Quentin Tarantino's breakthrough 1992 debut Reservoir Dogs doesn't exactly scream video game adaptation. The tale of a botched heist where someone is a mole is a splendid whodunnit where a ragtag crew of codenamed goons question how everything went pear-shaped. Set almost entirely in a single location, Reservoir Dogs is a very talky film. There's violence, sure, but nothing in the way of a typical action sequence. Nothing that could easily be translated into a video game.
That hasn't stopped Barcelona-based developer Big Star Games (whose only title to its name is a the short film spin-off Fist of Jesus: The Bloody Gospel of Judas) from trying to make a game out of Reservoir Dogs anyway. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't make a lick of sense.
In this top-down action game spin-off, Reservoir Dogs: Bloody Days, you play as the black-suited Dogs going on a string of heists prior to the jewelry store that kicks off the events of the film, nevermind the fact that in the movie the titular gang is primarily comprised of strangers who just met ahead of their assignment. Hence the codenames.
Speaking of codenames, that's the only thing the cast of this video game has in common with its silver screen counterparts as Big Star Games only has the rights to the Reservoir Dogs license, but not the rights to any of the actors' likenesses. As such, the cast here looks completely unlike how they did in the movie. Mr. Pink, for example, is a blonde man with a goatee, not the clean-shaven neurotic famously portrayed by Steve Buscemi.
When asked about this at a GDC meeting, Big Star Games' CEO Liam Patton told Eurogamer "From a financial and business perspective it's an extra hurdle. It's called royalties, to get a Hollywood actor. But this is an interactive product. It needs to be fun, whether you play with an actor or Donald Duck."
"It needs to be fun. That is the main goal," he continues. "I would have loved to get the characters' looks, but if we don't it's not a nuisance. In the end it's a business reason. The extra expense you need to do versus the potential sales that you get, it's something we analyse very, very carefully. And we said 'no.'"
But if you can't get the characters to look the way they do in the source material, why even make this a Reservoir Dogs game? Why not make it a completely new IP?
"We all love Reservoir Dogs at the studio and when we pitched it we got to know Lionsgate," Patton tells me, noting that the movie studio greenlit the idea on its first pitch. That said, he admits that Bloody Days isn't canon.
"They said we didn't have the rights to invent whether Brown's mother got kidnapped or there are three Mexican standoffs instead of one. But the concept was approved because we are not inventing any background stories. We just jump into the action."
"We think that it's a fresh angle in 2017 to a movie that was done 25 years ago."
There is one mechanic that ties into the film thematically, if not narratively. The movie is heavy on flashbacks, with plenty of rewinding to different scenes during the heist and the days proceeding it. This inspired Big Star to utilise a rewind mechanic reminiscent of Super Time Force.
In Reservoir Dogs: Bloody Days, you play as two or three characters per mission, switching off between them. You begin as one, let's say Mr. Blonde, and play for several seconds as you infiltrate the stage. After that, you rewind and this time you're in the shoes of a different Dog and can interject as events replay just as they did beforehand. So if last time Mr. Blonde got shot in the back by a cop coming around the right, this time you can be ready and take out the five-oh before they open fire on your comrade.
It's a unique take that effortlessly blends turn-based and real-time combat. It's a little hard to wrap one's head around at first, but after 20 minutes with Bloody Days it soon becomes second nature to put one man in harm's way then rewind and use their gruesome fate as a decoy to pull off the perfect heist. On this level, Reservoir: Bloody Days shows promise, even if the production values are clunky and uninspired.
Reservoir: Bloody Days has about as much to do with Groundhog Day as it does Reservoir Dogs, but there are still some really smart ideas hidden underneath this questionable licensing ploy. The connection to Reservoir Dogs may be tenuous, but from my half-hour of playing it, Bloody Days' design rises above the cash-in that it resembles.