Top-5 Philips CD-i Games
The Philips CD-interactive has gone down in history as one of the worst consoles ever made. However, to be fair, Philips never intended for the CD-i to be a mere game system. It was an ambitious piece of hardware which was designed to run educational software for children as well as for watching movies on video-CDs and even just to function as a CD-player.
Unfortunately, Philips learned the hard way that there was no market for such a device and after seven pain-staking years on the market, the CD-i vanished to obscurity. The system is now notorious for Nintendo allowing Philips to develop the ill received Hotel Mario and Zelda titles for the system (as the CD-i was created from an aborted design for a Super Nintendo CD-Rom unit). The system has really been unfairly ridiculed for this reason, since there were plenty of decent games for the system. Unfortunately, a vast majority of them were either ports of PC titles or otherwise widely available multi-plat releases with only a few genuine original titles.
That doesn’t change the fact that the CD-i had some decent titles, so for once let’s stop beating a dead horse and instead give some genuine appreciation for some good CD-i games. You’ll notice that many of these titles are actually available on other systems, so I’ve tried to come up with some good reasons why the games are up on the list to begin with…
The CD-i definitely didn’t have a mascot, but Philips leaned heavily on this quirky little title from Gremlin Interactive back in the day. Gremlin was a really awesome studio back in the day who did everything from platformers to sports games. Litil Divil was one of their more obscure titles, originally released for MS-DOS, but this weird, perhaps slightly esoteric, action-puzzler was definitely a colourful and unique title for the system.
As the game’s titular little devil, Mutt, you have to search through a confusing maze to defeat creepy creatures and solve rooms of devious puzzles. The game forces you to think outside the box with absolutely no explanation as to your goals and, in all its weirdness, the game actually is a lot of fun (if a tad frustrating at times).
Sadly, the fact that Litil Divil caught such little attention back in the day is probably why it hasn’t continued to live on as a timeless classic, despite its colourful animations and delightfully silly atmosphere. You can get the game’s slightly weaker DOS-version from GOG.
DMA (now known as Rockstar) became something of a sensation with this frustrating strategy-game back in the early 1990s. Lemmings was available for practically every system out there, so it wasn’t perhaps that surprising that it also found its way on to the CD-i.
In case you have never played Lemmings, the idea is to make a path for the blindly walking army of green-haired characters to the goal of the level. You must place other Lemmings to stop and make paths for them to prevent a mass genocide of Lemmings from them blindly walking off cliffs and into various hazards.
Lemmings started off as a sensation on Amiga computers and definitely, the game seems more suited for PCs due to its strategy heavy approach. However, for its day, the CD-i version was unquestionably the ideal console port of the game due to the CD-i being one of the only consoles of its day with an optional mouse controller. Although, the high combined price of the system, the peripheral and the game, might have discouraged consumers, which is why Lemmings didn’t become an outstanding success on the system.
Animator guru Don Bluth’s legendary 1985 laser disc game had been adapted to home consoles many times before. However, before the CD-i, all prior versions of Dragon’s Lair had been severely downsized and none captured the vibrant animated look of the hand-animated original.
Here is sadly a niche of the video-game market which the CD-i strangely failed to exploit fully. The video playback quality on the system was so much higher than was possible for any other system of the day, so you’d think gamers would have rushed to buy the legendary title for the system.
However, maybe Dragon’s Lair with its typical “rescue the princess” story was just way past passé at this point or possibly people didn’t know or care about Don Bluth enough to realise what a golden opportunity they were missing. It seems a crying shame that Dragon’s Lair couldn’t save the CD-i, especially since an accurate PC port of the game wouldn’t come out for another three years.
Incidentally, Dragon’s Lair 2 and Space Ace were also released for the CD-i.
The 7th Guest was the equivalent of Titanfall for PCs in 1993 when it first came out on CD-Rom for home computers. Gamers were blown away by its usage of pre-rendered CG and Full Motion Video. It became an instant hit and talk of adventure game fans for the next few years. In this horror-themed title, you explore a haunted mansion, solving devious puzzles while being tormented by the spirit of a sinister toy-maker and witnessing the lives of his guests who perished in the mansion.
Philips probably saw The 7th Guest as a way of attracting a more mature audience to the system and indeed, the game seemed to fit the console like a glove. It could really show the game for all its worth. Indeed, it’s a bit surprising that there weren’t more point-and-click adventure games on the CD-i, considering this was another niche where Philips could have done well for itself.
Unfortunately, with this title Philips was maybe reaching for the wrong crowd since PC and console gamers were still more seriously divided. It was perhaps too big of a leap to assume that PC gamers would jump aboard the CD-i train and buy the system for a game they could play on their computers. Unfortunately, this title went unappreciated despite its technical accomplishments.
Burn:Cycle really sums up everything about the CD-i experience. It was a cyberpunk adventure with some rail-shooter segments thrown in. Burn:Cycle was the closest thing that the CD-i had in the terms of an original hit with the game’s reception being superb for its time. It was a gritty FMV title which received near universal praise.
In fact, the only problem with the title was the fact that it was so unique. It was made by a small British developer (TripMedia) for a system which barely anyone had. Even though Burn:Cycle was ahead of its time technologically and featured an intense atmosphere, the best the game could ever hope for was a strong cult following.
The game was eventually ported to PCs and Macs in 1995 following the CD-i’s descent into video game obscurity. It’s really sad, since this was one game which should have turned the tide for the system.