The video-game store looks more like a multiplex during the summer months, with just about every blockbuster action movie getting an interactive tie-in. More than half of the films on last week's box-office top 10 list have related games. Next weekend, you'll be able to watch Pixar's "Up" on the big screen, then grab the game on your way home.
Movie games, deservedly, have a bad reputation, one that hasn't been improved this year by the duds based on "Watchmen" and "Monsters vs. Aliens." And none of the offerings here delivers the kind of quality you get from a truly original AAA production like, oh, Sony's "inFamous."
Since none of the movies here are Oscar-caliber, perhaps it's unfair to hold the related games to a higher standard. Then again, most of them cost a lot more than a movie ticket.
"Terminator Salvation" (Warner Bros., for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, $59.99): As John Connor, humanity's future savior, you're on an ill-defined mission two years before the events of the film. With the help of a squad of resistance fighters, you move from one wasteland to another, blasting robots and ducking fire.
For most of the game, you're fighting three kinds of machines, and their patterns quickly become predictable. Occasionally you'll encounter larger machines, but there's not much strategy involved in taking them down. And you aren't permitted to explore beyond a very restricted, linear path through the adventure, which abruptly ends after a mere five hours. "Terminator Salvation" feels like a classic rush job. Two stars out of four.
"Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" (Majesco, for the Xbox 360, Wii, $39.99): This may be the most laid-back movie tie-in I've ever played. It's essentially a series of puzzles, as museum guard Larry Daley uses his multipurpose flashlight to unlock hidden doors, repair broken artifacts or tame animals.
Besides working your way through the story (barely longer than the movie), you can collect a lot of junk and pick up some dubious history lessons. The gameplay feels flat, and the jokes are really tired. One star.
"X-Men Origins: Wolverine" (Activision, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, $59.99): Marvel's mutton-chopped man-beast makes a good video-game hero, with his acrobatic moves and built-in weaponry. And Activision has done a fine job of capturing him in this fast-paced hack-and-slash adventure.
Parents, beware: This game is unbelievably gory on the high-definition consoles. The Wii version is less bloody, but also a lot less entertaining. Three stars.
"Star Trek D-A-C" (Paramount, for the Xbox 360, $10): In this top-down outer-space shoot-'em-up, you pick a side - Federation or Romulan - and then fly around blasting other spaceships. The "D-A-C" stands for death match, assault, conquest, the three modes you can play. It's more like multiplayer "Asteroids" than "Star Trek," and it won't hold your interest. One star. *