As I wrote earlier this week, Alien Isolation was a perfect example of adapting a movie to the video game medium. Not only was the game strong in terms of quality, but it also managed to accurately capture the tone and feel of the source material. Even some of the best licensed games have trouble truly feeling like the source material, rather providing a good experience with a specific coat of paint. This got me thinking, what properties deserve an Alien Isolation-style of adaptation?
This was the first franchise I thought of when thinking about applying lessons learned in Alien Isolation. I know there’s a new Terminator game on the horizon, but it looks like it’s aiming to go a more video game-y route by dropping you into an action-packed fight for the future. What I envision is something that almost mimics Alien Isolation in mechanics as well as fidelity to the source material.
Imagine a version of the game that closely replicates that feeling of the original film, dropping you in with no resources and nothing but a name to look for. Right off the bat, you’re in a race to find Sarah Connor (or maybe even someone else) before the Terminator finds and kills her. Since the first film is very much a chase movie that doesn’t deal with the overall plot the way the sequels do, it would be cool for a video game to be very stripped down, giving you a possibly procedurally-generated open world that gives you a different version of this conflict every time.
Ripping out the page from the phone book, tracking down Sarah, slowly finding ways to arm yourself and ultimately defeating the Terminator would all be thrilling to do in a Hitman-style open world with an Alien Isolation-style Terminator hunting you down. While it may not be a high-octane shooter that the upcoming Terminator game hopes to be, I think this would be a much more accurate and interesting pitch for a Terminator game.
HAPPY DEATH DAY
Time loop video games are having a bit of a moment right now. Games like Minit, The Sexy Brutale, and this year’s indie hit Outer Wilds have all played around with the concept in one way or another. Why not take everyone’s favorite time loop movie Happy Death Day and turn it into a video game. While the movie is known for being carried by the wonderful performance from Jessica Rothe, the premise of the story would make a great basis for a game even without her presence.
Solving a mystery in a video game is always such a satisfying feeling, and the setup of Happy Death Day gives you a great one to solve. As you piece together more clues, more environments could be made available for you to investigate as you get closer and closer to narrowing down who is trying to kill you. This would give the game a bit of a Metroidvania-style structure, unlocking new areas and maybe even allowing the player to fast forward to certain moments or locations in order to properly investigate a new clue.
When I saw Annihilation, I remember thinking to myself, this would make a perfect setting for a video game. Video games thrive on player discovery, and everything about the strange world contained in the Shimmer inspired simultaneous feelings of wonder and horror in me. To me, it feels like a good place to set something that plays a bit like Resident Evil 2 Remake, but with Dark Souls-style world-building.
Imagine replacing the claustrophobia of Alien Isolation or RE2 Remake with a small squad and a more open, outdoor environment that lets you dictate your encounters a bit more as a way of conserving resources. Your team is there with limited supplies, so you could try to coordinate to gain the advantage over the monstrous mutants you fight. Losing party members at certain story moments would also be a great way to ratchet up the tension, making things more desperate as the story builds.
The way the movie doles out information also closely follows Dark Souls or Bioshock-like world building, with most information acquired from the remnants of the previous expedition. Exploring the world of the Shimmer would also be a great experience, with the world shifts around you to create a wonderful sense of place while never giving you the opportunity to fully find your feet. I love the idea of setting up a bonfire-like place to camp at night, only to wake up the next morning in a completely different area. This would capture the moment from the movie, but also disorient you like the infamous Hypogean Gaol moment from Bloodborne. The world and tone of Annihilation are so rife with possibilities.
Adapting a game is really about finding the core of what makes the original property tick and finding ways to design the mechanics of the game around these principles. What Alien Isolation did so well five years ago should be an inspiration to developers. Pitches like these make me excited about the possibilities of licensed games, as long as they are not forced into simple structures that don’t line up with the core of the property.