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Adaptation Logic

Adaptation Logic (photo)

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Both “Alien vs. Predator” films were by and large disposable mash-up exercises, undone by plots that couldn’t convincingly meld the two series’ worlds and directors who paled in comparison to the ones behind the creatures’ original solo outings. But in theory, this marriage of H.R. Giger’s acid-blooded beasts and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s camouflage-happy intergalactic nemesis is a solid one.

For the best evidence of that fact, you’ll have to look to the game world — the 1999 PC/Mac title of the same name and its recent remake, which allows you to play as a marine, an alien or a predator. It’s a title that, like its predecessor, cannily plays to the strengths of its chosen properties, recognizing that both James Cameron’s “Aliens” and John McTiernan’s “Predator” feature scenarios and action tailor-made for the gaming realm. And this new game’s success at recreating the visceral excitement of its source materials raises an interesting question — what makes a film ideally suited, or wholly inappropriate, for video game treatment?

Games based on film licenses tend to be pretty wretched. Yet given the arrival of “Aliens vs. Predator,” a film-based game that not only works but, more importantly, makes logical sense as a project to begin with, it’s clear that some films are just a better fit for the interactive realm.

The more you look at the anomalies that have succeeded in both film and games, the more it becomes clear that they share a few common traits. These aren’t hard and fast laws, and there are still countless examples of films that, though seemingly perfect for a game adaptation, wound up with horrific PC or console iterations. Here are some obvious — and yet far too often ignored — truths about the way to go about making games based on films.

03122010_SimpsonsGame.jpgThe first thing game developers looking to adapt a film should ask is: does it have any action or drama that naturally lends itself to gameplay? The “Alien” and “Predator” films blend action, horror and suspense, making it easy for their games to blend firearm conflict, hand-to-hand combat, stealth action and survival horror scares. Making a faithful adaptation means making a game that’s also faithful to traditional gameplay mechanics — no tinkering or random changes to the properties necessary.

This may also be why something like EA’s 2007 “The Simpsons Game” — notable for its story’s meta-gaming critique — was just a ho-hum diversion. It couldn’t overcome the fact that Homer, Bart, Lisa and Marge just aren’t meant to be fighters. Forcing Matt Groening’s clan to navigate punch-kick-shoot sagas makes no sense, a situation that plagues just about any adaptation of a film or TV show that doesn’t have action somewhere near its core.

Because so many popular game genres revolve around high-octane battle, films with slam-bang set-pieces and chaotic mayhem are often the surest fit for translation. But that’s not really enough — that action translates best when it speaks directly to a particular gaming style.

03122010_aladdin.jpgThe 1993 Genesis classic “Aladdin” thrived because the film’s various centerpieces all involved running, jumping and magic carpet-riding that fit the mechanics of a “Mario”-style platformer. James Bond’s stylish intrigue, fast-paced gunplay and globetrotting fit a first-person shooter’s need for one-against-many odds and a range of environments for large-scale firefights — a prime reason “GoldenEye 007” for the N64 remains one of the all-time great console titles.

And though its track record is more than a tad spotty, the “Star Wars”‘ sundry iconic action elements — lightsaber duels, spaceship skirmishes, force-power fights — make the franchise adaptable to numerous types of different games, whether they focus on just one of those dynamic components (as in the Gamecube’s excellent starfighter title “Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader”) or meld different styles into an omnibus-type effort (like “Star Wars Trilogy Arcade,” replete with a lightsaber showdown with Darth Vader).

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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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