It’s been a busy summer at the theater. Apes tore through San Francisco with machine guns. Autobots blasted an alien ship out of the sky in Hong Kong. And the Guardians of the Galaxy kept their contentious friendship intact while saving planet Xandar from destruction. Movie studios made millions off of these special effects-driven blockbusters. But how did our heroes and villains do on the small screen?

I decided to dive into the dubious waters of licensed games to find out. Since I’m covering a lot of them here (13 in all), I’m not following GamesBeat’s usual review guidelines. Think of these more as quick impressions, as one person’s gut feelings about how well each game lives up to their respective films. Some of them sadly stick to the “licensed games are always bad” stereotype, but others are genuinely entertaining and definitely deserve some play time.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Above: The wall-crawler reflects on his recent string of mediocre games.

Image Credit: Activision

How does it tie into the film?

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U, 3DS, PC) repeats what developer Beenox did with the first game: take the cast from the movie and have them mingle with other characters from the comics in an open-world New York City. The story isn’t quite the same as what you saw in theaters, but it does repeat a few key scenes. Some of the changes are a bit odd, though, like Gwen Stacy being conspicuously absent despite playing a big part in the first game and the films.

Is it worth your time?

While The Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn’t a complete mess, it’s far from being the next great Spidey game. You can get through most battles by mindlessly mashing buttons. Swinging around the city — arguably the best part about the first The Amazing Spider-Man — somehow feels worse this time around. And the story (Russian gangs vs. The Kingpin vs. Spider-Man) isn’t compelling enough to justify the new Peter Parker missions, where you just run around and talk to people.

Grade: C


Godzilla Smash3

Godzilla Smash3

Above: Puny tanks are no match for Godzilla.

Image Credit: Giancarlo Valdes/GamesBeat

How does it tie into Godzilla?

I’m not sure what made publisher Rogue Play think “Godzilla + a puzzle game = awesome!” but it’s not a bad idea. Godzilla Smash3 (iOS and Android) puts you in control of the titular monster via colorful gems on a grid. Connecting three or more of the same kind can either trigger an attack, build up energy for his Atomic Breath, or restore his health bar. He fights a lot of pesky tanks and helicopters, and the film’s MUTO creatures appear as boss fights.

Is it worth your time?

I was having a good time with it until I came across one of the most greediest in-app purchases I’ve ever seen. When Godzilla dies during a mission (which often has multiple waves of enemies), a banner pops up saying that for $0.99, you can continue where you left off with full health and 50 percent Atomic Breath. Refusing to pay means you have to start the level from the beginning. That’s total bullcrap.

Grade: D


Uncanny X-Men: Days of Future Past

Uncanny X-Men: Days of Future Past

Above: Uncanny will let you play as Magneto in a future update.

Image Credit: Giancarlo Valdes/GamesBeat

How does it tie into X-Men: Days of Future Past?

Uncanny X-Men (iOS phones and tablets) ignores the film entirely, focusing instead on the original comic book that inspired it. The 2D beat ‘em up has a bunch of different X-Men to choose from, and you can upgrade them with new abilities as you play through the story. It only has a few cutscenes that sum up what’s going on, so don’t expect to find any of the tense drama or backstabbing from Days of Future Past here.

Is it worth your time?

It has a few illogical rules — for some reason, characters can’t grab any ledges, and the energy beam-spewing Cyclops isn’t able to shoot anything that’s directly above him — and I wish the controls were more precise (moving around feels kind of mushy with the touch screen). Otherwise, Uncanny is a competent action game that makes each X-Man’s powers fun to use.

Grade: B-


Maleficent Free Fall

Maleficent Free Fall

Above: Maleficent doesn’t look very happy to be stuck in this puzzle game.

Image Credit: Microsoft

How does it tie into Maleficent?

Maleficent Free Fall (on phones, tablets, and PC) has as much to do with the movie as The Wizard of Oz has to do with its fancy slot machines: They’re both iconic licenses slapped onto games that don’t add anything to the source material. This game borrows music from the film, and even has the likeness of actress Angelina Jolie, but that’s all window dressing for this match-3 puzzler.

Is it worth your time?

It’s actually kind of addictive. In addition to clearing out gems, Free Fall introduces a lot of challenges that change up the gameplay, like shields and iron cages that block crucial pathways on the screen. Unlike Godzilla Smash3, you can earn more continues just by playing. But what I love about it is that it doesn’t make you sit through Maleficent’s silly story for a second time.

Grade: B


 

Edge of Tomorrow

Edge of Tomorrow

Above: You get a good sense of the battlefield after dying a couple of times.

Image Credit: Giancarlo Valdes/GamesBeat

How does it tie into the film?

The movie was basically one big video game anyway, so it’s not surprising to see a portion of it recreated on iOS and Android devices as a free download. This version of Edge of Tomorrow is a first-person shooter set on the same battlefield where William Cage learned to fight the aliens through gruesome trial-and-error experiences. When you die, you come back right away, and the game uses colored outlines to point out where and how you died.

Is it worth your time?

Edge of Tomorrow builds on the film’s Groundhog Day-esque idea in a neat way, but it isn’t worth the hassle. The game didn’t start up at all on my iPhone 4S. I could at least play it on an old iPad, but it kept crashing when I died. If I had Cage’s time-traveling powers, I’d go back to a happier time … to the days when I didn’t know this game existed.

Grade: F


How To Train Your Dragon 2

How To Train Your Dragon 2

Above: The developers found a way to make dragons feel boring.

Image Credit: Little Orbit

How does it tie into the film?

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, Wii U, 3DS) barely captures the adventurous spirit of the movie. Hiccup and his Nightfury dragon Toothless are here and so are the rest of the main cast and their dragon pals. And you get to fly around the village of Berk and the large mountain range behind it. But you can’t explore the new regions from the film or take part in any of the huge battles. It’s just you, your dragon, and a hideous looking island.

Is it worth your time?

If you came out of How to Train your Dragon 2 thinking “It’d be awesome to ride a dragon!” (like I did), the game will completely change your mind in the first 10 minutes. That’s when you realize that it’s nothing more than a loosely connected series of awful races and shooting minigames. Stick to the TV show if you need your dragon fix.

Grade: F


Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark

Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark

Above: Grimlock deserves a much better game.

Image Credit: Activision

How does it tie into Transformers: Age of Extinction?

This is a weird one. Most of Rise of the Dark Spark (PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U, 3DS, PC) occurs in the same universe as developer High Moon Studios’s Cybertron games, which take inspiration from the original 1980s Transformers cartoon. But Rise also borrows characters from director Michael Bay’s film, complete with the sharp, angular robot designs that look like they’d eviscerate you if you so much as bump into them. The game tries to establish that both Transformers brands belong to the same continuity.

Is it worth your time?

The question that kept popping in my head when I was playing was “Why? Why connect two totally different storylines with such a drab shooter?” I like the movies just fine — the CG fights always offset the obnoxiously long running times — but Age of Extinction’s presence doesn’t make much sense here.

Grade: C-


Plague Inc: Evolved

Plague Inc's "Simian Flu" DLC

Above: Play on easy mode if you want to watch the world crumble in mere minutes.

Image Credit: Giancarlo Valdes/GamesBeat

How does it tie into Dawn of the Planet of the Apes?

Ndemic Creations’s epidemic simulator (available on PC, Mac, iOS, and Android) has been around for a few years already, making the partnership with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes actually kind of clever. In Plague Inc., you can start spreading the “Simian Flu” right from the beginning. It starts off with mundane symptoms and a low rate of infection, but as you evolve the disease with new upgrades — you can never go wrong with explosive diarrhea — humans will gradually die out.

Like the movies, the disease has one cool side effect: creating intelligent apes. Once you find an efficient way for the Simian Flu to spread from ape to ape, you can start building colonies, sabotage research facilities, and go to war with the humans.

Is it worth your time?

Eradicating most of the human population isn’t as easy as the film would have you believe. You only have so many points to spend, so it’s a constant balancing act of either strengthening the disease or turning the apes into skilled warriors. It’s a thrill to watch your devilish creations spread all over the world while the humans frantically search for a cure (if they succeed, it’s game-over).

Grade: A


Hercules: The Official Game

Hercules: The Official Game

Above: Surprise! The Nemean Lion wasn’t actually a real lion.

Image Credit: Giancarlo Valdes/GamesBeat

How does it tie into Hercules?

Hercules (the movie) glosses over most of the hero’s legendary 12 Labors, dangerous tasks where he fought mystical creatures like the Hydra and Cerberus. Glu Games’s Hercules (for iOS and Android) attempts to fill in those gaps through a series of 1-on-1 battles, with each level leading up to a boss fight. But your polygonal Hercules doesn’t look like actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson at all — the developers went for the “generic white guy” approach — and the game is missing one crucial element from the live-action adventure: humor.

Is it worth your time?

It’s a clunkier version of the Infinity Blade series. You have to go through dozens of tedious battles to earn money so you can buy new gear and fight the challenging bosses. One of the only things that kept me going was to see how ridiculous the bad guys’ names could get. I couldn’t resist fighting people who call themselves “Myles the Tormentor” or “Death Angel Thanatos.”

Grade: D


 

Sharknado: The Video Game

Sharknado: The Video Game

Above: This screen sums up both the game and the movie pretty well.

Image Credit: Giancarlo Valdes/GamesBeat

How does it tie into Sharknado 2: The Second One?

OK, so Sharknado 2 wasn’t in theaters, but the sequel to last year’s social media darling still managed to make a big splash when it debuted on the Syfy channel. Sharknado: The Video Game (free on iOS App Store) puts players in the shoes of hero Fin Shepard as he runs (and surfs!) through the shark-infested streets of New York City. The goal is to destroy as many of the tornadoes as possible by slicing sharks in half with your trusty chainsaw.

Is it worth your time?

Developer Other Ocean reused the formula from its last mobile game, NBA Rush, but the result isn’t as quirky or engaging as the basketball-meets-alien-invasion runner. The surfing levels aren’t fun at all, and the catchy Sharknado theme playing in the background quickly becomes an annoying jingle that’ll have you reaching for the “off” button.

Grade: C


Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon

Guardians of the Galaxy: The Ultimate Weapon

Above: Gamora and Drax do melee damage, Groot can heal the team, and Star-Lord is a long-range attacker.

Image Credit: Giancarlo Valdes/GamesBeat

How does it tie into Guardians of the Galaxy?

The Universal Weapon (for iOS, Android, and Windows devices) isn’t a 100 percent faithful adaptation of the feel-good sci-fi flick, but anyone who’s seen the movie will be familiar with the Guardians’ struggle to break out of prison and fight Ronan the Accuser. Joining Star-Lord, Gamora, Rocket, Drax, and Groot in this real-time role-playing game are a few other characters from the Marvel universe, including Beta Ray Bill and the Hulk.

Is it worth your time?

I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted that a group of obscure intergalactic superheroes would be the stars of the highest-grossing film of the summer, and the Guardians’ momentum doesn’t stop with The Universal Weapon. Its RPG mechanics are easy to learn, but it has a lot of tactical depth since the roster is so large. Each character falls into a specific class (melee, long-range, and healer), so The Universal Weapon is all about finding your favorite team to bring into battle.

Grade: B


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Official Game

TMNT: The Official Game

Above: Leonardo will always be the best ninja turtle.

Image Credit: Giancarlo Valdes/GamesBeat

How does tie into the film?

The only things they have in common are the turtles’ origin story and their bodybuilder-like redesigns. But for the most part, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (iOS and Android) uses elements from the franchises’s 30-year history to create its own tale. Developer The Game Bakers made some smart decisions here, like replacing the film’s militarized Foot Clan members with the purple-clad ninjas that some of us grew up on, and adding old favorites Bebop and Rocksteady to the cast of villains.

Is it worth your time?

TMNT was one of the big pop culture pillars of my childhood (it ranks slightly below Power Rangers), and part of that had to do with all the quarters I lost while playing the arcade game. The Game Bakers’s brawler reminds me of that a lot, and it fits well on a touch screen. Since movement is automatic, you don’t have to worry about using a virtual D-pad. This leaves you more time to focus on building combos and performing cool team-based attacks. Requisite pizza jokes and some decent voice-over work complete the TMNT experience.

Grade: B+


The Expendabros

The Expendabros

Above: Just a day in the life of Broney Ross.

Image Credit: Giancarlo Valdes/GamesBeat

How does it tie into The Expendables III?

The movies are just thinly veiled excuses for a bunch of classic action stars to blow things up, and someone finally found an excellent way to translate that into a game. The Expendabros (for PC) is a free standalone version of the work-in-progress Broforce, a hectic side-scroller that’s both a tribute to and a parody of ’80s action films — the machismo-laden adventures that The Expendables have spent the last few years trying to recapture. Actors Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, Wesley Snipes, Jason Statham, Terry Crews, and Randy Couture are all here, lovingly crafted as 2D sprites.

Is it worth your time?

It’s frickin’ perfect. Developer Free Lives (read our interview with the studio here) knew exactly what makes the films so fun — the explosions, the stunts, and the body count — and multiplies all of that by 100. I kept laughing when I found out Lee Broxmas’s attack is just a flurry of knives, or when I saw how Bro Caesar can use his minigun to launch himself halfway across the screen. You can finish The Expendabros in under two hours, but it’s one of the most entertaining two hours you’ll have with games this year.

Grade: A+

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