I still haven't quite gotten over how good Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is. Though it opens in UK theatres this weekend, I saw it just over a month ago before it became the hot topic of discussion, and was completely blindsided by its quality. Those going to see it now will have noted its Oscar nomination and heard corners of the internet praising its artwork and how it tackles mature themes, but even with some expectations ahead of you, Puss in Boots will blow them away. Without wanting to build these expectations up even higher, The Last Wish has the best technical animation I have seen in Western media post-Spider-Verse, and is surprisingly heartfelt and resonant in its delivery. Mostly though, I just want a video game of it.
Even though gaming is the bulk of my work, with film in second place, wanting a movie I like to become a game is not something I often advocate for. Despite triple-A gaming borrowing techniques from film as it attempts to grow in prestige, the two mediums are very different. Not only in major structural ways, such as narrative involvement and player agency, but in the ways they tell stories and expand on their characters. They're more similar than, say, television and sculpture, but all things considered there is still a vast canyon of differences to take into account.
However, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish falls into the sweet spot. Licensed games don't really exist anymore, because games take too long to make so they cannot reliably launch when the film drops. These have been replaced by property licences, like Guardians of the Galaxy or Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, which connect audiences with characters and universes they know from movies but don't follow any scripted storyline directly. I think Puss in Boots: The Last Wish makes for a relatively simple conversion to the video game form already, but I wouldn't object to a more general adaptation either.
The reason Puss in Boots works so well is it's a traditional call to action. Puss is down on his luck, needs to find a Macguffin to turn things around, groups together with a band of heroes, and battles against two foes chasing it themselves – one a complex group of characters with a variety of motivation and conflicts working together as a unit, and one big bad with more purely villainous overtones. For all The Last Wish brings variety and creativity, its story structure is extremely traditional, which makes it far easier to transfer across mediums.
Another key element of The Last Wish is the map, which drives most of the second half of the movie. To reach the titular Last Wish, the characters must travel through three different zones. The only issue is whenever someone new holds the map, these locations will change literally underfoot. This happens a couple of times in the film, always making for exciting set pieces (this changing of hands also means the three groups of characters will be fighting over the map's ownership), but a video game could explore it much more. Fresh biomes and alternate environment behaviour are standard in video games, and a mechanic that allowed you to change them on the fly – either to your advantage, or in ways that forced you to deal with new obstacles – could be explored deeper in a user-controlled medium like video games.
It feels the most perfectly suited movie to the video game format since Raya and the Last Dragon, and it's a shame tie-in games have changed into much bigger, much rarer projects. Gaming and film have always been able to crossover in interesting ways, and it will be disappointing if the future of that is just triple-A projects emulating action movies.
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