Philips CD-i Reviews A-B

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.

1 player 

A Great Day at the Races
Grade: C
Publisher: Philips (1993)
Reviewed: 2019/9/1

screenshotThis "enthusiast" title proves a good fit for the CD-i, packing a tremendous amount of horseracing knowledge. A Great Day At the Races teaches you all the lingo, how to handicap horses, and the art of placing exotic bets. The disc includes the past history of 550 thoroughbreds, and if that's not enough Mickey Rooney (yes, the Mickey Rooney) is available to offer tips and hints! The tutorials tend to be verbose but you can always jump directly into the racing action. After entering your name you're presented with a slate of five horses.

During the betting process you indicate which horses you expect to win, place, or show. The interface feels antiquated, especially when you need to press the "accept bet" button before you can "start race". Then there's a bit of pageantry as a guy blows his horn and the horses are presented lined up in the stall. Then they're off!

I was expecting video footage at this point, but instead you get images of digitized horses moving across the screen. They look pretty realistic but the track appears to be completely straight. There's no concept of rounding turns or coming down the stretch, which is disappointing. There's also no jockeying for position as the horses remain in their own lanes.

Still, it's fun to watch your longshot mount a frantic comeback to pull out a victory by a nose. The commentator stays on top of the action and sometimes there's even a photo finish! Once you begin winning some dough you may want to stick around for a while. A Great Day At the Races could have been better but it's a great primer for people who want to learn about the sport. Horse Racing fans should bump up the grade by a letter. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

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.

Our high score: 29400
1 player 

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.
1 player 

Arcade Classics
Grade: B-

screenshotIt's hard to get worked up about an arcade compilation with just three games, especially when Arcade Classics was released around the same time as Namco Museum Volume 1 (PS1, 1995). But when I fired up Galaxian I was like wow! I've been playing this game since 1979 but I've never seen it look so good, bursting with vivid color and fluid animation.

The default high score of 5000 seemed like an easy target, but these aliens are out for blood! They must have cranked up the difficulty to eleven. Don't even think about escaping to a corner because these mutants will veer off-course right into your ship! And when a purple alien peels off from the pack you'd better hit that son of a [expletive] with your first shot or pay the ultimate price.

It took me a dozen tries to top the high score, conjuring flashbacks of playing Galaxian at the local sub shop in 1982. Back in the day it was just man versus machine. Galaga is also challenging, but I noticed its animation and sound quality are a slight step down. Still, it's undeniably fun.

Ms. Pac-Man is where this collection stumbles, badly. Instead of emulating the arcade you get a vertically-scrolling version like Ms. Pac-Man (Genesis, 1991). The graphics are slightly enhanced, but at what cost? Not being able to see the entire maze changes the game, and where's the sound of the fruit trudging through the maze?

Ms. Pac-Man's two-player modes just add insult to injury. When one player goes off the screen you can't see the other! It's a mess. Exiting any game back to the main menu is difficult because you need to press buttons 1 and 2 at the exact same time. High scores are not saved, and that makes me sad. Still, I'll reluctantly recommend Arcade Classics, if only on the strength of its superb Galaxian translation. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: Galaxian
Our high score: 5390
1 or 2 players 

Burn:Cycle
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.

1 player 


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Screen shots courtesy of Old Games, Dimo's Quest, The Black Moon Project, YouTube, Moby Games,