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The Sandbox: When Games Become Movie Sequels

The Sandbox: When Games Become Movie Sequels (photo)

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Most games based on blockbuster movies just don’t deliver. Despite that, a new strain of cinema-related titles has been gaining traction over the last few years, and reached a head three days ago, when “Ghostbusters: The Video Game” hit store shelves: games that function as movie sequels. And it makes sense, since there are plenty of franchises still immensely popular with fans but, for whatever reason (lack of studio support; disinterest from the creative team), have never managed another big-screen outing.

That’s certainly the case with “Ghostbusters,” whose 1989 sequel made considerable money but disappointed many (including star Bill Murray), thereby closing the door on star/co-creator Dan Aykroyd’s dreams of future installments. Twenty years later, convinced a new film was highly unlikely, Aykroyd instead moved the Ghostbusters to the digitized realm. In the process, he convinced almost every principal player (save for Sigourney Weaver) to lend his or her voice and likeness to a fresh adventure. As those currently proton-packing their way through the game know, it operates as a genuine follow-up to “Ghostbusters 2,” taking place two years later and thrusting gamers into the role of a rookie ‘buster who joins the team to battle a supernatural menace threatening Manhattan.

For both movie and game buffs, getting to interactively experience a new story involving a beloved property is a win-win scenario, at least in theory. It’s also one that, thanks to improved technology and the legions of console owners out there, is right on the cusp of taking off. Of course, it’s not a new idea. Harrison Ford’s swashbuckling Indiana Jones, for example, is the king of non-movie sequels, having starred in games based on his first three films, as well as countless original escapades that have him questing around the globe, searching for lost artifacts and battling evildoers. From 1984’s Commodore 64 title “Indiana Jones in the Lost Kingdom” — a game that actually taunted would-be players about its difficulty on its box (“Nobody told INDIANA JONES the rules. And no one will tell you”) — to the Wii’s just-released “Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings,” the good Dr. Jones has headlined more game sequels than he has cinematic ones. While none of these stand-alone exploits have ever been overtly mentioned by their filmic counterparts, quite a few have sought to integrate themselves into the series’ timeline, most notably 2003’s “Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb,” whose conclusion provides a nice segue into “The Temple of Doom”‘s Shanghai opening.

06192009_StarWarsForceUnlea.jpgAssimilating game narratives into film franchise mythologies is the surefire way to create serious interest in these titles. It was without a doubt one of the main selling points of last year’s “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed,” in which you assumes the role of a secret Darth Vader apprentice, replete with all kinds of Force-related powers, during the period between “Episode III” and “IV.” LucasArts specifically certified “The Force Unleashed” as part of official “Star Wars” lore. Such a gesture may seem trivial to the casual observer, but to the die-hards that these games target, the endorsement that a story is a legit component of an overarching saga and not just an addendum is key to stoking appeal.

Despite only average-to-negative reviews, “Force Unleashed” became the bestselling “Star Wars” and LucasArts game of all time after only one week of sales, and the accompanying novelization — books being a more traditional venue for such spin-offs — topped the New York Times bestseller list upon its release. Brand, of course, had much to do with this success. But so too did the game’s status as part of the series’ official canon, a seal of approval that countless other, more highly regarded “Star Wars”-related titles failed to garner.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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