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Some people find the story walkthroughs as lacking in excitement, since they already know what's going to happen. This flaw is inherent in the game Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective, which pits you against Holmes in 10 scenarios where you try to find the right clues and solve the puzzle before (or, more realistically, at the same time as) the great detective himself. The main problem is that once you play the whole game through, you're done. There's no way you can play a mystery twice, since you already know the answers going in (unless you're one of those people who likes to cheat, and then you can get a sense of false superiority when you beat Holmes).
Licensed games are, honestly, just like regular games. There are some wonderful ones, and there are some real dogs. The issue is if we like the license, we expect everything connected to it to be wonderful, too, down to the plastic Burger King cups. Even if we know in our hearts that the novelization of a science fiction movie isn't going to be as good as the movie, we still hope and expect it to be. And that's what the marketers want.
It's easy to slap a Harry Potter on something and hope it will succeed. Often, these products are purchased not by the user, but by a well-meaning relative or friend. "He likes that hobbit movie thing, so he'll probably like the shot glasses with the four hobbits' heads on them. It'll match those hobbit sheets I got him last year." But marketers don't care where the money comes from, they just care that it does. So licensing works.
Kids' games are a different animal, however. Studies have shown that kids will prefer green ketchup simply because it's green, even though taste tests show it doesn't taste as good as regular ketchup. Novelty goes a long way, and if kids are drowning in passion for Eragon and A Series of Unfortunate Events, they will probably enjoy anything you give them with those stamps on it. On the other hand, kids also have a sharp eye for crap and will turn up their noses to something that doesn't meet their mysterious standards as they slather their fries with green ketchup.
Gamers need to consider what they want out of a game; do they want to retell a popular story or do they just want to run amok in the world they'd enjoyed reading about?
And really, like with any big purchase (don't laugh; many board games are $50 or more these days) you'll want to do your research. Check out boardgamegeek.com for ratings, check out your Friendly Local Gaming Store for opinions. And if all the ratings say it's crap and you simply must have the game based on the latest werewolf chick lit, well, you might still like it. I liked Hudson Hawk, after all.
Mur Lafferty is a freelance writer and podcast producer. She has dabbled in as much gaming as possible while working with Red Storm Entertainment and White Wolf Publishing. Currently she writes freelance for several gaming publications and produces three podcasts. She lives in Durham, NC.