Today marks the twentieth anniversary of the North American theatrical release of the first Men in Black film, a day when a comic book property that no one probably really knew about became a multi-billion dollar franchise that showed that Will Smith owned the fourth of July weekend (well, until Wild Wild West anyway). Over the past week I’ve looked at six different MIB games across many different consoles and handhelds, and while there’s other games in the franchise on cell phones, PC and European PlayStation’s, the titles that I looked at are the ones that are still easily playable today, provided of course you have the respective console in which to play them on. What Men in Black games are worth playing and which should be forgotten? Well, if you’ve been reading the review series you can probably tell, but I’ve broken down the best, and worst, Men in Black games in this convenient list and also shown the devices in which each game can be played on.
6) MEN IN BLACK: ALIEN CRISIS (FULL REVIEW)
REVIEWED ON: XBOX 360
PLAYABLE ON: PS3/Wii/XBOX 360
It was a toss up between Alien Crisis and the first (and only) MIB Game Boy Advance title for the last spot, but while I feel Alien Crisis is a far more playable game, it’s also exponentially more cynical. You can’t get really worked up over a hastily thrown together Game Boy Advance game from the early 2000’s as games like that made up a lot of the GBA library, but Alien Crisis is an ugly, short, obvious cash-in game that Activision had the audacity of asking upwards of $60 for. It’s no wonder that there’s no shortage of copies of this game in bargain bins everywhere. Alien Crisis’ boring, cover-based shooting gameplay wouldn’t even be worth a few quarters had it been an arcade game, which this title very much has its roots in.
5) MEN IN BLACK: THE SERIES (GAME BOY ADVANCE) (FULL REVIEW)
REVIEWED ON: GAME BOY ADVANCE
PLAYABLE ON: GAME BOY ADVANCE/NINTENDO DS/NINTENDO DS LITE
The third portable Men in Black game is easily the worst, which is surprising given how it’s on far superior hardware than the two games that came before it. With its confusing level designs, cheap fall damage deaths and convoluted controls that feature among other things no jump button and having to hold down a shoulder button to draw your weapon in order to shoot like a Resident Evil game, the MIB shouldn’t have to erase your memory of this game as there’s no reason to play it in the first place.
4) MEN IN BLACK: THE SERIES (GAME BOY COLOR) (FULL REVIEW)
REVIEW ON: GAME BOY ADVANCE
PLAYABLE ON: GAME BOY/GAME BOY COLOR/GAME BOY ADVANCE
Men in Black: The Series for the Game Boy isn’t the first MIB game, but it was the first that was playable on any North American dedicated gaming device. Released around the time that the Game Boy Color was launched in 1998, MIB: The Series didn’t take full advantage of the hardware (that wouldn’t happen until its sequel) but still has a decent color palette when played on anything other than a monochrome Game Boy and also has some nice, short FMV compressed transitions that were very impressive for the time. Outside of it looking nice though, this is a very basic, short side-scroller where you’ll do little more in than slowly walk from left to right, occasionally stopping to shoot some aliens. and it won’t take you very long to see everything this game has to offer, as well as its ending. If you’ve looking for an MIB game to play on the go, play this game’s far superior sequel.
3) MEN IN BLACK 2: THE SERIES (GAME BOY COLOR) (FULL REVIEW)
REVIEW ON: GAME BOY ADVANCE
PLAYABLE ON: GAME BOY COLOR/GAME BOY ADVANCE
I didn’t play the portable Men in Black games in order, and after the abysmal Men in Black: The Series on the Game Boy Advance, Men in Black 2: The Series on the Game Boy Color was a pleasant surprise. Though it’s not a game I would say everyone needs to play, it’s still a recommendable and somewhat challenging 2-D action plat-former. After you get adjusted to the fact that jump and shoot are reversed from what they traditionally are in these type of games, you’ll find a game with a lot more going on than either the game that came before or after it. You can jump, precisely even, there’s interesting power-ups to play with that you’ll need to experiment with to get through levels and even some interesting boss encounters. If you can find this game for cheap, I would say give it a look.
2) MEN IN BLACK II: ALIEN ESCAPE (PS2) (FULL REVIEW)
REVIEWED ON: PS2
PLAYABLE ON: PS2/GAMECUBE/Wii (VIA BACKWARDS COMPATIBILITY)
I recall reading the review for Men in Black II: Alien Escape all the way back in 2002 in EGM where it was given a high score by at least one reviewer for its Contra inspired gameplay:
In finally getting around to playing Alien Escape, I would say that James “Milkman” Mielke is not entirely wrong. At its core, Men in Black II: Alien Escape does a better job of capturing the run-and-gun feel of games like Contra than even Konami itself did when they tried to bring that series into the third-dimension. While its moment-to-moment gameplay is fun, Alien Escape has some flaws that keep it at the just above average mark. Its levels for one, are far too long and because each has multiple parts that you can’t save between, it can get tedious in long play sessions. This game also sorely misses the one thing that a game like this was made for, even more so that it has two main characters: co-op. Despite its flaws however, Men in Black II: Alien Escape is a fun, arcade shooter that I’m sure a lot of people probably passed over when it was new because it was more than likely seen as little more than a throw away movie tie-in. It would be a decade before that game came out (see number six).
1) MEN IN BLACK: THE SERIES – CRASHDOWN (FULL REVIEW)
REVIEWED ON: PLAYSTATION 2
PLAYABLE ON: PSOne/PS2/PS3
Released when the PS2 was getting games like Grant Theft Auto III, Metal Gear Solid 2 and Silent Hill 2 alongside the launch of the GameCube and original Xbox, you probably didn’t even know that Men in Black: The Series – Crashdown on the original PlayStation even existed. I for one didn’t know about this game until this year, and I’m very glad that I found it as Crashdown is a solid first-person shooter that uses the Men in Black license better than any other game on this list, animated series or otherwise. Broken up into small chapters that feel like mini episodes, Crashdown captures the episodic nature of the show superbly while providing context to the constant shifting of environments, one of which is my favorite in any MIB game where you’re shrunk down and are in a garden where everyday objects are huge.. Once you change the controls from the default to the more traditional twin-stick set up that is common on console FPS’ today, Crashdown controls surprisingly well for a PSOne game, though there is a lock-on that makes getting more precise shots troublesome. Crashdown starts off fairly easy, but has a difficulty curve that ramps up appropriately where every shot in your arsenal of alien busting technology counts. If you have to play only one MIB game or a sucker for vintage first-person shooters, Men in Black: The Series – Crashdown is well worth a look.