Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas one and all! ‘Tis the season to be jolly and all that, so that means the man in red will come back out, gracing our rooftops with Reindeer droppings. He’ll fall down a chimney like the world’s clumsiest rooftop repair man and he’ll then have the audacity to eat your mince pies and drink your milk, beer, baileys, expensive wines or otherwise. After all, Santa Claus knows how to have a good time; even if he is a good fellow at heart.
The article that you are about to read contains a strong opinion. The opinion that follows is mine and does not represent the entire GeekOut collective.
I’m going to talk about unnecessary grinding; No, not the over-enthusiastic form of dancing or indeed the thing that people of certain extreme sports like to do. Nope, the gaming kind.
First of all, take a deep breath. Have you done that? Good. I had to before I wrote this, but I’m not sure if it helped or not. Anyway… onwards!
The word “prequel” sends shivers down the spine of every fan of an IP, be it book, film, game, or otherwise. Not the good kind of shivers either. But once in a while we are spared our apprehension and given that rare and wonderful thing, an enjoyable prequel that serves the original well.
Now, let us be clear that we are in no way saying that these prequels are better than their original properties, just that they did a good job of trying to tell the story before the story starts. They might make us see the original in a totally different way, add context, close plotholes, or just be fun to watch in their own right. With that in mind let us get into our Top 10 Good Prequels.
10) The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay
Starting with an unusual one, the video games Escape from Butcher Bay and Assault on Dark Athena were highly regarded, in fact by many they’re regarded as being better than the films, detailing the bloody escape from triple max prison of one Richard B Riddick, earning him the infamy he boasts from Pitch Black onwards.
Graphics are very early 00’s, but Starbreeze delivered an excellent stealth/action game with some of the best voice acting from Diesel himself, Ron Perlman, and Michael Rooker. Riddick is easily a better game character than film character, but I still love Pitch Black and damn you if you say otherwise.
9) Star Trek: Enterprise
Enterprise was set before the events of the original series, and over the course of its four seasons we witness the dawn of teleporters, the coming together of species (politically and physically), the foundations of the prime directive, and humanity finding its place among the older space faring races.
It stands among the greats, with incredible stories, performances, and characters, lending new insights into the Star Trek universe and creating something new and enjoyable in the process. Captain Archer may not stand up to Picard, Kirk or Sisco (sorry Janeway, but… y’know) but he’s still an excellent centerpiece for characters who are the equal of any other Starfleet crew. And Floxx is a comedic masterpiece.
8) X-Men: First Class
The X-Men series of films doesn’t get enough love. No really, they don’t – There were a few rough films (and the more of us that forget about X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the better.) However, what the X-Men series has always managed to achieve is a wealth of excellent characters introduced in a relatively simple to understand plot. The overall plot is convoluted, but each contained story within is easy to digest.
As such, when the X-Men franchise got a soft reboot in the form of a sort of prequel, it’s no wonder that it did so well. Of course, First Class isn’t the only prequel in the series – There are a number of them, including: X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse and next year we’ll be treated to X-Men: Dark Phoenix.
The series is always a joy to watch, even if I personally think they’ll never beat X-2.
7) Hannibal – The TV Series
Here I profess to having never watched Hannibal, but I’m willing to concede public opinion when I’m repeatedly told that something is worth a watch. While no one will best Anthony Hopkins for portraying the cannibalistic gentleman, of those who could at least make an effort Mads Mikkelsen must surely be near the top of the list.
In his three seasons he is truly sinister and charismatic, and in the role of a psychologist turned serial-killer-coach it seems the part is almost tailored to him. The series serves as a prequel to Red Dragon, before even the novels, telling some of the early tales of the famous man-eater, telling an original story without compromising the original creation.
6) Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
Long before the events of Harry Potter, the wizarding world was still just as dangerous and as magical. In America, the No-Maj, or Muggles as we in England refer to them, lived somewhat obliviously to the magical world around them. Although in England the events of all things magical happen in their own secluded areas, such as Hogwarts or otherwise. No instead, the wizarding world is hidden in plain sight.
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them was a huge success, breathing new life into a franchise which had seemingly reached its apex. Where the series goes from here will be wild and wonderful – But it’s fascinating how many more tales from the wizarding world that J K Rowling could venture down, as some of the stories could be exceptional.
5) Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
Before the movie, the Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West wasn’t quite as Wicked as she became. Elphaba, the Wicked Witch as we know her, is actually not all that wicked as we’re first made to believe in the original Wizard of Oz. In fact, she’s interested in the politics of the land of Oz and it turns out that treachery and deception makes her the way that she is – The green skinned witch.
Wicked became a play, many, many years after the release of the novel. Not only was it a play, it was a hugely successful one. With a film on the way in 2019, if you’ve not had the opportunity to check this out, I’d highly recommend looking out for the film in the coming years. It’s going to be wicked!
4) Monsters University
Without question, this was the prequel that inspired the list, and may even be the best prequel I have ever seen. We bring together Sully and Mike at University, and while it may not be easy for John Goodman and Billy Crystal to play teenagers, the characters are brilliantly rolled back to their younger and more arrogant selves. Mike is the nerd with delusions of grandeur, Sully is the lazy jock getting through on a scholarship he doesn’t deserve.
Watching the two overcome their differences to work together and bring their new friends from the bottom to the top of the MU pecking order casts new light upon their tight friendship at work many years later. Ok, so it’s a classic college film, the Dean is mean but ends up friendly, the mismatched pair get dumped with the frat of underdogs and losers, but come out on top. But with monsters! And Nathan Fillion!
3) Samurai X
Before the days of Rurouni Kenshin, the samurai was a lot more dark and gritty than we could ever have imagined. With the release of a 4 episode special known as Samurai X, we learned a lot about the dark past of the character, along with a perfect lead into the first episode of the highly popular anime. It was bloody, it was gritty and yes, Samurai X is one of the best anime prequels released.
I’d personally so far as to say it’s the best anime prequel – Granted it doesn’t have huge catalogues of other anime to go through with a prequel. In fact, off the top of my head, the only other anime I had was Dragon Ball Z’s Bardock. However, Samurai X was such a grim retelling, it made for most-see viewing. It’s stylish, it’s dark and yes, it’s everything you’d want from a story about samurai.
2) Star Wars Rogue One
I don’t think any of us expected to see episode 1-3 on this list, simply not going to happen. Rogue One on the other hand fed perfectly into the beginning of episode 4, and gave us a new hope (hah!) for the reign of Disney over the property. The elite force sent to gather the plans for the Empire’s new superweapon were always doomed to a tragic end, but the journey taken is nothing short of epic.
The film throws the evils of the Empire into far harsher relief than we have seen elsewhere, families torn apart, the oppression of an omnipresent regime, cities stripped of their wealth and then destroyed with space lasers, so that to hear Luke talking about joining the Rebels makes him seem a little more noble, and a lot more naive, unaware of the kind of horrors that he is putting himself against.
1) Castlevania III – Dracula’s Curse
WHAT IS A MAN?!
Well before Simon Belmont became a fixture name in Castlevania, there was a name even more powerful in the Belmont family. Trevor. Trevor Belmont was the first man to go and take down the evil Dracula. Say what you will about Castlevania, but it’s a franchise that not only has stood the test of the time, but it is partially responsible for creating a genre that is still inspiring games today with Metroidvania.
Frequently getting into Top 10 lists for Best NES games ever released, Castlevania III introduced some amazing new mechanics, such as mid-air jumping and wall climbing in the form of Grant Danasty. Along with Trevor, being able to switch between companions is a hugely important addition to the franchise – Without this game, we’d probably not have seen any more continuations of the legendary Castlevania series.
Some things are just good – No matter how you look at it. Some things are good, but sorta not quite on the level as the above list. Whatever you think about our next two entries, they both were definitely well received additions to their respective franchises.
Bit of a polarising one, and would have been considerably less so if the practical effects work in the film had been left broadly untouched, because a lot of effort had been made to ape the style of the 1982 horror masterpiece. The 2011 prequel was actually very well written and directed, but there’s no question that thanks to studio fiddling it became a poster child for the evils of CGI against practical puppetry.
There’s still the air of mistrust and suspicion, and the terror of the beast. Watching it embrace someone and absorb him into its amorphous mass is grisly, and you feel the fear on the poor man’s face as he’s devoured. Watching someone’s head split open to reveal the lashing tendrils and rows of wicked teeth, knowing that three people are trapped in a helicopter with it is a tense moment unmatched in the ‘82 film. The CGI took a hefty chunk out of the enjoyability of The Thing prequel, but give it another shot, it’s still a damn good film.
Puss in Boots
When Shrek 2 came out, everybody was infatuated with the newest (and sassiest) character introduced. It was the lovable little orange fuzzball himself; Puss in Boots! We all loved him, from his cute eyes, to that little hat and the boots he wore. Oh and it helps that this cat bites back, with a razor sharp tongue and an equally as dangerous rapier. Yes, Puss in Boots is cute but deadly!
Of course, the Puss in Boots standalone film was considered a success. Similar to how the Minions movie was out not too long ago, there seems to be something to be said about lovable, cuddly mascot characters and their own films. Sure, Puss in Boots wasn’t anything special, but it gave you a bit more story about him in his own adventure.
Extra Honourable Mention
I knew I wanted to get a mention in to this film, because this is incredibly convoluted… And I wasn’t a fan of the film/s, but I know people who are fans of it… So I’m playing devil’s advocate today and giving an extra honourable mention to:
The Desolation of Smaug – What a fantastic title for a film! Of course, The Hobbit is a relatively average sized novel, featuring Bilbo Baggins and a crew of Dwarves. They go on journeys with Bilbo, who happens to be a Master Thief, in an attempt to save the Dwarves home. With the evil, dangerous Smaug in their home, it was up to Bilbo to steal a specific item to draw Smaug out so the Dwarves could reclaim their home.
It’s not a genius story and, in terms of chronological order, it was indeed a prequel to The Lord of the Rings… However, it’s not a prequel! The Hobbit was written first. When we came to Peter Jackson’s vision of the stories, he chose The Lord of the Rings to be translated to film. Then, many years on, he chose to go to The Hobbit to be the next trilogy. If only it was translated to one film.
So yes: It’s a prequel to The Lord of the Rings, but it’s actually not a prequel, as it was written first. So there!
If you thought I was originally good, you should have seen me before the original me! Whether or not you’re a fan of prequels, or if you think they’re a blatant way to spin some extra cash out of a story, they’ve been around for some time – and they won’t leave us any time soon. However, we’re now in the Christmas season – You know what that means, right? From next week onwards, our Top 10’s will be somewhat festive! Help us choose the first of our Festive Top 10’s:
That’s it for another week, we’ve gone back and re-examined the past and we’ve come to the conclusion that it was good. The future looks great, but the past was just stellar. But, what did you think of our Top 10 list this week? As always, if you think we missed any great options out, then let us know. Did we get the order right, or did we mess that up? As always, let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below, or over on Facebook and Twitter.
I’m not much of a platformer, I dabbled a little in Sonic in college, got on ok with Little Big Planet, but just occasionally I’ll spot one that appeals to my sensibilities. Stick It To The Man somehow wormed its way from Steam’s front page, onto my wishlist, onto my library…
Ray suffers head trauma on a professional level, standing in the path of falling objects in order to get some practical data on hard-hat effectiveness. It’s a noble and pointless profession that calls into doubt everything you experience. His world is flat and cardboard, and filled with bizarre characters and broken physics: cars that drive vertically, triplets who are fused together beyond merely being conjoined, and actual ghosts who attempt to lobotomise the living. Things get weird when an alien crash-lands onto Ray’s head, and gives him strange psychic powers.
With his strange, pink, spaghetti arm stretching from his forehead, he reads the minds of nearby people, tears away walls of paper, hop from platform to platform, and gathers stickers that are oddly representative of physical or psychological objects and concepts that are the basis of your inventory. You have to run and jump through a cardboard world, a city infested with agents hunting for you and the alien in your brain, and the inside of your own head to confront the hijacking alien and your fairly boring past.
Characters are pretty one dimensional, but they’re literally two dimensional, and there’s nothing here to take seriously in the slightest. The comedy is a little on the nose in places, in fact it may be a little over the top on the self-reference and fourth wall breaking, but it’s more than enjoyable enough to keep dragging me along for another chapter because I feel like this game has surprises for me before it’s over.
The off-colour and distorted characters running through a world of roughly cut cardboard, crayon drawings, and stickers that are falling off at the edges give a toy-like feel that brings to mind Little Big Planet. Psychonauts has its fingerprints solidly on Stick It, the art style is strongly reminiscent, as are the outlandish characters, and a comparison is inevitable when dealing with a puzzle-solving platformer with a telepathy theme. If you’re looking for further proof, just keep your eyes peeled for a taxidermied Double-Fine easter egg.
The animation is fairly clean, it gets a little ropy as objects bend and twist, but there’s no realism to uphold that would break immersion. Ray hangs a lampshade on the outlandishness of the world straight away by commenting on how he forgets how much jumping he has to do to get from home to work and back. It leaves you feeling immediately at home in a world that shouldn’t function, and you can forgive a lot of the bizarre logic, like passing objects to and from thought bubbles and charging a battery in the mind of a patient undergoing electroshock therapy.
Death is resolved by having a replacement of yourself printed at your most recent checkpoint.
I like a decent puzzle solver, one that rewards observation and deduction. Failing that I’ll take something relaxing that requires a moderate amount of thought, even if you’re working towards a punchline. For a game that spends so much time in brains it’s not very intellectually taxing, and most of the puzzles can be resolved with a “blunt object” approach of simply charging onward, thoroughly exploring, and trying everything you collect with everything you can interact with until something… well, sticks.
Between the mind reading, barrelling around the inside of your own head, and helping people with their lives, you spend intervening moments evading the goons of the vague-yet-menacing government agency who are out to arrest, detain, electrocute, and otherwise inconvenience you in an effort to retrieve the alien parasitically piggybacking in your cerebellum. They ramp up the tension, and give you a few moments of earnest platforming, making you jump and run through the cardboard city. You can use their own thoughts against them as a weapon to confuse or disable them temporarily, but for the most part you’ve just got to get out the way, and quickly.
There are a few moments where cut scenes occur too frequently. They’re short enough, but when you’ve walked no more than three steps from one to another you might as well wonder why they bothered, and more infuriatingly it’s for comical moments that serve no purpose whatsoever, and not even for the best jokes, which are rather well hidden and worth doing some extra exploring to find.
In short there’s nothing groundbreaking to be found here, but as a casual game that’s enjoyable without being overly demanding. It’s also worth the odd chuckle in between the more frustrating moments. I just broke out of a mental asylum, and things are starting to get very good! Worth picking up for sure, especially if you’re looking for something to tide you over while the tortuously long wait for Psychonauts 2 drags on.
Time wasting games for the mobile are one thing, but what about games you can also play on your browser? Looking for something quick and easy, with a lot of potential for building up the hours? Well buckle up, as this is a game that anyone can jump in and play. It’s a game that’s suitable for all ages, whilst being full of funny, quirky references which will have you smiling. I’m on about Little Alchemy 2, a game of combinations and brand new item creations.
Last week, dear reader, we spoke about the dangers of answering the door during All Hallows’ Eve. A time considered by many to be a fun, but devilishly devious. Where degenerates roam the streets, knocking on doors and demanding a delightful treat for making you get out of your cosy, warm living room and to face the dark abyss beyond the door. But not all dangers leave the house. For some, a Wonderland full of games and joy is as bad as a world of hurt and anguish.
Last week, we warned you of the horror’s of All Hallows Eve, by telling you the tale of Ness and Paula as they encountered the pumpkin villain, the Trick or Trick Kid. But what happens when you’re offered the chance for a treat? What happens when someone says those three fateful words to you: Trick or Treat? After last weeks’ horrific tale, this week comes one even more frightful, as we dive deep into Rapture.
October means horror games, and it doesn’t matter how much I love horror, I really have no stomach for horror games, I’d play Amnesia in twenty minute chunks, Little Nightmares gives me the shivers, and I’m stuck on Darkness Within: In Pursuit of Loath Nolder… but it’s also very creepy so I’m glad I’m stuck.
But when I tell you that I have just finished Layers of Fear, don’t think that it just didn’t grip me as much as other horror games, it certainly had me on edge, but I found that I was taken in by the narrative that was unwinding as I stumbled through rooms and corridors, and the difficulty was moderate enough that I could get through a single playthrough with a minimum of effort, but to play again will prove a lot harder. (more…)
I remember seeing the Beta of this Heat Signature and was really interested to see what it was like, once it was complete. Now that it’s out of Beta, I’ve gotten my hands on a copy of the game. So we ask the age-old question, was it worth the wait and more importantly is it worth the money?
Ever felt that heroes weren’t active enough? That they were all a little too sluggish; a little too slow to the action? Wouldn’t it just be better if you could fling a champion at a situation and let them do all of the hard work? Well then, this very specific scenario has finally got a solution, as we check out the mobile game for Android and iOS, Hyper Heroes. Is it any good, or is it a little too charged with sugar?