Video games made on the basis of TV shows historically have had pretty spotty track records. “The Simpsons” video games from the NES era set the mediocre bar early but the 90s saw a glut of TV franchises find their way onto home and hand-held consoles, for better but mostly worse. Do “Home Improvement” and “Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen” games ring a bell? However, two of my favorite television shows of the late 90s/early 00s found their way onto the PlayStation 2 and my instinct was to ignore them because of past history. Eventually I relented and bought copies of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds” and The Sopranos: Road to Respect”. Both attempt & mostly succeed in immersing players into the worlds created by their respective TV shows. “Buffy” is based on the cult WB/UPN hit and takes place in the fictional Sunnydale, CA, which also happens to be the location of a Hellmouth. A place where demons and vampires enter our dimension to wreak havoc. “The Sopranos” is rooted less in fantasy and more in reality, specifically the east coast Italian mobs of New Jersey/New York. HBO’s “The Sopranos” was gritty & violent yet extremely well written and well acted. It would be tricky to create video games based on such beloved television shows but at the same time, they contained very low stakes as the shows would have built in audiences that would naturally want to experience the plots and characters on a different level.
“XIII” (or “Thirteen”) is a game I bought based on word of mouth and generally good reviews. “XIII’s” roots come from graphic novels of the same name, the video game version has an aesthetic that stays true to this comic book, cel-shaded art style. The game is essentially a first person shooter combined with stealth and multi-player abilities and features another television star of the time, David Duchovny from “The X-Files” as the voice of the protagonist. “XIII” is a very cool looking game even if you weren’t completely sold on its gameplay.
Another game I picked up solely based on reviews and word of mouth was “Katamari Damacy”. I have a tough time trying to describe what this game is about but the closest I can attempt is to call it an action-puzzle game. The gameplay is as trippy as the name implies. You roll a magical sticky ball around the environments, picking up whatever (and I mean whatever, nothing is out of scope) is smaller than the ball itself, which in turns makes it grow bigger and bigger, allowing you to pick up more and more items until it’s large enough to become its own star. You see, the goal of the game is re-create or re-build the solar system (I.e. stars, constellations, moons) that were destroyed by your character’s father, the King of all Cosmos. This inadequate description only scratches the surface of what “Katamari Damacy” actually is, so this is one of those games you have to play to believe and I urge everyone with a PS2 to do so.
Finally, I added a “Sims” title to my collection late in the console’s lifespan. This particular effort was title “The Sims Bustin’ Out”. “The Sims” was a super popular PC series in the early 00s that eventually found its way onto home consoles. The word sims is, of course, shorthand for simulation and the game revolves around the simulating of the lives of characters in each game. For “Bustin’ Out”, that would include simulating a number of potential careers that your character can have. Why focus on your own failing career when you can focus on a the fake career of a video game player? “The Sims Bustin’ Out’s” plot involves finding a way to buy back your possessions that were stolen by a character named Malcolm. I bought this particular game with the intent that I would eventually find the time to actually play a “Sims” game but that goal has eluded me now for 13 years.