Apart from a few stand out examples like Simpsons Hit & Run, Ducktails and the South Park games (at least the recent ones. The less said about Chef’s Luv Shack the better), the “TV Show Tie-In” genre is littered with absolute turds. The infamously bad Eastenders Game. That 24 tie-in that made Jack Bauer look like a melted wax model. The attempt at making a Lost game that got lost along the way. A Goldenballs game… Just, why? I could go on for (literal) days here. For every good TV tie-in game, there’s a landfill full of duds and the latest to hit that steaming trash heap is The Grand Tour Game.
I fully expected The Grand Tour Game to be, in the repeated show sign off by Clarkson, a ‘terrible disappointment’, but for the first hour at least, I was mildly entertained. As Rossko put it in his review, “it’s not going to bother Forza or Gran Turismo anytime soon as your favourite racing game” but “it actually works”. I’ll admit though, by the time I’d finished the 3 episodes available in the game from launch, I wasn’t in a hurry to play more. I imagine I enjoyed TGT Game far less than Rossko because the scripted incompetence of Clarkson and co doesn’t click with me like it used too and that’s the main focus of the game, between the short races and drives.
There’s one thing that Rossko and I can agree on and that as an “interactive companion” to the show, it’s fascinating. For those who’ve not experienced it, each episode of the Grand Tour Game follows the main misadventure from each episode of the TV show. 80% of the game is made up of clips from the show which can be skipped or rewound on demand. When one of the terrible trio gets behind the wheel of a car though, the TV clips transition into a game which puts you in the driving seat and you take control. As a TV or even Movie tie-in game, bridging that interactive gap between the mediums, this is a first and something that despite my disinterest in the actual content, could be fantastic elsewhere…
Imagine a Buffy The Vampire Slayer game that had you watch an episode but when any actual slaying was required (which, let’s face it, was in every episode) the show transitioned into a brawling game, fighting off vamps and demons in The Bronze or at Sunnydale High. Take the Netflix Marvel shows. Watching the shows then taking control of The Punisher during his gun/shiv fights or Iron Fist in his/her super-powered brawls. A Knight Rider show that had you barrelling after your targets during the chase scenes and (like in any episode) Kit activates some gadget for you to use. A MacGyver game that has you take over during the usual montage of finding and piecing together everyday household objects in order to create an ingenious device to escape his predicament. The possibilities are endless.
There’s some common sense to other developers adopting this structure for TV tie-in games too. Creating smaller chunks of games centred around action points and having clips of the TV show act like long cut scenes between them will reduce development costs and time, licencing permitted of course.
The fact remains that, by and large, TV show tie in games are poor. While The Grand Tour game doesn’t, in my opinion, buck that trend, it’s an example of how other game and TV studios could do things differently and potentially better. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel by creating a new game in a TV show’s setting and lore, or by falling into the age old trap of recreating the exact events of a TV show/movie in an interactive way that doesn’t work, creating a marriage between the two mediums is an exciting frontier that’s unexplored. This is a future for TV tie-in games I could get behind.
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