Back in 1998, there’s a movie about an asteroid that’s going to crash on Earth. It’s so huge, the impact could result in Armageddon. So a team of every-day Americans was sent out to space to blow out the asteroid before it reaches Earth.
Scratch that, for some reason, there’s two movies with this same plotline, released closely together. Armageddon, and Deep Impact. What a coincidence these two movies were tackling the same oddball but action-packed story. There’s a term for these kinds of phenomenon. It’s called Twin Films.
I am no movie buff, but these two are not the only coincidental pairing of similar content being released closely together, there are many cases for videogames as well! Here’s a few notable case, that can be stretched as gaming equivalents of Twin Films. Twin Games perhaps?
Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy, Second Sight
First Released: 2004
Similarity: Psychic Powers
At the time, I followed closely to the development of Second Sight, a game developed by Free Radical- former members of Rare that made the PS2 launch title TimeSplitters- as their take of a more serious, third person action game involving psychic abilities.
But suddenly from nowhere comes Psi-Ops The Midgate Conspiracy, a game developed by Midway that also heavily themed by psychic powers. It’s a no-holds barred third-person shooter where your main man picks up psychic powers along the way to kill more soldiers.
Despite both games having different tones, it’s a surprise how many similar psychic powers are implemented. Of course, the mainstrays like telekinesis appears in both games, but some other powers appear similarly, but have a different twist. Both have a mysterious plot about how the protagonists gained their powers too.
Which was the better game? While I prefer Second Sight for its plot and gameplay structure, it controls feels wonky even for its time, as reflected in reviews. Psi Ops had a goofier story but its psi powers feel overwhelmingly powerful and fun. Brain draining enemies for extra psi juice until their heads explode is a highlight.
First Release: 2009
Similarity: Open-world adventure with superpowered protagonist, oddly stylised names
inFAMOUS was a daring step forward from Sucker Punch. Moving on from the cartoony games they developed in the PS2 era, inFAMOUS offers an open world to explore with your delivery-boy turned superhero/villain protagonist. Cole McGrath has electricity-themed powers that can help him float, grind power lines, and throw and shoot orbs of electricity to take out foes. Whether he becomes a hero or an infamous is up to you.
Then apparently [PROTOTYPE] was also of the similar vibe. Your protagonist is infected with some genetic experiments that made him evolve odd appendages at his whim. The open world city is also under attack, this one by a genetic monstrosity. Your protagonist here does not have any leaning of morality, but he indeed turned heel and became the main baddie in its sequel.
The obvious comparison was called out by videogame critic, sometimes game designer, and fast talker Yahtzee (who is also credited for coining the “PC Master Race” moniker). In his Zero Punctuation review of [PROTOTYPE], he sent the devs a challenge on who could draw the other game’s protagonist in a bra better, after failing to give a verdict on which is a better game. Both sides accepted the challenge.
Crash Bandicoot and Spyro The Dragon, Jak & Daxter and Ratchet & Clank, Uncharted and Resistance (Basically, Naughty Dog & Insomniac Games)
Now this is a bit cheating, since none of the pair of games released in the same year. But these Twin Studios have trod in similar roads for a long while. Both did an odd game (or more) before striking a deal with Universal Studios. Then both released a cartoon platformer that later defined as mascots of Playstation. Then they made a platformer series that involves a protagonist and a sidekick, which in later instalments, went heavily-focused on combat. Once the PS3 was launched, both break tradition from making cartoony platformers to using realistic characters, and a more serious plot.
(Also, Uncharted and Resistance are a stretch. They’re not one of the 5 pairs of games included in the list. Outside of both game devs’ similar road of progression, the two games are incomparable and plays differently.)
Currently though, both have ventured into separate ways. Naughty Dog remains a first party developer under Sony, and focused in developing the Uncharted series, and quite possibly, another The Last Of Us which the was a new IP they went for in favour of reviving Jak & Daxter. Insomniac on other the hand went independent, released a lacklustre multi-platform shooter called Fuse, and then made a zany third person shooter as a Xbox-One exclusive, Sunset Overdrive. They have a VR game in the works, a new IP, and still pumping out Ratchet & Clank games, with the upcoming Ratchet & Clank reboot (The Game Based On The Movie Based On The Game).
Release: Possibly 2016
Similarity: Cartoony FPS with zany characters and focus on character abilities
Now this is the Twin Games of Tomorrow (at the time of this writing). Battleborn was first announced as a “hobby-grade” FPS with MOBA elements. From the team behind the FPSRPG Borderlands, it is showing that the attention to detail was being put in extra on the characters. Each one have its own perks, personality, gimmicks, and an entirely different look. Like MOBAs, the key here is how to use each character’s unique ability.
Then, Blizzard came in to announce its new IP in years, Overwatch. Picking up from the remnants of the abandoned MMO Project Titan, in which no official details have ever been released to public, the team formed a fun game of FPS with a focus of, again, character abilities. Plus, the list of characters available also have the Pixar-like quality as well.
Maybe it’s unfair to compare these two titles as both have different systems outside of the FPS/ MOBA distinction, but to the untrained eye, most people would be mistaken one for the other. I knew a few people who had the same problem, including myself.
Is it unfortunate that similar games are released closely together? Maybe not so, in the biased examples that have been presented. It’s always a pressure to developers when two games are compared head-to-head, but in the end, it’s not always that similar. Great minds think alike, I always say, but the implementation can be different and unique on their own way.
Plus it will lead to more coverage to the comparable games, as they may get mentioned, referenced, or even mixed up for one and the other each time either game is talked about. As long as both are competent games in the first place, that’ll lead to good press, which is always a good thing.
Any other pairs of similar games released closely together? Mention one that I miss in the comments below.