It happens to every franchise sooner or later. There’s been a few entries and the money behind the series is starting to run out of ideas. As everyone is sat around the production office wracking their brains for something new – maybe an adorable animal companion? A new love interest? Set the whole thing in Hawaii? – somebody bursts in with a brainwave that will change things for ever. “Hey guys!” they say, eyes wide and burning with genius. “What if we set the next sequel IN SPACE?”
This is how we got Jason: X, Moonraker, the fourth entries in the Critters, Hellraiser and yes, Leprechaun series, not to mention Dracula 3000 (don’t mention Dracula 3000). It is a move that can shoot for the stars or crash and burn in a crater somewhere.
At this years E3 we’re expecting to get a good look at Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, where the hyper-realistic, super accurate military FPS will, yes, being going into space. But even among videogames, Call of Duty is only going where many, many others have gone before…
Anyone who’s played Civilisation knows there are numerous ways to end the game, including crushing all opposition beneath your steel and possibly nuclear boots, creating diplomatic harmony among all the nations of the Earth, and of course, building a giant spaceship to go colonise foreign star systems. In 1999 Sid Meier decided to show us what actually happened to that spaceship with Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri.
This is actually one of the most successful in-space sequels, replacing nations and historical characters with a group of wildly conflicting ideologies, and giving players a technology tree that starts in our near future instead of our stone age.
It was so successful in fact that Firaxis decided to do it again with Civilisation: Beyond Earth in 2014.
Dragon’s Lair was one of the first entries into the bold new world of so called “laser disc” technology, which for a while was considered as futuristic as fax machines and DeLoreans. The animation was incredible, with Disney veteran Don Bluth on board, and it still holds up today. Sadly, what also holds up today is the game’s reliance on nano-second precise quick time events.
Space Ace gave us a space flavoured version of the game, with a “hilarious” “infanto-ray” and lots more really precisely timed button pressing.
You might not remember this, but before it was a time vampire of an MMORPG and a movie directed by David Bowie’s son, Warcraft was actually a real time strategy that pitted humans against orcs in a way that was totally not at all inspired by Warhammer’s orcs vs humans tabletop game (which in turn, totally didn’t wholesale rip off J.R.R Tolkien).
Soon after followed Starcraft, in which the player commanded power armoured humans that looked virtually nothing like Warhammer 40,000’s space marines, which were created by someone who’d never seen Aliens and almost certainly never read Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.
In a world where every school child will recognise the Italian plumber with a mushroom habit and the blue hedgehog with “attitude”, let us spare a thought for the forgotten platformer hero, James Pond. Taking a single, not very good pun and running with it as far they could go, they made an underwater secret agent platform game, then went full on surreal with James Pond: Codename Robocod, in which a bionic James Pond had to infiltrate Santa’s workshop, taking on evil toys and a bizarre amount of product placement for Penguin chocolate biscuits.
It wasn’t until that James went into space, however. His mission was to stop the evil Dr. Maybe (Y’know, like Dr. No, but… not) from stealing all the moon’s cheese. We’ll never know whether it was this game’s performance that put an end to the Pond franchise, or if they just ran out of fish puns…