The player

 

Alice, Gatsby and Godot are some of the beloved fictional characters given new life in gaming, writes JOE GRIFFIN

AT THE RECENT EA Spring Showcase, a young woman in an old-fashioned blue dress and what appeared to be a blood-stained apron could be seen wandering around. “Eh, hi . . . how are you?” one journalist asked her.

“Oh not good,” she replied. “My parents have perished in a house fire and I am soon to be committed.” She was playing Lewis Carroll’s Alice, or at least the version that appears in American McGee’s Alice. The game, a platform adventure that mixes surreal, Gothic horror with imagery from the beloved book, sold more than a million copies in 2000. At one stage, both Wes Craven and Sarah Michelle Gellar wanted to adapt it for film, but that seems to have been shelved. Meanwhile, its sequel, to be released by EA later this year, is eagerly anticipated.

Videogames have a rich history of resurrecting fictional characters in a fresh context, not strictly in sequels, but in strange spin-offs and reinventions.

There was some excitement this year when the Great Gatsbyvideogame resurfaced online. Originally an 8-bit title for the old Nintendo, the game is a platform adventure in which Nick Carraway fends off malevolent butlers and hobos. Though it offers little new insight into the book, it does have a few sly nods to the source material, and the game-play is great.

Developers frequently sacrifice faithfulness for game-play in these adaptations, as shown in the Waiting for Godotgame. The ponderous theatre piece has been transformed into (you guessed it) a platform adventure. It’s livelier than Samuel Beckett’s original, though I hear it’s impossible to track down Godot, so it’s faithful in that regard.

For more respectful spin-offs, you are better off looking at film characters’ appearances in games. The marvellous Stranglehold is a belated sequel to the action classic, Hard Boiled. The game is like a typical John Woo film, and its star Chow Yun Fat even lends his voice and likeness to Detective “Tequila” Yuen.

Woo’s involvement in Strangleholdis vague, but other filmmakers are happy to be hands-on in their game spin-offs. Lars Von Trier promised to continue the harrowing story of Antichrist in Eden.The sequel would appear in game form only. Sadly, that game has been shelved. And let’s not forget Disney’s Kingdom Heartsgames, which feature Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and even Captain Jack Sparrow.

theplayer@irishtimes.com