Prison Break – The Conspiracy is the latest TV-to-videogame adaptation – convinced? Read on for our game review…
It would be daft to try and make a conservative estimate, but the number of good movie-to-videogame adaptations probably (even now) barely scrapes beyond a single digit. It’s a developer’s minefield, with several disparate audiences to please at once, tight and concrete schedules to maneuver around, and adherence to the whims of an eager-to-please Hollywood studio sitting at the top of a long list of priorities. If it is fair to say that movie adaptations very rarely strike gold, then it is equally fair to suggest that adaptations of popular TV series have literally never struck it.
Aspyr Media’s 2007 adaptation of smash-hit US cop show The Shield was a heinous dud that never got released outside of the US, and Sony’s 24 adaptation from 2006 was another flop. But that latter game did so much right that it ended up standing out as an ambitious but unfortunate near-miss. 24: The Game was even nominated for a BAFTA for its effective screenplay, and that script earned the title more than its fair share of very vocal fans. If a lesson was learnt with 24: The Game, it was that a strong storyline was the most important aspect of an adaptation like that.
To say that Prison Break: The Conspiracy is the best adaptation of a TV show ever made is not saying much, but fans of that series are likely to be very happy indeed with what’s on offer here. Those devotees are almost all in agreement about one thing – that the first season was easily the finest of the four – and the game’s story is a shrewd and clever-clever little exercise that weaves itself into the fabric of that first season’s primary plot.
You play as an entirely new character (Company agent Tom Paxton) who is sent into the Fox River Penitentiary in an undercover capacity, to try to unravel the mystery of what exactly Prison Break’s hero Michael Schofield is up to. It is spoiling nothing to reveal that Tom Paxton doesn’t survive through until the game’s end (the opening scene depicts his unfortunate demise) but how the game’s creators deal with this fact represents a very sharp knowledge of attention-grabbing pulp storytelling.
Prison Break: The Conspiracy gets one other thing very right too – sheer, pants-down stupidity. One of the very best things about Prison Break was how unbelievably daft it was. If you’ve never seen it, trust us, it was as thoroughly air-headed as The A-Team, and totally lovable for it. Here, you’ll be able to do utterly lunatic things like walk through air vents as if they were corridors, and watch as Tom Paxton verbally delivers the findings of his investigation into a Dictaphone that nobody at the prison seems interested in confiscating. If Prison Break had a tone when it was on TV, then Conspiracy nails it outright.
There is the odd technical hiccup (the game’s troubled history – with original developers Brash Entertainment going bust midway through production – is evident on occasion) but this is a game that is wholly dedicated to pleasing the fanbase of the show, largely via some well-paced and intelligent plotting. The majority of the actors from the original TV show lend both their voices and their (frankly uncanny) likenesses to the experience, adding serious weight to the authenticity of the project. Despite all of this, people unfamiliar with the show, and especially those who are waiting patiently for the next Splinter Cell outing to arrive, shouldn’t write-off the possibility of investigating either.
Watch the Prison Break – The Conspiracy trailer here…