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.

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 

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 

Caesars World of Gambling
Grade: C
Publisher: Philips (1990)
Reviewed: 2015/12/26

screenshotIf you have a gambling addiction or are at least willing to learn, you might be interested in this handsome casino title. Caesars World of Gambling purports to be "the first gambling casino on compact disc". Its main menu includes an introduction, tutorials on how to play the games, and a five-minute tour of the actual Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. I watched the tour with keen interest but was disappointed to see still photos instead of real video. The hairstyles and clothes give the impression the pictures were taken in the 1970's!

There are four games to choose from: roulette, craps, blackjack, and slot machines. Each is presented using actual video and photo stills. The animation is choppy but the presentation looks clean and attractive. I was particularly interested in craps because I had never learned how to play. I sat through the lengthy tutorial, and man, there sure are a lot of ways to play this game! It's a bit overwhelming but I guess if you stick to the basics it's not so bad. Blackjack is fun because you can play four hands at a time. Roulette is disappointing because you don't really see the ball rolling around the wheel - it's kind of a blur.

There are five unique slot machines, including two fun, poker-style games. The problem with the slots is there's no sound effects except for the coin payouts. And that's where this simulation falters. At the very least there should be ambient noise while playing all the games to make you feel as if you're in a bustling casino. If you do particularly well you should be approached by a hooker or something. As it is, Caesar's World of Gambling looks sharp but fails to capture the spirit of being in a live casino. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

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 adopt 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.

Our high score: 345000
1 player 

Christmas Country
Grade: D
Publisher: Creative Media (1996)
Reviewed: 2017/12/3

screenshotLast December I raved about a little CD-i game called Christmas Crisis (Philips, 1995), prompting readers to recommend its follow-up, Christmas Country. It was not easy to track down, as I had to import a copy from the Netherlands! Christmas Country is a minimalistic holiday platformer starring a little green elf. Using Super Mario-style controls you can run and pounce on creatures like snails, turtles, and ladybugs.

As with many CD-i titles, the hand-drawn graphics have a certain charm, but it's hard to tell the foreground from the background. Santa makes a cameo appearance early on, but in general this game doesn't feel very Christmassy. First and foremost: Where is the music?! You play this game in almost complete silence, save for the "pop" of an enemy or the "ting" of grabbing a star! This absolutely blows my mind. Worst case, you'd think the developers could at least use something from the public domain like Jingle Bells! There is a music toggle in the options menu, but it only affects the short jingle used to introduce each stage! What's the point?

Aside from the Santa scene, the graphics aren't particularly festive. There's a smattering of candy canes, Christmas trees, and snowmen, but that's about it. What's left is a second-rate Mario clone, and the stages don't even make sense. In one you're forced to jump into water, and when do, you fall into a dry room below! Conveyor belts zip you around even though they are clearly not moving. The difficulty is extremely low until a stage where bombs inexplicably begin raining from the sky. It's bad enough Christmas Country makes you provide your own tunes, but apparently you'll need to supply the Christmas spirit too. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 20,535
1 player 

Christmas Crisis
Grade: A-
Publisher: Philips (1995)
Reviewed: 2016/12/13

screenshotIf this game doesn't get you into the Christmas spirit, nothing will! Christmas Crisis is kind of like a Mario game starring Santa Claus. More than just super fun, the game exudes holiday cheer with snowy stages, festive music, and Christmas-themed bonus icons. The gorgeous stage backdrops depict cozy cottages in dreamy snowscapes.

The controls are responsive as you hop Santa up the screen, scooping up items on his way to the chimney. You'll snag ornaments, wreaths, gifts, angels, candles, and sugary confections for bonus points. The pleasant Christmas tunes sound like they're being played on steel drums. Santa must steer clear of toy cars, trains, and planes. It's not a good idea to leap over these things because the collision detection is unforgiving. Fortunately Santa is armed with a supply of snowballs. You only throw them at an arc, but more times than not they find their target.

My biggest complaint is the way certain inanimate objects that appear to be part of the background (like snowmen) can be fatal to the touch. The levels are short and sweet and it's fun to play for high score. As icing on the cake, there's a 3D flying level that takes you through a pre-rendered Christmas village! Christmas Crisis is not just a great CD-i title; it might just be the best Christmas game you'll ever play. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 335,950
1 player 

Grade: D-

screenshotYou'd expect a murder mystery to take full advantage of the CD-i video capabilities and Clue certainly does! It boasts clear full-screen video with snooty British actors performing dramatic scenes in a stately manor where a murder has occurred. This game plays differently from other console versions of Clue. Instead of using cards to weed out possibilities you question characters, examine evidence, and watch clips shedding light on what happened.

Expect a lot of red herrings and some really peculiar lines like "I had a lead pipe, but had no idea what I was going to do with it." Some scenes are action packed, like when two suspects are wrestling over a gun. Clue offers three selectable mysteries to choose from. They don't always end the same, which helps the replay value.

Clue sounds like a winning formula yet poor controls and a plodding pace render it nearly unplayable. Players need to share a single controller and that is such a hassle! The controls for simply moving your piece around the board are horrible. You have to "point" to the desired space and the cursor is really touchy. Then there's a pause before your piece starts moving, as if the game is running some kind of sophisticated maze traversal algorithm.

Navigating the screens is clumsy (no back button) and there are many unnecessary pauses. Why does the video have to fade out so slowly? Too often you'll find yourself inadvertently watching the same video clips multiple times (ugh). You'll need to dedicate at least an hour to properly play this game. In my experience players become so impatient they start recklessly accusing people just to bring the game to a merciful conclusion. Like many CD-i titles, Clue has lofty production values but lousy playability. Looking on the bright side, this makes the Genesis version look like a real hoot! > © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 6 players 

Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia
Grade: NA
Publisher: Philips (1992)
Reviewed: 2015/12/26

screenshotA lot of people consult the Internet for their information, but I defer to my trusty copy of Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia for the CD-i. It only takes a few minutes to pop it the disk, watch the intro video, navigate the main menu, and methodically type in a subject of interest. Packed with over 100 images, more than 20 video clips, and over 5000 articles, Compton's Encyclopedia is a bastion of knowledge!

This is far more information than a person would ever need. The main menu is arranged with tiles providing various methods to navigate the veritable ocean of material. Selecting the "video" box presented me with footage of JFK giving a speech in a small box in the center of the screen. Flipping through the available clips reveals wide-ranging subjects like killer whales, tornados, and Babe Ruth. They're interesting to peruse just because they're so random, but they start repeating way too soon. The "pictures" menu option serves up the same sort of thing except with still images. There's a picture of a rock, a farmer, a fish... um, what is the point of this?

The search menu option lets you painstakingly enter keywords, and available topics are displayed as you type. Don't expect much in the way of pop culture. When I entered "Star Wars" my only options were Stalin and starfish. When I drilled down under "leisure and hobbies" there was nothing about video games, although needlepoint, falconry, and ventriloquism were well represented. The articles themselves are terribly mundane, describing the topics in the most general terms imaginable. And the text scrolls so slowly!

The atlas menu option would be completely useless if it weren't so hilarious. It's possible to zoom into any location on the earth, but it takes forever to redraw the screen, and you can only zoom into an area about the size of Maryland.

But the biggest disappointment is the "time machine". This could have been fun, but instead of recounting interesting events it's limited to boring topics like politics, money, and agriculture. I wasn't expecting Compton's Encyclopedia to rock my world, but they could have at least made an effort. I guess I won't be canceling my Internet service after all. Note: Despite widespread public perception this software was not produced in Compton CA, and is in no way affiliated with rap group NWA. . © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

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: 2480
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.

1 player 

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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1 player 

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