Philips CD-i Reviews S-Z

Shark Alert
Grade: NA
Publisher: Philips (1993)
Reviewed: 2003/5/20

screenshotI've had a fascination with sharks since I was a little kid. I still enjoy watching those documentaries on the Discovery Channel, although they always downplay the danger of sharks, spouting useless statistics like "more people are killed every year in steamroller accidents than by shark attacks". Whatever. If you have any interest in sharks at all, you'll like this educational CD called Shark Alert.

This is a comprehensive, well-produced documentary that's been chopped into specific categories you can browse through. By navigating the DVD-like menus, you can view information about feeding habits, shark history, hydromechanics, and reasons why sharks attack. Naturally my curiosity took me straight to the shark attack section, but there really isn't a whole lot to see. Most of the material is narration over still photos. There's an occasional small video clip, but in general the lack of video footage is disappointing.

Even so, there's enough information here to keep you "surfing" for some time. I was especially fascinated by the tiny Pygmy Shark and the hideous Goblin Shark. The CD contains a full index of all the different types of sharks, and there's also a "Food Chain" section that lets you see what might happen if any layer of the chain were eliminated. A trivia game is tossed in, but the cartoonish presentation makes it more suitable for kids. Shark Alert serves its purpose as an informative tool, but it could have been better. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Space Ace
Grade: C+
Publisher: Digital Video (1993)
Reviewed: 2019/9/1

screenshotI've been trying to review every incarnation of Space Ace from back in the day, and this might just be the best of the bunch. Its audio-visual clarity is impressive, with sparking colors and smooth animation. The action-packed intro alone is bound to get you psyched. For the uninitiated, these laserdisc-based arcade games are like semi-interactive cartoons where you move the joystick or press a button at just the right time to execute a series of moves.

Whether you're leaping between crumbling ledges or blasting robots, the action is fast and furious. There are occasional flashing hints but frankly the game boils down to a lot of trial and error. In some instances there's really no indication of what you're supposed to do. Still, you tend to get a little further each time and Don Bluth's animation is charming as always. The sequences are scripted but there are occasional mirror-image "reverse" scenes to keep you on your toes.

At first you assume the role of some whiny kid named Dexter, but he frequently transforms into the muscle bound stud Space Ace. The damsel in distress is a super hot redhead. After exhausting your five lives you enter your initials into the high score screen. I like that because it gives you a way to measure your progress. Unfortunately there are no continues; you have to start over each time. Space Ace's gameplay is limited by today's standards, but it's an interesting piece of history that's still a lot of fun to watch. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 2396
1 player 

Space Ranger
Grade: NA
Publisher: Good Deal Games (2002)
Reviewed: 2003/7/22

screenshotSpace Ranger is an unfinished and practically unplayable prototype. This side-scrolling shooter resembles Defender, except you are constantly moving forward over a red planet surface. The objects you encounter are large and detailed, and the explosions aren't too shabby either. The planet surface looks pretty realistic, but it's hard to tell how low you can fly before crashing into the ground. Naturally, most targets hover low to the ground. Space Ranger contains long lulls in the action and the control stinks, but at least the grinding guitar music is good. Still, only die-hard CD-i fans will find this disk of interest. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 

Grade: B-
Publisher: Philips (1992)
Reviewed: 2002/7/2

screenshotIt's interesting to see the treatment that Philips gave this classic game for the CD-i. By incorporating moving video into the backgrounds and using soothing new age music, playing this game almost feels like a religious experience. The video backgrounds depict beautiful nature scenes of mountain streams, rocky beaches, or scenic waterfalls. I was very impressed with the music. I'm used to the bouncy little Nintendo tunes, but these peaceful rhythms grew on me.

This version of Tetris offers some nice options including ten levels of play. It would seem nearly impossible to screw up the gameplay itself, but Philips managed to find a way. First of all, the actual game is played on a small vertical strip that barely covers a quarter of the screen. The game board, score, number of lines, and next piece are all crammed onto this small piece of real estate. The bricks are too small and there are no sound effects, even when you clear a row.

But the game's biggest sin is the control. Instead of using the traditional method of pushing down to make the blocks move faster, a separate button is used. You'd think that using two buttons would be no problem, but it's easy to get confused. All in all, this is definitely the best looking Tetris I've played, but nowhere near the most fun. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Thunder in Paradise
Grade: B-

screenshotThis live video extravaganza has all the necessary ingredients of a CD-i hit: professional wrestlers, bad acting, pitiful CGI effects, exotic locations, and sexy women frolicking in bikinis (in gratuitous slow-motion, no less). There's even a cheesy storyline inspired by the Terminator movie. What more could you ask for?

Thunder in Paradise stars Terry "Hulk" Hogan in the lead role with former supermodel Carol Alt serving as the token female. One of the two included disks contains an entire episode of the "Thunder in Paradise" television program, which was such a runaway hit that I've never even heard of it. The second disk includes three shooting games that can be played individually or in a series. An "interactive television" option mixes these game segments in with the episode.

The video quality is excellent, making the exotic "scenery" look extra alluring. The games are designed to work with a light gun controller, and if you don't own one, you'll want to knock down the grade by a letter (at least). The gun is actually pretty accurate although the reticule lags a bit. The first game is called "Thunder Encounter" which puts you in a speedboat being attacked from four sides. The idea is to shoot down incoming missiles using an awkward mechanism that lets you toggle between four views. Targeting missiles is tough because once they are visible you don't have much time to react.

The second game "Island Encounter" puts you in a deserted water park with lush vegetation and rope bridges. While wandering around you'll occasionally pause to shoot generic enemies peeking out from behind rocks. I have to admit I enjoyed taking in the scenery. In the final game "Lab Encounter" you engage in a shootout with a "boss" who has some kind of metal plate covering half his face.

Most of the action takes place in a factory, but there's a section where you're inexplicably transported to a street that's obviously located at MGM Studios. The three games are shallow but I like how you get a score for each one in addition to a running total. Thunder in Paradise may have questionable replay value, but if you're in the right frame of mind this is a surprisingly entertaining trip back in time. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 268,301
1 player 

Grade: NA
Publisher: Philips (1994)
Reviewed: 2002/7/2

screenshotThis well-produced CD is not really a game at all, but an interactive documentary narrated by Patrick Stewart. I'm not a big Titanic fan, but I was both fascinated and haunted by this disk, which covers every aspect of the doomed ship in astonishing detail. From its construction to its rediscovery in 1992, it's all here. You can either watch the entire CD as one long documentary or view specific topics (or subtopics). There are thousands of images and video clips, and the overall presentation is superb. There are even timelines that let you trace the sequence of the ill-fated voyage. The many layers of menus are nicely organized and fun to peruse. Some screens even contain maps or diagrams that let you highlight areas of interest. Titanic is loaded with minor tidbits of information, most of which I found to be fascinating. Anyone with even a passing interest in the Titanic legacy will find this compelling. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 

Video Speedway
Grade: F
Publisher: Philips (1992)
Reviewed: 2004/7/21

screenshotHoly mother of [expletive]! I had no idea how monumentally boring a racing game could be until I played this disgraceful piece of [expletive]. Video Speedway tries to be Pole Position with better graphics, but its plodding gameplay made me [expletive]ing nauseous! You get a first-person view of the "action", with the front of your car stretched across the entire bottom of the screen. Rotating shades of gray on the road and rudimentary scaling attempt to convey movement, but the sensation of speed is virtually nonexistent. You'll quickly attain your car's maximum speed, and even then it feels like you're moving at a snail's pace.

The boring tracks are agonizingly long, and you are forced to complete an excruciating "trial lap" before every contest. The races themselves feature a bunch of look-alike cars that scale poorly and tend to jump around. They are hard to pass, and even a light bump causes your car to burst into flames, bringing the contest to an abrupt but merciful conclusion.

The background includes skylines of New York, Paris, Geneva, and London, but the scenery looks so very distant. The audio includes a lot of annoying screeching sounds and sporadic guitar noise. I was really hoping Video Speedway would inject some arcade excitement into my Philips CD-i, but instead it just annoyed me to no end. . © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Grade: B
Publisher: Philips (1993)
Reviewed: 2004/7/21
Rating: Adults Only (17+)

screenshotThis semi-interactive, full motion video (FMV) took me by surprise. Upon loading it, I encountered a "lock out screen", and had to consult the instruction manual to get past it. How bad could this be for a 1993 title? Pretty racy as it turns out! Voyeur gets off to a fast start with a provocative video clip. Seen through a window, a hot babe in lingerie is handcuffing some guy to a bed! Voyeur doesn't contain any actual nudity or sex (that I'm aware of), but its subject matter is definitely adult-oriented, and there's quite a bit of profanity as well.

The intriguing storyline revolves around Reed Hawke, the CEO of a large corporation who plans to announce his intention to run for president of the United States. By spying on his estate using a high-powered camera, you can view and record scenes and conversations between Hawke's family members and other guests staying in his mansion. Eavesdropping simply involves moving a crosshair over the windows until an eye, ear, or magnifying glass symbol appears, alerting you to something worth investigating.

Voyeur's sharp-looking video clips are interesting to watch, and they reminded me of Night Trap (Sega CD, 1992). The game strings you along with sporadic scenes of sexy women in various stages of undress, which I forced myself to watch for the purposes of this review (you're welcome!). The video clips depict actors in front of nicely rendered, computer-generated scenery.

As you listen to conversations and get to know the characters, the game draws you in. If you manage to gather enough evidence to implicate Hawke, you can notify the police and get him arrested, which is ultimately how you "win" the game. Robert Culp (wow, a legitimate actor!) does a fine job of portraying Reed Hawke, but some of the supporting cast performances are downright laughable. For a FMV game, Voyeur is not half bad. It's not the kind of game you'd want your wife to walk in on you while playing, but it's certainly entertaining enough. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Whack A Bubble
Grade: C
Publisher: New Frontier (1997)
Reviewed: 2011/9/10

screenshotSome claim that Whack A Bubble is one of the better titles in the CD-i library, but I'm not convinced. Adding a unique twist to the classic Breakout formula, each stage of the game presents a unique configuration of colored bubbles. You bounce a ball off a paddle at the bottom of the screen to pop them, but there's a catch. One button causes the ball to change colors, and you can only pop bubbles of your color (with some exceptions). It's not the most intuitive system in the world but it does demand quick thinking.

Another interesting feature is your ability to fire missiles directly at the bubbles. You only get a limited number of shots, but they really come in handy when you're trying to clear out the last two or three. In addition to popping bubbles, some stages have unique objectives like hitting a clown face or ringing bells scattered around the screen. There's enough variety but the controls leave much to be desired.

Your paddle moves slowly and can't always reach the ball in time. The collision detection is unforgiving, so if the ball hits the edge of your paddle, you inexplicably explode. The graphics are cheesy and the whimsical audio track really got on my nerves. From that cringe-worthy keyboard music to the obnoxious sound effects, you'll seriously want to consider hitting the mute button. To its credit, the game includes a two-player mode, a high score screen, and a handy continue option. Whack A Bubble has a few interesting elements but ultimately I found its presentation to be a major turn-off. . © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 7135
1 or 2 players 

Xplora 1: Peter Gabriel's Secret World
Grade: NA
Publisher: Real World Multimedia (1995)
Reviewed: 2015/2/14

screenshotPeter Gabriel's albums tend to be high concept so it makes sense he would indulge in a multi-media experiment like this. Xplora tries to mimic a level of interaction on par with modern day DVDs. The concept of navigating screens, interacting with puzzles, selecting videos, and discovering Easter Eggs was pretty cutting-edge stuff in 1995. You guide a red hand around the screen, clicking on various images and icons.

One of the first screens presents you with a puzzle to construct Peter's face. After a brief intro by Peter himself you're given a virtual briefcase used to collect items that access hidden features. While exploring the disc you'll sift through some interesting material, primarily showcasing the Us album (1992). You can read lyrics, watch music videos, and view behind-the-scenes rehearsal footage (including the Grammy awards).

The music videos make heavy use of computer effects, including Steam, Kiss the Frog, and Digging in the Dirt. Other areas let you learn about exotic musical instruments or play with a virtual sound mixer. Xplora is also a vehicle for Peter to promote social causes and other musicians he's collaborated with.

Secret World was about ten years ahead of its time, so we might forgive its so-so video quality and incomprehensible user interface. The icons aren't intuitive and seriously hard to make out. Frankly it feels like a puzzle just trying to make any sense of it all. Still, if you're a Peter Gabriel fan (like me) you'll probably enjoy just toying around with the disc, watching videos and trying to unlock stuff. In some ways Xplora feels like a time machine serving up a generous slice of 90's pop culture. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon
Grade: C
Publisher: Philips (1993)
Reviewed: 2007/4/23

screenshotWand of Gamelon features the same exact gameplay as Link: The Faces of Evil, but this time you control Zelda herself. The game kicks off with the corniest, most vomit-inducing animated introduction since, well, Faces of Evil. After persevering through that bunk, you'll find yourself moving a cursor around a well-rendered map while listening to music from an 80's workout tape (let's get physical!).

Each of the diverse locations contains a relatively short side-scrolling stage where you'll fend off spear-tossing ogres, stampeding wild boars, and rock-throwing octopi. You'll need to alternate between stages while collecting specific items that allow you to advance a little further in each. Wand of Gamelon's graphics aren't too shabby, with colorful scenery that appears to have been drawn with crayons. Sketchy animation and poorly-designed controls however drag down the gameplay.

Pressing diagonally initiates a jump, but you don't get much distance and there's little margin for error. Accessing your inventory is done by crouching and pressing B, but this is problematic since B is also used for other functions, like opening doors. Consequently, you'll sometimes try to attack a monster and accidentally leave the room!

Initiating conversations is done by striking characters with your sword - not exactly intuitive! The game doesn't make much sense in general, with characters always mentioning people and objects you have no clue about. Wand of Gamelon is not a very good Zelda game, but for what it's worth, it did hold my attention longer than most CD-I titles. © Copyright 2007 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,