All Together Then: Video Thrilled the Radio Stars
Talk about! Pop Musik! Pop, Pop, Pop Musik!
Ever since the first faltering bleeps of Pong, videogames and music have been intrinsically linked. It was inevitable that popular musicians would muscle their way into the lucrative games racket, with beloved livers-in-a-lonely-world Journey scoring (literally and figuratively) their own arcade cabinet (the imaginatively-titled Journey) from Midway in 1983. There are also games featuring Kiss (Kiss: Psycho Circus), Queen (Queen: The eYe), Michael Jackson (Moonwalker) and Iron Maiden (Ed Hunter) to name but a few. Even GWAR got in on the action, being central figures in the Mega Drive Beavis & Butt-Head game. In this instalment of All Together Then, I’m going to take a look at four of the very best games ripped from the Billboard Charts.
The former Twisted Flipper was saddled with (some would argue bolstered by) the Motley Crüe license during development, becoming Crüe Ball, a rather enjoyable and accomplished little 1992 Mega Drive pinball-‘em-up in which you use your flippers to manipulate – yes – a metal ball around a Crüe-inspired table, while listening to FM synth manglings of three songs by the titular glam metal defectives. The Crüe association feels a little extraneous – the developers were apparently hoping to get the Headbanger’s Ball license until MTV kiboshed it – but the game itself is pretty good! Ball physics are wonky but the table design is on point with clever hazards and some fun grotesquery to the sprites. I only wish it had been on the Amiga so I could make a “Kickstart my heart” joke.
Aerosmith! The purveyors of the worst song ever recorded, I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing, indeed brought their baffling popularity to arcades in 1994 thanks to Midway and their Revolution X, a light-gun shooter that pits you against a totalitarian fascist regime who are taking control of America and have stolen Aerosmith. Who said videogames aren’t political? Revolution X allows up to three players to hop on the machine guns and bring down The Man in an extremely enjoyable blaster that takes its cues from the also-wonderful Terminator 2: The Arcade Game and turns it up, up, up. Many alternate routes and hidden bonuses make Revolution X intriguing and its narrative is bonkers enough to compel additional quarters. Really, my only issue with it is the assumption that I’d want to save Aerosmith, when my reaction to hearing of their disappearance at the hands of violent oppressors would be “I’ll fetch the good crockery”.
50 Cent: Blood on the Sand
Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson is a furious man. My word, he’s cross. Why? Because a bitch took his skull. His words, not mine. Indeed, a jewel-encrusted human skull (after Damien Hirst) is the MacGuffin in 2009's 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand, a remarkably enjoyable PS3/360 arcade-action cover shooter. No attempt is made at being even remotely sensible, as the game chases a score-attack sensibility with collectables, hidden targets to shoot and a very “gamey” level-based structure. It’s good, solid, fast-paced ass-capping as the rampaging Fiddy and his G-Unit pals lay waste to the entire Middle East in order to get back that costly cranium. Or die tryin’.
The Blues Brothers: Jukebox Adventure
Rock rock rock rock n’ roll! I thought I’d close out this edition of All Together Then with a look at the SNES’ majestic and inaccurate adaptation of John Landis’ excellent 1980 movie, The Blues Brothers. Because they were a band too, sort of, so it counts. Also, I’ve got a theory about this game and I want to get it out there. You see, The Blues Brothers: The Jukebox Adventure – while a terrific multiplayer platform game – isn’t that much like the movie at all, with lots of bouncing on springy mushrooms, climbing chains in huge warehouses, dodging malevolent living lawnmowers and, most jarringly, riding on the back of a dragon. None of this happens in any version of the film I’ve seen. My theory is that The Blues Brothers was originally a sequel to Titus the Fox, as it shares a few enemy sprites and gameplay elements with that Amiga classic. I suspect at some point in development somebody sensibly said “Wait a minute. Nobody likes Titus the Fox. We still have the Blues Brothers license. Why don’t we slap it on this?” So they did. I have no proof of this but if anyone can obtain some, I’d be happy to set you up with some sort of packed lunch.