Get more out of your favorite shows with these TV-based iPhone app games

Jan 7, 2010
Games

Webisodes aren’t the only way to get more mileage out of your favorite TV shows online. Increasingly, the big networks are starting to realize the spending power of their tech-savvy fans, and like videogames based on movies before them, more and more TV shows are being turned into iPhone games. But are these logical extensions […]

Webisodes aren’t the only way to get more mileage out of your favorite TV shows online. Increasingly, the big networks are starting to realize the spending power of their tech-savvy fans, and like videogames based on movies before them, more and more TV shows are being turned into iPhone games. But are these logical extensions of the programs, or merely a slapped-together cash-in iPhone app with a familiar logo and theme song?

The Office Challenge (99 cents), sadly, falls into the latter category. Not that a paper company in Scranton, Pennsylvania sounds like a particularly fun setting for a game, but Steve Carell and its creators have found a surprisingly endless tapestry of inspiration in that unassuming city. Its iPhone game, though, is merely content to ape mini-game compilations—it’s like a third-rate “WarioWare,” but with considerably more yawn-inducing games: As Kevin, Dwight, Jim, or Pam (who must all be unlocked), you must catch faxes, stomp on boxes, or … yes, catch faxes with a single tap on the screen. Also, the game appears to be created by a team who has never seen the show, but only heard what its characters look like second-hand—everything here is a goofy caricature of its source material. Also, “You have unlocked Dwight” may be the single most boring sentence in the English language.

Dwight might enjoy Ambush (free), a game that ties into the “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” universe, but he might go back to catching faxes after giving this iPhone app more than a cursory spin. The ideas in play are commendable, but fall flat: The iPhone game works in tandem with a dedicated Web site, wherein computer players hunt around for their iPhone counterparts by predicting where in the virtual city the GPS will plant them. Tracking and terminating your friends sounds fun, but it’s all cause and effect—there’s no way to interact with them otherwise.

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Dexter The Game ($5.99) is more of a step in the right direction. Naturally, you take on the titular role, Dexter Morgan, a blood-spatter analyst for the Miami Police Department with a dark side: He’s a serial killer, and goes after the bad guys who have slipped through the system and continue to kill other innocent people. The game follows most of the Showtime’s show’s first season, so without any spoilers, know this: You meticulously hunt for the aforementioned creeps, cover your tracks, and go about your business at the MPD. The price is a little high, but it’s well worth it for obsessed “Dexter” fans.

CSI: Miami (99 cents) is a more middle-of-the-road option, but it still warrants a look. Although there’s only one case in the entire game to investigate as Horatio Caine, it is a lengthy one if you only play on your iPhone intermittently. And while none of the actors from the show reprise their roles here, it’s still a decent enough experience. Peruse crime scenes, analyze evidence, and just about everything else you need to do is accomplished by dragging your finger along the screen, which will rumble or unveil something sparkly to indicate that, duh, you need to take a look at it. Your hand is held pretty consistently through the whole process, but it’s fun in a “Where In The World Is Carmen San Diego?” kind of way.

The Simpsons Arcade ($4.99) will make Simpsons nerds’ hearts give out for a second, but before you hit the floor in excitement, note that this is not a port of the exceedingly awesome “Simpsons” arcade game by Konami in 1991. But buck up: This is still a fun take on a franchise that has long since run dry, and it’s still a side-scrolling beat-‘em-up. It pays homage to its predecessor by once again centering around an accidental collision between Homer and Mr. Smithers—this time involving a doughnut stuffed with a very important and evil USB drive filled with top-secret information. After nearly being run over by Mayor Quimby’s car, Homer naturally notes that any doughnut worth being almost killed over must be his. The rest of the game is just as funny, which helps entice playing longer in what is always a repetitive genre. If only the same held true of the TV show.

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David Wolinsky

David Wolinsky is the Chicago city editor for The Onion's A.V. Club and is also the  undisputed 1994 Blockbuster store champion at collecting bananas in Donkey Kong Country.

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