Feature: 5 Videogames which abused literary classics

Some games are the endless sequels to shoot man titles and some simulate sports. Some games are marketing grabs and tie-in to films and some are based on original ideas.

There is a very small group of games which are based on books, such as the excellent Spec Ops: The Line, other games aren’t so faithful to the source material. Introducing 5 video games which abused literary classics…

Dante's Inferno Xbox 360 Front Cover

Dante’s Inferno

Dante Alighieri’s Inferno has no connection to the 2010 game of the same name. None. Dante wasn’t a crusader; Dante didn’t stitch a red cross into his chest; Dante never fought demons; Dante never frees the devil and then re-imprison him after an epic final boss battle.

The poem is an allegory for a man who has lost his way and a recent history and criticism of 14th century Florence. It’s understandable why Visceral Games raided the Divine Comedy, its three canticles are rightly classed as a poetic epic creating a living world across the three plains of existence beyond the grave.

Furthermore,whether it be Gustave Doré or Stradanus the wealth of related art is such an asset to game design. But if you want to experience Alighieri’s masterpiece don’t play this game. Instead try  and find a copy of the Sandow Birk-inspired puppetry movie or  William Blake’s greatest but uncompleted illustrations.

American McGee's Alice Windows Front Cover

American McGee’s Alice

Alice in Wonderland is actually a dark and twisted tale… sound familiar it should it an vein that is repeatedly mined. Whether its Tim Burton, Marilyn Manson or the preposterously named American McGee, although I’d be the first to admit the three have connections, I’m sick and tired of this imagining of Lewis Carroll’s world.

I like the Disney animated movie of a vibrant and colorful Wonderland. Making the story dark, with the justification that Carroll was a complicated character is rote. Quite why Americans and American want to justify “Carroll’s … evident fascination with little girls” is beyond me.

Let’s keep Alice in Wonderland as a fantastical, whimsical fairytale, reading any further into it just makes me queasy.

Frank Herbert's Dune Windows Front Cover

Frank Herbert’s Dune

Frank Herbert’s Dune (the video game) killed Cryo Interactive. The game has the same problem as a raft of other media apeing the novel, in that in attempts to emulate the complex story and world of Frank Herbert’s Dune (the book).

Some things are difficult to bring to a different media, even with the greatest talent attached. Cyro Interactive didn’t have the greatest talent and put the game on a pedestal before release by citing the author in the title. Sure, the game faithfully follows the plot of the novel, but so did Zack Snyder’s Watchmen and ignores the fact that you have to amend print source material to apply it successfully a new, visual and interactive media.

Adventures of Tom Sawyer NES Front Cover

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain and also Winkysoft on the NES. The former, one of the great American classics, the latter is homage published in 1989 by SETA. I could say homage, but aside from the racism in both, the two are nigh on unconnected.

In Winkysoft’s take on Twain’s novel, Tom’s is asleep and dreaming of rescuing Becky from ‘Injun John’ rather than stories of a young lad’s adventures. Through the insufferable storytelling device of it all being a dream, the character faces monstrous water-life, mythological beasties and revenants. None of which is recognisable to any American literary scholar.

Similar separation from source material occurs in The Great Gatsby and deserves an honorable mention for abusing the other American classic if it wasn’t an elaborate hoax.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West Xbox 360 Front Cover

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

The British title garnered a fistful of nominations in the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences’ (AIAS) annual Interactive Achievement Awards (IAAs) back in 2011. The prestigious Cambridge-based Ninja Theory almost did everything right with Enslaved.

The game looks beautiful and sounds fantastic, with top notch voice acting from Andy Serkis and Lindsey Shaw. Enslaved was written by one of the greatest English screenwriters, Alex Garland, who has created some of the best films since 2000. Garland’s Enslaved is based on Wu Cheng’en’s Journey to the West, a seminal piece of Chinese literature.

Sure, its a cracking video game, but perhaps because of Garland’s oeuvre, it takes place in a post-apocalyptic world. One of the most over-used setting in games – which is a shame because the Tang Dynasty would be far more unique.


Featured image is sourced from an article titled Reading the Classics: It’s more than just fun found on the MSU Today website.

Game covers are sourced from Mobygames.com.

All images used without permission, please contact squareblind (at) email (dot) com if you are the copyright holder and wish this to be removed.


One response to “Feature: 5 Videogames which abused literary classics

  1. Pingback: Feature: Five Strange Musician-Led Videogames – squareblind·

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