The Video Game Critic's Console Reviews
Philips CD-i (1991 - 1994)

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 mainly manufactured by Philips, although a few other vendors produced their own versions. The CD-i (short for "Compact Disc Interactive") was truly 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 tap into the more-lucrative video game market. Like so many other early CD-based systems (including the 3DO), the system's game library specialized in full-motion video titles with limited play value. There aren't many worthwhile games for the CD-i, and you could argue that there are none at all. Probably the most notable titles were a Mario platformer and three Zelda adventures. How Philips managed to secure these respectable licenses from Nintendo is a mystery, but even those were mediocre and are best left forgotten.

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. While huge in size and seriously 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.

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.

game 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.

Games: F. The CD-i library is loaded with worthless, antiquated "self-help" tiles and "CD movies", and its game selection is pathetic. While some games have decent production values, they lack the basic playability that Genesis and SNES players are accustomed to. When it came to video games, Philips obviously didn't "get it". The single worthwhile title I've come across is "NFL Instant Replay", which allows you to predict referee calls after watching old footage from actual games.

screen Graphics: B. The Philips CD-i had 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.

Collectability: F. Every system has its fans, but unless you're a die-hard video game collector, there is no reason to collect for the CD-i. While the systems themselves are relatively easy and inexpensive to acquire, the controllers are surprisingly rare and pricey. Most of the games are readily available (new), but few are worth owning.

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

Pros and Cons:
+ Many titles available new
- Lame library
- Controllers hard to find

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