Philips CD-i Reviews A-D

7th Guest, The
Grade: D
Publisher: Virgin (1993)
Reviewed: 2004/10/3

screenshotI'm still trying to figure out why this slow, plodding mystery game was so popular on the PC in the early 90's. It couldn't possibly have anything to do with the tepid gameplay. Perhaps it was the abundance of eye candy, effectively combining live acting with nicely rendered environments. 7th Guest places you in a mysterious mansion for a night with six other ghostly "guests". As you explore the various rooms, you'll encounter ghosts played by live actors filling in parts of a very scripted storyline. In addition to watching video clips, you also need to solve a series of puzzles. While not particularly taxing, the fact that you don't get any directions makes the puzzles a bit more difficult and fun. Unfortunately the storyline is confusing and the snobby characters aren't particularly compelling. What's most notable about 7th Guest is its biggest downfall: the general lack of atmosphere. Much like the early Alone in the Dark games, the developers failed to understand that bright, clean, colorful rooms just aren't very scary. Even the "surprise" animated clips that are supposed to be intense fall flat. 7th Guest is a novel concept, but despite its good looks, there's not much of a game here. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

Alien Gate
Grade: C-
Publisher: Philips (1993)
Reviewed: 2003/7/22

screenshotI loaded up this game thinking "the CD-i really needs a good shooter". After playing it, I still feel the same way. Alien Gate's objects are large and high resolution, but its weak gameplay makes you wonder if the developer ever actually played a video game before (a fun one, at least). Your silver ship is humongous, and it has feet and gloves sticking out of the sides, making it look like a goofy, high-tech scarecrow. A mean-looking bald head at the top of the screen dispenses waves of foes. Your enemies are large and diverse, including birds, bees, bombs, centipede, UFOs, and knives. Each wave has its own distinct digitized sound effect, and some of these are amazing. Unfortunately, the gameplay is excessively simplistic and lacks strategy. All you do is move around and shoot, and the early waves are woefully easy. I suspect most players will lose interest by the time the real challenge kicks in around stage 7. There are 25 waves in all, and a password is provided after every five. Alien Gate can be irritating at times. The sheer size of your ship makes it difficult to dodge anything. Certain enemies require multiple shots to destroy, and the first few hits don't even seem to register. Finally, the hysterical laughter during the "game over" screen makes you want to track down the programmer and beat the living [expletive] out of him. Alien Gate is a lousy shooter, but it doesn't have much competition on the CD-i. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

Apprentice, The
Grade: C
Publisher: Philips (1994)
Reviewed: 2002/7/2

screenshotThis lighthearted platform game is technically solid but would never give Mario or Sonic a run for their money. You guide a goofy-looking sorcerer's apprentice through six levels of cartoonish platform jumping action. The beautifully animated graphics are Disney quality, and responsive controls are easy to learn. You can jump on just about anything and even survive falls from high places. Unfortunately, one hit is lethal, and parts of the game are nearly impossible to survive. Despite the impressive visuals, the audio generally got on my nerves. The relentless bouncy music is nauseating, and the ultra-cute sound effects are cringe-worthy. The lead character is simply not cool, and will probably appeal more to little kids than adults. The thing I find especially odd is the presence of scantily clad females scattered throughout the levels - they seem out of place. The Apprentice has a few things going for it, but all in all it's very forgettable. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

Grade: A-
Publisher: TripMedia (1994)
Reviewed: 2003/5/20

screenshotThis game wowed the critics in 1994 by delivering a mind-blowing audio-visual experience that put other CD games to shame, and even today Burn:Cycle is impressive. You play Sol Cutter, an electronic thief of the future who finds himself with a computer virus in his brain and only two hours to live. The game plays like your standard point-and-click adventure with some aim-the-cursor shooting stages thrown in. But what really sets Burn:Cycle apart is its superb audio and visual presentation which effectively immerses you in a desolate, Blade Runner-style environment. The futuristic architecture is awe-inspiring, and by selecting directional arrows you smoothly move through this mysterious virtual world. The characters and objects are completely digitized and look terrific. Each character has a distinct personality, and the acting is exceptional. Moody industrial music complements the action perfectly, and a soundtrack CD is even included with the game. The storyline is decidedly adult and can be convoluted at times, so having a strategy guide on hand probably isn't a bad idea. The controls tend to lag a bit behind your commands, but at least you can save your place at any time. Burn:Cycle is highly original and if you have the patience, it will suck you into its amazing world. It's a quality title that no Philips CD-i owner should be without. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

Chaos Control
Grade: D
Publisher: Philips (1995)
Reviewed: 2005/7/23

screenshotWhen I read that this was a "shooter" for the Philips CD-I, I didn't expect a first-person "just-aim-the-cursor" experience, but that's what I got. Chaos Control is a perfect example of style over substance - it relies almost totally on pure eye candy to win over the player. Historically, games like this make a splash initially but don't hold up well over time. The premise is your standard alien-invasion storyline, with verbose cut scenes that are not worth watching. Once the action is underway, you'll find yourself gliding through expansive, pre-rendered scenery that was state-of-the-art in 1995. You can't control your direction or viewpoint - all you do is aim a cursor and shoot at targets. There's minimal strategy besides letting off your gun every now and then to avoid overheating. The first stage features an impressive virtual New York City. As you buzz the Statue of Liberty and careen down the building-lined avenues, I must admit it looks pretty amazing. Later stages have a less-impressive, virtual-reality flavor. In one particularly boring one, you fly around a computer circuit board blasting metaphorical "bugs". Chaos Control's gameplay is pretty shabby. You can choose between two cursor speeds, but predictably, one is too slow and the other is too fast. It's very easy to lose track of your cursor with all the activity on the screen. The aliens and their ships are smoothly animated, but when shot they never really explode. Instead, they're obfuscated by some ugly gray "clouds" that are supposed to resemble smoke - not very satisfying. Besides the changing scenery, there's little variety and the challenge is minimal. In terms of sound, a man's voice provides constant alerts and advice, but he's so muffled I can barely understand him. At least the game saves your high score. But in the end, Chaos Control is too shallow, especially now that its once-flashy graphics have faded. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

Dark Castle
Grade: F
Publisher: Silicon Beach (1991)
Reviewed: 2010/11/14

screenshotThis platform game is not atypical for the Philips CD-i. Dark Castle boasts superb graphics (for its time), amazing sound effects, symphonic music, and some of the worst gameplay I've ever been subjected to! When you first start the game you're treated to eerie organ music, crashing thunder, and the sound of a drawbridge opening - complete with rattling chains. I can't get over how clear the audio is - it sounds like the bridge is about three feet away! The gameplay involves conquering a selectable set of stages before facing off against a black knight. You'll jump between ledges, climb ropes (ala Donkey Kong Jr.), and toss biscuits at rats, bats, mummies, and executioners. The stage layouts are nicely detailed and the textures of the castle walls look photo-realistic. The crystal clear audio features slamming doors, flapping bat wings, and squeaking mice. Unfortunately, once you start playing Dark Castle, the illusion of quality rapidly dissipates. The deplorable controls had my friends exclaiming, "Are you [expletive] kidding me?!" Your knight tends to take several steps at a time, making him prone to accidentally stepping off narrow platforms. He walks along stairs slowly, making him vulnerable to swarming bats and projectiles. He can only throw while standing still on a flat surface, where you adjust your "aim" by pressing up or down. Not only is the scheme wildly counter-intuitive, but the adjustment is painfully slow, making you a sitting duck for converging foes. It feels like you're fighting the controls the entire time. Touching any object results in you falling flat on your face. The frustration factor is exacerbated by corny animations of your doofus stumbling around and tumbling down the stairs. The game ends with a high score screen and an option to save your negligible progress. Being on the lowly CD-i, I would have been willing to give Dark Castle the benefit of the doubt had it been the least bit playable. Sadly, it's not! © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 1,450
1 player 

Dragon's Lair
Grade: A-
Publisher: Philips (1994)
Reviewed: 2002/7/22

screenshotIt's hard for me to be objective about Dragon's Lair, the original laserdisc video game. I remember hanging out at the arcades down at the beach in the early 80's watching this game being played from a monitor mounted above the arcade cabinet so everyone could see. I couldn't get enough of those cartoon-quality graphics. For those not familiar with the game, you play a daring knight named "Dirk" who must rescue a beautiful princess from a dragon in a castle loaded with monsters and traps. The game plays like an interactive cartoon, but you can only interact with it at certain critical moments. Dragon Lair's gameplay is admittedly shallow and requires trial and error, but its fantastic visuals and imaginative scenarios will keep you intrigued. There's not much to fault with this particular version - it's probably the best I've seen on a home console. Don Bluth's classic animation is rendered in full-screen and there's no sign of pixelation. As a bonus, this edition has some nifty extra features. First and foremost, once you enter the castle, the stages occur in random order, which is awesome. It means that even if you're not skilled at the game, you'll still get to see a lot of the scenes. I also appreciate how you're NOT penalized for entering moves prematurely, which makes the game quite a bit easier. High scores are saved by the CD-i system. On the downside, when you lose a life you have to sit through an irritating "score screen" that prints numbers and letters one at a time along with some harsh sound effects. Also, you can't continue after losing your three lives. But despite these issues, I still prefer this version over the others I've played. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

Dragon's Lair II: Timewarp
Grade: D
Publisher: Philips (1994)
Reviewed: 2002/7/22

screenshotI always wondered why Timewarp is so obscure compared to the first Dragon's Lair. Heck, I had never even seen this game before. But now I think I know why. The developers went off the deep end with this sequel. Instead of simple puzzles and a straightforward storyline, Dirk now finds himself in some of the most bizarre and confusing predicaments I've ever seen. To put things in perspective, let's look at the initial stages of both Dragon's Lair games. In the first, Dirk falls through a wooden bridge over the moat of a dark castle. In Timewarp, Dirk's obese mother-in-law comes charging down a long table to attack him with a rolling pin. See what I mean? The game is full of disturbing characters, confusing dialog, and inexplicable situations. I couldn't figure out what the hell was going on half the time! The scenes run entirely too long, often requiring over 20 moves just to complete a single stage! One slip-up sends you ALL THE WAY back to the beginning. Worst of all, instead of logical puzzles, all you do is push the joystick towards the next flashing object. Even the graphics are grainy, and the dialog hard to understand. One new "feature" is the fact that the scenes are randomly "mirrored" so half the time you'll have to push left instead of right, even though it's the same scene. Unfortunately, the scenes aren't randomized like the first CD-i Dragon's Lair, so your quest is always the same. What a disappointment. When you consider that this and Space Ace were the two lackluster follow-ups to Dragon's Lair, it's no wonder that laserdisc games faded away. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

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Screen shots courtesy of The Black Moon Project, The CD-i Home Page

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