app missed both the key words "not" and "summer" because they made a game about word puzzles and picture matching.
The comments page is always comedy gold because of the fine mixture between fake five-star reviews and real one-star reviews. As a result nearly every bad movie iphone game is rated around three stars. Check out this comment from the front page, which we can only hope is fake:
"Dear creator of the Judy Moody game,
This game has worked wonders for my family. It makes all four of my children, age ranges 3-18 very happy. It has kept my family life very calm, relaxed, and under control. The variety of games has held the attention of my ADHD youngsters. I do not know how I would have gotten through the past few weeks without your innovative game. I am forever grateful.
Lexie, 49, Virginia"
This comment makes so many ridiculous claims it should run for office. First of all, a downloadable iphone game for children should never act as a substitute for proper mental health treatment. Also, if your 18-year-old has their attention held by the same game that your 3-year-old enjoys... their problem might not be ADHD.
Three-year old children are always captivated by solving word games in two different languages.
Download the app, here.
A few of these games are from films that are intended for small children. We can understand their crapiness, then: small children like crap. But it feels like every blockbuster release is cranking out iphone games, with varying degrees of failure. This just goes to prove that, despite billions of dollars spent on ad research, many decisions are still made by some old guy going "hey, video games, those still cost like 10 grand to make, right?"
Evan Hoovler also writes for Gamespy, Blastr, Playboy's The Smoking Jacket, and Ranker. He is lead puzzle designer for the Telltale game, Puzzle Agent 2, and wants to be your Facebook Google Plus friend.