The Philips CD-i was made to be a multi-media interactive CD player, not just a simple game console. Its library was mostly made up of “edutainment” software that didn’t teach or entertain very often. The system was sold through infomercials that talked about its digital encyclopaedias and multimedia features. However, its game library was not very good, and most of the games were low-budget FMV releases. Philips had a deal with Nintendo that let them make their own Mario and Zelda games for the CD-i, but they didn’t do much with this chance because they didn’t care at all about quality control when it came to video games. It’s hard to find good CD-i games, so this list was more of a way for me to test myself than anything else.
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During talks between Philips and Nintendo about the Super NES CD add-on that never came out, Philips was able to get the rights to use Nintendo characters in games made by third parties for the CD-i. You may be wondering what Philips did with the most powerful licences in the whole industry. They gave them to developers who hadn’t done much before and then released shovelware, of course. The three Zelda games that came out for the CD-i were so bad that they were funny. Hotel Mario, on the other hand, was kind of okay, except for the horrible animated cutscenes. The game reminds me of early 1980s single-screen arcade platformers, and it’s almost like a worse version of Door Door. In each stage, the goal is to negotiate a hotel with many floors and close all the doors for reasons that are never fully explained. If a player touches an enemy, runs out of time, or falls off the edge of a floor, the game is over. Some of the enemies are familiar, like Goombas, Koopas, Boos, and waves of Wigglers that never stop coming. If things get too crazy, the Mario brothers can take a break by going through an open door while their enemies walk by. Cool power-ups are a must for any Mario game, and Hotel Mario has them. In the game, there is a fire flower that lets you shoot fireballs and a power mushroom that gives you glowing pants and lets you take one more hit. Classic Mario, right, with his pants that light up?
Burn:Cycle might have been the only killer app for the CD-i. The game used the strengths of the system and put a lot of emphasis on full-motion video. Burn:Cycle is a mix of an interactive movie and a point-and-click adventure game. Most games that had a lot of FMV played out like a series of quicktime events. The story of the game is about a small-time electronic data thief who gets a virus put into his brain. With only two hours left before his brain completely breaks down, the player is in a race against time to find a cure. Most of the time, you click on things in the background, but sometimes there’s a shooting section or a puzzle to keep things interesting. The game ends with a complicated maze that looks like Pac- Man’s. Players can also play games of chance or test their skills in a mini-game that involves wiring circuits. Burn:Cycle is still the best “interactive movie” for the CD-i, even though the 3D environments aren’t convincing and the acting isn’t very good.
One of the few platform games on the CD-i, The Apprentice is one of them. In the game, a silly sorcerer’s apprentice jumps on enemies and shoots things with his magic wand to get through six levels. The Apprentice is different from most games in the same genre because it doesn’t have any side-scrolling parts. (The game can only be moved up and down.) Even though it’s high on this list, the game has a lot of problems. The controls are slow, you’ll sometimes fall through platforms, and the way the enemies are placed almost guarantees that you’ll die quickly. It should also be said that after a few minutes, the music and sound effects are so annoying that they make you feel sick. I really liked how the game was put together, though. The characters look great, the colours really pop, and the animation is the best on the CD-i. The way the game looks might make it seem like it’s for kids, but the fact that there are scantily clad girls all over the place makes it clear that it’s not. (There’s a code that makes them take off their clothes!) The Apprentice is a game that stands out on the CD-i. It probably wouldn’t be worth a second look on the SNES or Genesis.
Mutant Rampage: Bodyslam
Mutant Rampage: Bodyslam is a beat ’em up that takes place after the end of the world. Because of the “Millennium Wars,” the “Grey Tremor Plague,” and the radiation from the “Thanatos Meltdown,” the gene pool has been changed, and women are giving birth to violent mutant creatures. As a human, it’s your job to compete in a tournament and beat the crap out of these mutants. Mutant Rampage is a real game, which is not true of many other CD-i titles. It’s like a weaker version of Final Fight or Streets of Rage, but it’s not offensive in any way. The levels have things that can be broken, and players can use different weapons. It’s also one of the few CD-i games that makes good use of the controller’s three buttons. The enemy designs were cool in a “TMNT knockoff” way, and it was fun to fight mutants with names like “Tina Felina” and “Stupid.” It’s too bad that the game can only be played by one person at a time. The game has a few cutscenes that aren’t very well animated, but the game itself isn’t bad by any means.
In Zenith, the game is all about a ball that keeps bouncing. It’s almost like a combination of a pinball game and a platform game. The game is played from above, and in each stage, the player has to guide the bouncing ball past different obstacles and to the exit. The game is hard because you have to figure out where the ball can safely land. The ball bounces on its own, so you have to time it right if you want to get it over an obstacle or to a different platform. The graphics aren’t very complicated, but the stages look like they’re in 3D, and the way the bouncing ball scales creates a strong sense of depth. To move through the levels, players will have to flip switches, avoid traps, and find keys. It’s too bad that there isn’t a little more variety. There are only six levels to talk about, and they all look almost exactly the same. Zenith doesn’t live up to its full potential, but it has a cool idea and is surprisingly easy to play.
I usually don’t include ports from older systems on these lists, so Tetris doesn’t get much attention. Tetris came out in 1984, so if a version of the game doesn’t feel particularly important or creative, I’m not likely to talk about it. I had to do something different for the CD-i. It’s not that the CD-i version of Tetris was particularly good – quite the opposite, in fact – but I had a hard time finding 10 games on the system that were even worth mentioning. Tetris for the CD-i is one of the worst games I’ve ever played. First of all, the playing field only takes up about a quarter of the screen. The rest of the screen is filled with stock footage of nature. As with most CD-i games, the gameplay is slow, the falling Tetris blocks can’t be made to fall faster, and you can only turn the blocks in one direction. There are no two-player options, and the only mode for a single player is broken up into stages that stop the action every time you clear 10 lines. Those who want an endless or marathon mode will have to look elsewhere. There aren’t any sound effects, but the new age music in the background is very relaxing. It’s too bad that it stops playing every time you finish a level. Even though the CD-i version of Tetris isn’t very good, it’s still better than most of the other games on the system.
Uncover featuring Tatjana
Tatjana Šimić is a Croatian actress and singer who is best-known for her nude modeling endeavors. (In other words, Tatjana is to music what Samantha Fox was to music.) Uncover with Tatjana is basically a racy copy of Qix with a complicated plot. Tatjana hires a private detective to find some photos that were taken without permission. To get these photos back, you have to play mini-games that are similar to Qix. In these games, you use a cursor to try to draw rectangles on the playing field without running into the other objects that are bouncing around the screen. With each correctly drawn rectangle, you can see more of the picture and see the beautiful Tatjana in different stages of undress. Qix is a good game, and Tatjana is beautiful, so there’s not much to say about it. Still, I don’t get why someone would buy a game just to look at a few racy pictures when naked pictures are so easy to find elsewhere. Even before it was possible to look for pictures on the Internet, it wasn’t hard to find naked pictures of Tatjana. She was one of the most famous sex icons in the Netherlands. Between 1988 and 1996, she was on the cover of the Dutch and German versions of Playboy 17 times. Why pay for a game that makes you jump through hoops to see low-resolution photos of a half-clothed Tatjana on a clunky TV screen when you could spend a few dollars on a magazine with better pictures?