The Video Game Critic Presents the

Philips CD-i

1991-1994

Philips CD-i system
Launch Date: December 3, 1991
Manufacturer: Philips
Format: CD
Controller Ports: 2
Save Capability: Internal memory.
Number of games: 100+
Video Output: Composite, S-Video
Initial Price: $400


This "interactive multimedia CD player" was primarily a Philips product, although a few other vendors produced their own versions. The CD-i (short for "Compact Disc Interactive") was an odd system that never gained a foothold in the home electronics market. Initially it focused on self-improvement, CD-video, and educational titles, but later attempted to focus more on the lucrative game market.

As with so many other early CD-based systems (like the 3DO), the system's game library tended to feature a lot of full-motion video (FMV) titles with limited interaction. There are few must-have games for the CD-i, and you could argue that there are none at all. The most notable titles were a single Mario platformer and three (!) Zelda adventures. How Philips managed to secure these licenses from Nintendo is a mystery, but the Zelda games proved so bad they are often the target of scorn and derision.

Console design: D-. The Philips CD-i console looks like a typical component-sized compact disk player with a single controller port on the front. Huge in size and very heavy, it's an otherwise uninteresting machine. A second controller port is inexplicably located on the back of the unit. The system comes with a wireless remote and also supports a high-quality S-video output.

Console durability: C. These systems are heavy and durable. Most older CD players are susceptible to some degree of read problems after heavy use, but fortunately, CD-i systems are not prone to heavy use.

Mad Dog McCree
Mad Dog McCree (1993)

Graphics: B. The Philips CD-i has the ability to render rich 2D graphics and smooth, full motion video. The high-quality video output makes the graphics look particularly sharp. Unfortunately, few titles took full advantage of the CD-i's graphic capabilities.

Audio: A. The CD-i has the ability to generate high quality music and crisp digitized sound effects.

Philips CD-i controller
Philips CD-i controller

Controllers: D. The CD-i controller is as generic as they come. The directional pad on the left side of the controller feels comfortable enough (there's a tiny, screw-on joystick attachment), and the right side sports four buttons (there are no shoulder buttons). Inexplicably, only two functions are mapped to these four buttons, so what's the point of having four? On the bottom of the controller there's a small switch that toggles the "cursor speed" on the navigational menus. In theory, the wireless remote can serve as a controller, but it's awkward to use with most games.

Philips CD-i game
Philips CD-i game packaging

Media: B. This system doesn't take full advantage of the CD medium, but at least the load times are reasonable.

Packaging: C. Most CD-i games are packaged in standard plastic CD cases which store easily without taking up much space. For some reason however, Philips opted to wrap these in a cardboard sleeve, creating an ugly, unnecessary extra layer of packaging.

The Lost Ride
The Lost Ride (1998)

Pack-In Software: D. Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia.

Launch Titles:: F-. The list of CD-i launch titles reads so bad, it's comical. Connect Four? Saigon Chess? Battleship? Was this really supposed to entice consumers? And let's not forget Dark Castle which is widely considered to be the worst video game of ALL TIME.

Link: The Faces of Evil
Link: The Faces of Evil (1993)

Library: F. The CD-i library is loaded with worthless, antiquated "self-help" tiles and "CD movies", and its game selection is weak. While some games have decent production values, they lack the basic playability of the Genesis or SNES. My favorite CD-i title is "NFL Instant Replay", which allows you to predict referee calls after watching footage from actual games.

Collectability: D. Every system has its fans, but it's not much fun to collect for the CD-i. The systems themselves are relatively easy to acquire, but the controllers can be pricey. The games are readily available, but their main value is to satisfy your curiosity.

Innovations: Wireless remote, CD movies, S-video output

Pros and Cons:
+ Readily available games
- Weak library
- Lousy controllers

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