It has been a productive January and here are 3 more new game entries that MobyGames has approved before month’s end:
Tonight’s interactive movie (I’m seeing how many I-movies I can tolerate in a row) comes from Mechadeus, the same group responsible for Critical Path. So I really wasn’t expecting much. I’m pleased to report that The Daedalus Encounter either met or surpassed all of my (admittedly low) expectations.
First off, Mechadeus managed to score an actual leading lady for this movie vs. a stuntwoman. Tia Carrere is the big name in this game. You may remember her from such movies as Wayne’s World, True Lies, and ummm… what else… Wayne’s World 2, I guess. Still, she and co-star Christian Bocher help clarify the difference between actual actors and the people who usually appear in these games.
Everything about this game represents a marked improvement over Critical Path. For starters, it actually installed on my WinXP system so I could experience the game properly. As mentioned, the acting is superior, at least relative to the I-movie genre as a whole; the computer-generated graphics are phenomenal by 1995 standards (and hold up reasonably well even now); and the ambient stereo soundtrack is quite well done. The game plays in a centered 640×480 window and the FMV movies are 320×240 centered in that window. Fortunately, the space bar toggles doublesizing to the entire space which I appreciate. True, there is the fact that the actors look a bit hokey in front of the CG backgrounds. But this is still a welcome oasis in the vast desert of I-movie experiences.
Let’s jump into the FMV. Here is the trailer included on the first of the 3 CD-ROMs that gives an idea of how the FMV looks:
I notice that the FMV does not showcase what the actual gameplay screen looks like. That’s less sexy in a trailer:
A little exposition is in order at this point: You play the part of a person who was nearly killed in an outer space collision. The doctors rescued your brain and put it in a robotic probe. Now you have all your thoughts and memories but also robot powers. As the screenshot indicates, you can run analyses on other things, diagnostics on yourself, and answer affirmatively or negatively to queries. You can view things in infrared, ultraviolet, or in the normal spectrum of human-visible light. And then you have a variety of utilities such as a grappling arm and a laser. Naturally, this is not exactly a free-form game where you can fry your two still-human salvage coworkers out of jealous rage that they have flesh bodies and you don’t. The game only allows you to use your abilities at strict points.
I’m glad to say that Daedalus Encounter’s gameplay deviates somewhat from that of its spiritual predecessor. Rather than just plodding around mazes of pre-rendered scenes (which this game also has), there is apparently a larger emphasis on mini-puzzles. True, that’s not exactly groundbreaking for an I-movie, but work with me here; I’m still trying to achieve closure over Critical Path.
Unfortunately, I get stuck at the first mini-puzzle. I probably would have tried a little harder but my editor (who also happens to be me) enforces some strict midnight deadlines for these blog entries. Plus, I have watched enough of the FMV files from the 3 CD-ROMs that I pretty well know what’s in store. The task was to use my laser to supply enough power to this ship door to trigger its opening. But be careful because the people who built these ships had a propensity of boobytrapping the doors. I was instructed to use my laser to hit the switch in the upper right portion. You’re supposed to use the mouse to select a spot to hit but I was at a loss to figure out just where I was supposed to hit.
The door exploded every time and Tia expressed her severe discontent with my performance. I suppose I could solve this puzzle by brute force as there are only 76800 possible places to hit on the movie window. Maybe another night.
I would be remiss if I neglected to mention that the game eventually involves solving a mystery involving an alien race.
- Critical Path, another FMV-based adventure from Mechadeus
Okay, Critical Path, let’s get something straight up front: I don’t like you and you don’t like me. But I need screenshots from you to feed into your MobyGames entry. So let’s just hurry up and get this over with. Deal?
But nooooooo… Critical Path isn’t going to make life easy for me, is it? Why should it? The program needs to be properly installed to the hard drive via a setup.exe utility which reliably fails out with this dialog no matter what:
I even tried it in the Windows 95 VMware image I keep around for these types of emergencies. Darn you, Critical Path, you just had to slight me one last time, didn’t you?
You might be curious about my longstanding feud with this game. I discovered it early in my days of buying old, cheap video games for the purpose of studying multimedia. This game certainly didn’t disappoint in that department– it relied on a variety of basic multimedia formats to achieve its aim. However, when I used a QuickTime-capable player to play through all of the .mov files, I was quite stunned by what I saw or, more to the point, what I didn’t see. I didn’t see significant substance, gameplay, or any particular length of play. I believe this is the first time I really saw an interactive movie in action (sort of) and I would never have quite the same rosy outlook on life.
Here are the details: It’s a post-apocalyptic world — nuclear devastation or some such — and you’re part of a military outfit that’s trying to transport survivors to a safe zone. You are a faceless male. Your copilot is Kat, played by a stuntwoman by the name of Eileen Weisinger (apparently the game’s biggest selling point). Your craft is shot down over some island. You’re still faceless and injured but are now situated at some control console for the island’s base. You have full voyeuristic control of all the cameras in the facility as well as some of the other mechanical gear.
Fortunately (?), the CD-ROM provides some slideshow stills.
Your job as the faceless, injured cohort is to guide Kat through the base. According to the FMV sequences I viewed, this isn’t always as easy as it sounds. There are areas where hordes of orange jumpsuited mutants are closing in on you. You have to find the right console button to activate a machine gun to take them all down. In another juncture, Kat is hanging on to a crane hook and you have to navigate her to safety vs. boiling lava. Remember, this is all accomplished with FMV.
I would hate for you, the reader, to go away without a deeper understanding of what the game’s video is like. So here’s the trailer for Critical Path that comes on the CD-ROM. This is the final insult– YouTube can’t even convert the QuickTime file properly. There are a lot of skipped frames but you’ll still get the gist.
- The Daedalus Encounter, the spiritual sequel to this game
Here are the latest MobyGames entries as a result of this blog:
I don’t think I did Zen enough justice. Check out this much more thorough thrashing of the game.
Tonight’s interactive movie (shudder) seemed a bit ahead of its time in its use of Adobe PDF technology. At least I had never seen this particular use scenario before: The CD-ROM for Beyond Time contains a directory called answers/ with a locked PDF document. Back in 1997, you could call the toll-free number for DreamCatcher Interactive, the publisher, and pay $10 to retrieve the password. Enterprising, though it could be that they knew no one else would create a strategy guide.
It’s not uncommon for games to ask you to install extra support software such as DirectX, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Windows Media, or Apple QuickTime. All of these examples tend to be fully backwards compatible with previous versions. That’s not good enough for Beyond Time which demands QuickTime v2.1.2; the latest version 7.x won’t qualify. I do what I must:
QuickTime v2.1.2 still works famously on Windows XP. I was a bit worried whether the existing QuickTime v7 would still work. The operation seemed to cause problems with the file associations. But otherwise, v7 still works. And so does Beyond Time.
As some readers may know, I have zero love for the I-movie genre. I hope to spend as little time with this game as possible. Fortunately, the game is sympathetic to my disposition and helps me along by not tractably allowing me to proceed very far in the game. The setup is that valuable relics are mysteriously vanishing from museums. A particular curator has enlisted your help to go snoop around an archaeological dig in Egypt and see what you can find. I may be missing a few connecting details in there but darned if I’m going to watch it all again.
So I find myself at the dig site. The gameplay is Myst-like in the point-and-click slideshow fashion. It moves much quicker than Myst, which I appreciate. I walk up and down the dig site and eventually find and turn towards this statue:
It flashes light at me. Apparently, the flash blinds me to the point that I can’t see the mouse cursor anymore which pretty much makes the game unplayable. Restarting the game yields this same problem at the same point. I’m not too heartbroken.
I will give credit where credit is due– the ambient sounds are beautifully presented and the acting (what little I saw of it) was not entirely atrocious. However, the video all looked a little too home video cam-ish which is an amateurish blemish that typically mars these I-movies.
Tonight’s game presents a bold and daring vision of a dystopian future with flying cars buzzing around a bustling megalopolis, where law and order hangs by a thread, and where you are a special breed of quasi-vigilante charged with using deadly force to bring down what is tenuously identified as the criminal element (hard to say since everyone is corrupt in this future). Presumably, the ‘B’ in BHunter stands for “bounty”, though that’s never actually specified in the game. For that matter, the title ‘BHunter’ never appears in the actual game, not even on the main menu. It could be that ‘bounty’ does not translate well across Castilian Spanish, French, Dutch, Portuguese, and U.S. English, which are the 5 languages I have to choose from on installation.
Cutting straight to the action, BHunter strikes me as being a Descent clone. You float around in your little ship, rotate about your axes with the cursor keys or mouse, and go forward/backward with A/Z. I know there must be lots of other controls but darned if I can find the manual at the moment.
On the tutorial mission (the only one you have access to at the start) the mayor welcomes you to town and assigns an officer to tutor you on the first mission. The officer instructs you to use your radar to track down your first target. Should be an easy mission and sure enough, when the car is in view, it is highlighted as the “TARGET”, so there’s no confusion. It didn’t really seem fair, though. Seems like his only crime was being a leisurely driver. Well, apparently, I serve as neither judge nor jury in this game; only execution duties, thanks, and I earn 5000 credits for my trouble.
I don’t get much farther in the game, however. I’m apprehensive about whether I am getting the full experience without the benefit of the manual. More importantly, though, the game has a lot of trouble running on my system. Visually, the graphics are quite detailed and fluid, but only with 3D hardware acceleration. I disabled acceleration in an effort to make the game run better. The graphics look atrocious without hardware help and my program problems didn’t go away.
I liked what I heard, however. The developers did a great job with the 3D sound effects when other cars whiz past. The game also features an appropriate techno soundtrack which turns out to be a continuous 22-minute red book CD audio track. A track that keeps playing even after the game crashes (fix: eject the CD).
It didn’t take long before I started pushing the limits of this immersive 3D world. First, I wanted to see how high I could fly. Answer: Not very. There’s a magic force field that hovers at right about the height that all of the buildings are constructed. That’s some strict building code enforcement! Here’s a curious quirk related to the magic ceiling force field:
Check out the first screenshot depicting city hall. Notice the slanted roof. I tried going over that portion of the building only to bounce furiously between the roof and force field which resulted in the above situation. I was stuck, but I don’t think I was actually destroyed. Thankfully, the game didn’t crash at that juncture.