Somewhere beneath the New Mexico desert are millions of unwanted Atari 2600 cartridges. They all contain E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial—a game so horrible that it led to Atari's bankruptcy, and is largely blamed for the crash of the videogame industry in 1983. Hastily made in only six weeks—so as to be in stores by Christmas—E.T. and its makeshift graveyard are the ultimate cautionary tale for those aiming to make a videogame based on a hit film.
But E.T. aside, videogames with movie tie-ins are a lock for sales; often released alongside the film, the games and films market each other. (Indeed, practically each of this summer's blockbusters, from Superman Returns to The Da Vinci Code, has an accompanying game—or maybe that should be vice versa.)
One of the bigger titles is X-Men: The Official Game, with aims to serve as a bridge between the last X-film (which, natch, had its own game) and the latest one, X-Men: The Last Stand. You'd think there'd be a story there—how the X-Men got from point B to point C—and considering how lazily screenwriters Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn slapped together The Last Stand's script, more exposition would be welcome. So in theory, the game's solid: With the films' actors providing voice talent and the player controlling three different mutants—Wolverine, Iceman, and Nightcrawler—The Official Game had the potential to be a varied, fun addition to the movie.
But in practice, the game is like most tie-ins: an uninspired mess. Sure, it's fun to teleport around as Nightcrawler, but Wolverine's boring hack 'n' slash segments and Iceman's lame flying levels do little more than try the player's patience. But the real rub is the story, wherein clunky cut scenes and dull plot points suck the fun out of the whole thing. Still, with The Last Stand's ridiculous box office take last weekend—over $100 million in three days—a fourth X-Men is a pretty sure bet. The only thing surer is that it'll arrive right alongside another tie-in game.