Cliff Hanger

Cliff HangerThe Game: You’re Cliff, a lovable rogue who’s just pulled off a major heist. But as you’re high-tailing it for your hideout via your getaway car, you encounter another crime even more heinous – a carload of armed thugs pursuing a young woman. You have to rescue her as soon as possible – and since she already has mobsters and other villains after her, the danger just piles on from there. (Stern, 1983)

Memories: Another exponent of the laserdisc genre that begat Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace, Cliff Hanger was Stern’s entry into the then-crowded field. But rather than create new animation from the ground up – a costly endeavour for those aforementioned games created by Don Bluth – Stern simply licensed footage from a couple of classic animè movies from the Lupin III series, drawing primarily from The Castle Of Cagliostro (whose DVD these screen captures are from). Continue reading

Dragon’s Lair

Dragon's LairThe Game: As valiant but clumsy knight Dirk the Daring, you’re on a hazardous quest to rescue Princess Daphne from a huge, hungry dragon. There are all kinds of dangers on the way, including Giddy Goons, the Black Knight, the See the videoBuy this gameSmithee, the Lizard King, and all kinds of other evil critters and contraptions. (Starcom, 1983)

Memories: Dragon’s Lair was the first laserdisc game to hit the arcades, an early field that included Starcom’s Space Ace and other manufacturers’ Cliff Hanger, among only a handful of others. The Sega laser game Astron Belt was actually in development earlier than Dragon’s Lair, but it languished in the video game equivalent of Hollywood’s “development hell,” meaning that it didn’t arrive until it was an also-ran. Continue reading

Dragon’s Lair II: Timewarp

Dragon's Lair II: TimewarpThe Game: Princess Daphne has been kidnapped by the evil wizard Mordroc, and before he can embark on the dangerous quest to save her, Dirk must first fend off the angry attack of his Viking-like mother-in-law as he makes Buy this gamehis way to the castle. Once there, Dirk discovers a talking Time Machine which gets him out of one immediate crisis and then plunges him into several more. If Dirk can’t stop Mordroc from placing his ring on Daphne’s finger, he’ll lose her forever – and the world will have gained one more hideous monster. (Starcom, 1984)

Memories: Don Bluth and Rick Dyer turned to the adventures of Dirk the Daring (hero of the original Dragon’s Lair) for their third laserdisc game outing (the second being Space Ace), this time creating more of a storyline for Dirk to fulfill. The animation is nice, the game play is much more fast and furious, and yet I’m still unimpressed with Dragon’s Lair II as both video game and storytelling exercise. Continue reading

Space Ace

Space AceBuy this gameThe Game: You’re intergalactic hero Space Ace one moment, but the next moment, the evil Borf kidnaps your girlfriend Kimberly and unleashes the Infanto-Ray on you…and suddenly, you’re intergalactic geek Dexter. Borf has placed an enormous number of deadly obstacles between you and him, obstacles which Space Ace could vanquish in no time flat – but you can only turn into the bemuscled one for brief periods of time… (Starcom, 1984)

Memories: Another laserdisc game from the Don Bluth/Rick Dyer team that brought you Dragon’s Lair, Space Ace makes some minor improvements on its predecessor, while still falling victim to many of the same basic problems. Continue reading

Star Wars: Rebel Assault II – The Hidden Empire

Star Wars: Rebel Assault II - The Hidden EmpireOrder this gameThe Game: Darth Vader, forever vigilant in his quest to destroy the Rebel Alliance, has apparently enlisted some new help – and it’s up to you, a lone Rebel pilot, to brave the odds against enormous flotillas of a new breed of TIE Fighters, blast your way through entire platoons of armored stormtroopers, and bring home the details of the new Imperial plan – and then return to the fray to defense the galaxy against this nearly-invincible threat. (LucasArts, 1996)

Memories: I have to hand it to ’em – Lucas Arts finally came up with a game set in the Star Wars universe which won my heart. Rebel Assault II is somewhere between a video game and a movie. There’s a lot of action and forwarding-of-the-story in the game’s numerous well-produced cutscenes, and the whole thing honestly does feel like an untold, yet worthy, entry in the Star Wars canon. There is a straightforward plotline, a set goal you’re trying to achieve, which rings true to this long-time fan of droids and Jedi Knights. Continue reading

The X-Files

The X-FilesOrder this gameThe Game: FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are investigating a mysterious disappearance at a wharfside warehouse when they come under fire themselves – and then become the next to disappear. As junior FBI agent Craig Willmore, you are assigned to the case. Your mission is to find out what happened to Scully and Mulder…but in the course of investigating this case, you’ll find that you’re vastly underequipped to take on a job where enormous opposition will stop at nothing to prevent you from finding them. (Fox Interactive [developed by Hyperbole Studios, 1999)

Memories: I’m torn on this game. On one hand, it’s an exceptionally cool concept – the “interactive movie” experience that has been sought by game makers since the days of the 1983 laserdisc cartoon game Dragon’s Lair. But on the other hand, it’s a frustratingly limited (and limiting) game, not unlike that same dragon-slaying opus of yesteryear. Continue reading

Dragon’s Lair

Dragon's LairBuy this gameThe Game: As valiant but clumsy knight Dirk the Daring, you’re on a hazardous quest to rescue Princess Daphne from a huge, hungry dragon. There are all kinds of dangers on the way, including Giddy Goons, the Black Knight, the Smithee, the Lizard King, and all kinds of other evil critters and contraptions. (Capcom, 2001)

See the videoMemories: In the pre-Game Boy Advance days, developers were pushing the envelope of what the 10-year-old handheld system could do. 1999’s Star Wars Racer included a brief, soundless black & white video clip in its intro sequence, and Dragon’s Lair – a holy grail of retrogaming that had only recently been done justice as an interactive DVD game – promised to pack the fully-animated arcade game of the same name into a Game Boy Color cartridge, an astounding technical feat. Continue reading

Doctor Who: Attack Of The Graske

Doctor Who: Attack Of The GraskeThe Game: Somewhere in London, an alien menace is in the early stages of hatching a plan for world domination, and since he’s dropped Rose off to take part in an important historical event (namely, the 1979 Abba concert at Wembley Stadium), the Doctor asks you to help him find it. After the Doctor ties into your remote control with his sonic screwdriver, your first task is to monitor a seemingly normal family at Christmastime for any hints of alien incursion. The Doctor suspects the alien is a Graske, who invades worlds by replacing people, one at a time, with duplicates that he controls. Once spotted, the Graske leads the TARDIS on a wild goose chase through the time vortex, and the Doctor relies on you to help him operate his timeship’s controls in rapid succession. The chase leads back to Earth, but in an earlier era, where the Graske decides to try launching his invasion at a more vulnerable point in Earth’s history. It’s up to you to spot the Graske and then to accompany the Doctor to the Graske’s home planet, where you have to crack the codes to break into the creature’s inner sanctum and then put an end to his invasion plans. (BBC Interactive, 2005)

Memories: Available to viewers of the BBC’s Freeview and digital satellite services, Attack Of The Graske admittedly doesn’t have tremendous replay value. It’s the TV equivalent of a choose-your-own-adventure book, with only one right answer for each multiple-choice decision point. (I suppose that also makes it a latter-day descendant of Dragon’s Lair.) Continue reading

Red Dwarf: Beat The Geek

Red Dwarf: Beat The GeekOrder this gameThe Game: Holly (and Holly) tax your brain with trivia questions about Red Dwarf (at either “viewer” or “geek” level) or about any number of other things (at “general knowledge”), with a time limit on each multiple-choice question. Some Red Dwarf-specific questions ask players to identify elements of scenes or even pieces of soundtrack music from the series. There are eight levels of six questions each; players who complete a round with no wrong answers will be given a code to enter at the main menu for a bonus game, and players who complete the entire quiz with no wrong answers will be given a two-point bonus question. Along the way, Holly (and Holly) offer helpful advice and critique your knowledge. (BBC Video / 2|entertain, 2006)

See the videoMemories: This interactive DVD game contains the first new Red Dwarf footage shot since the BBC’s cult SF comedy series bowed out in the 1990s; that along is cause for some small celebration at the very least. Granted, it’s not a new episode or the delayed-until-it’s-vaporware feature film, but it’ll do. Norman Lovett and Hattie Hayridge reprise their roles as the two incarnations of Holly; that’s got to be worth the price of admission alone. Continue reading

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