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The Definitive CDTV Retrospective
Peter Olafson email@example.com
[Originally written for the short-lived Amiga Game Zone magazine, which
never published it, Peter Olafson of Amiga World game review fame shares
his all-encompassing review of one of the Amiga's least-understood machines
and the games it spawned. To be continued next month with some
"not-quite-released" game information. -Jason]
A weather balloon. An asteroid. Picnic plates and Frisbees photographed
in soft focus. West Chester swamp gas.
When the history of computer games is written, the CDTV will be probably be
regarded, at best, as an interesting blip on radar and, at worst, as a
first wrong step from the glittering pinnacle of 1990 down the dusty road
to April 1994. Its games may not be mentioned at all.
And, really, who would notice if they were not? It's with some reason that
I've allied CDTV with UFOs here. You could have blinked and missed it.
Or, seeing it, look back later, and wonder if it was really there at all.
Unveiled in the summer of 1990 and introduced in fall of 1991 by a CBM
flushed with the success of its A500, the CDTV - an A500 enshrined in a
gleaming black console with a CD drive, a meg of chip RAM and version 1.3
of the Amiga's operating system - never captured the imagination of the
public or the Amiga development community. Post-mortems have variously
attributed its demise to marketing -- failure to link the new machine with
the Amiga -- and confusion over the CDTV's mission. If not a computer, and
not a game machine, then what was it? It looked like a CD player, and, in
Europe, was often sold -- or gathered dust, as the case may be -- alongside
them in electronics shops.
Perhaps it was simply ahead of its time. Or, perhaps not quite far enough
Whatever the reasons, they translated into poor sales. Companies
typically don't notice a new platform until it has moved at least 100,000
units. A month before the CD32's European launch in August 1993, a CBM
official estimated combined sales of the CDTV and CDTV-compatible A570
CD-ROM drive for the A500 at about 75,000, with about 30,000 of those being
The unit was not quite two years old by then, and already it had
effectively been an orphan for some months. Sporadic publisher "support"
for CDTV would continue into 1994 - with one CDTV-specific and two
CDTV-compatible games releases - but that was more a function of the
quasi-compatible CD32's introduction than ongoing developer interest in the
It was dead -- the CDTV II never went beyond prototype -- and in
retrospect, it had been dead almost from the beginning. The three defining
factors that stand out when looking back over CDTV's history are
cancellation, mediocrity, and obscurity.
Cancellation: One hundred titles were planned for CDTV's anticipated launch
in the fall of 1990. A year later, when the machine actually arrived, I'd
be surprised if the volume of releases was even a quarter of that. Many of
the games that Commodore projected in its two CDTV catalogues, or whose
development was reported by the Amiga press, never turned up at all -
nearly 70 all told, including, embarrassingly, five of those promoted on
the Welcome Disk that shipped with the unit. (A number would later see
release in CD32-specific versions.)
Mediocrity: Those games that did appear were often undistinguished or, at
least, enjoyed no distinction unique to CD. The machine suffered, as did
the CD32 for the first nine months, from an abundance of straight ports,
marginal CD upgrades, and cobbled-together CDTV-specific curiosities. It
has been widely said that the CDTV never had a really good game, and while
not true - in fact, it has a few excellent ones - it's easy to see how that
Obscurity: Giving the platform the benefit of the doubt, about 50 CDTV
games have been released. That's not an atrocious showing (though the
ratio of released to unreleased stinks), and if you saw them assembled in
one stack, it would look like a lot.
But during CDTV's brief active life, it tended to be treated like a crazy
younger brother in an unenlightened society: locked in the basement instead
of getting into a home. No one seemed to know what to do with it.
Magazines heralded its arrival, then roundly ignored it. Retailers tended
to shunt it to one side. Publishers made plans, and the plans gathered
dust. These days, apart from few enterprising mail-order firms, CDTV games
are a forgotten commodity.
Nevertheless, the last three years has seen a mild revival of interest in
CDTV as gamers introduced to Amiga CD via the CD32 have returned to its
roots in search of new diversions.
This may help in the search. In the following CDTV discography, we'll
chart the machine's course in software in a full, commented catalog of
published games. Each game is rated for quality, for any changes over a
pre-existing disk-based version ("NA" where no disk version existed), for
rarity and for CD32 compatibility.
It's a long and, I'm sorry to say, a largely unhappy story. Also a
hard-to-tell one in places, as Commodore (the largest CDTV publisher) is no
longer around to explain itself. But it's nevertheless an opportunity to
peer into one of the most fascinating and neglected cubbyholes in the
Amiga's history. Here's the radar profile of Commodore's most celebrated
Air Warrior (On-Line): Regardless of platform, this Kesmai multi- player
flight sim reveals itself as a genuine piece of work when you're hooked up
with up to 39 other pilots in a "party with machine guns" atmosphere
However, the CDTV version offers nothing out the ordinary. This may have
been a contemporary of the commercial SVGA version for the IBM and
compatibles, but the CD is just a delivery medium. If you're modem-less,
you can still fly only by yourself. And as a solo flight sim, the graphics
will seem Gunship-primitive. (Online, when you have to worry about simply
staying alive, the graphics are almost irrelevant.)
Besides, you can do better. The Amiga version has been significantly
upgraded since this issue (circa 1992-93). Check AmiNet for the current
version and spruced-up graphics files.
Bottom line: C. Changes from floppy version: None. Rarity: Not much.
CD32 compatibility: Yes, provided you have a keyboard attached.
Battle Chess (Interplay): Given the advances in chess algorithms, this
animated chess game is not exactly going to seem like Bobby Fischer these
days. (Then again, Bobby Fischer doesn't seem like Bobby Fischer these
But Battle Chess was always more fun to watch (love the death anims) than
it was to actually play, and artificial intelligence was always a secondary
consideration. I mean, what other chess queen swings her tush when she
walks? What other rook looks as though he could join the Fantastic Four
with no questions asked? What other pawns so deserved the name? Battle
Chess is slightly slow, and the AI doesn't have much personality, but the
game has it to spare.
Bottom line: B-. Changes: Digitized speech in the tutorial; better music.
Rarity: Not much. CD32: Game proper works, but choosing the tutorial locks
up the machine. Available in a CD32-specific version, however.
Battlestorm (Titus): A mediocre multi-directional shoot-em-up whose basic
simplicity of approach was ill-matched to the platform's potential -- but
that nevertheless helped establish a genre later fleshed out by flashier,
disk-based Amiga games like Amnios and Blastar.
Bottom line: C-. Changes: None of note. Rarity: Fairly easy to find.
CD32: Works fine.
The Case of the Cautious Condor (Tiger Media): Time has been unexpectedly
kind to this first CDTV game - essentially a "talkie" graphic-novel version
of EA's 8-bit Murder on the Zinderneuf, set in 1937 aboard a Spruce
Goose-like clipper on a cruise over the Atlantic.
The plane's owner has summoned a dozen guests aboard -- including your
character -- in an effort to solve the murder of a customs agent (his
illegitimate son). The host's apparent heart attack cuts the flight short,
and you have a half hour to oblige your old friend, search the ship,
eavesdrop on the guests, and identify the worst of the bad guys and gals
All of which is easier said than done, as you'll need to consistently be in
the right place at the right time, interpret what you learn, and avoid some
unpleasant dead ends. This conversion - Condor was first released in Japan
as a CD-ROM game in late 1989 - is expansive and lively (if prone to
stereotypes in characterization). The quality of the speech is quite good,
and the interface is dead simple. It wasn't especially well-received when
it first appeared in 1991, but it's easily worth the pittance it's likely
to cost you now.
Bottom line: B-. Changes: NA. Rarity: None. CD32: Yes.
Casino Games (Saen Software Development): Don't bet heavily on this Dutch
hodge-podge of video poker, slot machine and roulette from 1992. It
displays no feel for any of these games of chance and offers nothing
CD-specific and nothing that hasn't already been achieved by disk-based
games in shareware. (Actually, the best thing about Casino Games is the
"Jukebox" function,which allows you to browse through a range of bright
Bottom line: D-. Changes: NA. Rarity: Rare out of all proportion to its
value. CD32: Works.
Chaos in Andromeda: Eye of the Eagle (On-Line): Well, it's ... it's ...
it's big. This sci-fi RPG sucks up around 450 megabytes -- a huge slab of
data by CDTV standards. (The Case of the Cautious Condor uses 320.)
Unfortunately, all those megs don't add up to much. The disk-based
original was mildly engaging - the graphics were tiny and ornate - but the
photographic and audio additions have a cheesy, homemade quality, slow
things down enormously and seem oddly out-of-touch with the game's
Bottom line: D. Changes: As above. Rarity: Hard to find. CD32: Flat
doesn't work. A CD32-specific version was considered, but never surfaced.
Classic Board Games (Merit): A trio of board games - backgammon, checkers,
and chess - with digitized instructions and commentary in six beautifully
spoken languages, including Japanese.
Depending on your point of view, it's either unambitious or unpretentious.
The computer opponent isn't going to beat UChess, the backgammon opponent's
pieces move as though his fingers are broken, and, by rights, author Scott
Lamb (the fellow behind Merit's Operation Combat modem games) should
probably have increased the number of games in this translation from disk
to CDTV. (Only 94 megs are used on the CD.)
Still, the voices are good-natured, the opponents aren't holy terrors, and
I like not being overwhelmed by features. This is OK, but just OK.
Bottom line: C. Changes: Multi-language speech. Rarity: Little. CD32:
Cover Girl Strip Poker (On-Line): How much you enjoy this will depend on
what you're looking for. If it's good poker (yeah, right), forget it. The
girls here bluff out every hand, however worthless their cards, and the
game doesn't even follow standard poker rules. (You can bet yourself way
into the hole, and pull five cards at the draw.)
And while I don't want to sound crass, where there's no real competition,
there's no titillation when someone loses her shirt. This should just be
called Cover Girls Strip.
On the other hand, if it's technical exoticism that interests you (yeah,
right), Cover Girl's kind of neat. A lot of the demure strip teases
practiced here are handled in black-and-white CDXL films (the CDTV's
version of full-motion video), which have the quaint flavor of crank-driven
Bottom line: D. Changes: NA. Rarity: None. CD32: Works.
The Curse of Ra (Rainbow Arts): Right around 1990, the game development
fraternity in general - and Germany's in particular - seems to have enjoyed
a fierce, brief fling with things Egyptian. The children that sprung from
this union in Germany include Eye of Horus, Ramses, the PD games Pamehta
and Cheop, and Curse - a 200-level tile-matcher with roots in games like
The Curse of Ra is actually quite clever, borrowing some ideas from maze
games (transporters) and platformers (icy tiles) and should infuriate you
in no time. The CDTV version is identical to the disk version - lacking,
understandably, the copy protection and level editor. It's an odd choice
for conversion to CD, though, as there's nothing particularly special about
Bottom line: C+ Changes: None of note. Rarity: A little. CD32: No.
Defender of the Crown (CDTV Publishing): Cinemaware was one of the three
principal CDTV developers announced in the summer of 1990 (along with
LucasArts and Virgin). That exactly two games (both Virgin's) surfaced
from this trio speaks volumes for CDTV's downfall.
However, blame can't really be placed at the doorstep of Cinemaware, which
had problems of its own and closed up shop months before the machine
actually took flight. Its legacy seems to have fallen partly to Data East
(TV Sports: Baseball and TV Sports: Boxing) and partly to Commodore
(Defender of the Crown, DOTC II, and TV Sports: Football 2).
The CDTV take of Defender is essentially the disk-based version with speech
(which sounds almost Australian in spots) replacing text, and the addition
of an online manual. The graphics are still radiant, the music still
lovely, and the whole package brings back the jubilant sense of discovery
from the Amiga's early days.
Unfortunately, it's also still Defender of the Crown ... which is to say
that the play-balance flaws that dogged the original remain in place. You
can beat this great looking but basic conquest game in an hour or so and
never look back.
Bottom line: D. Changes: As above. Rarity: Little. CD32: Works.
Defender of the Crown II (CDTV Publishing): Or DOTC: The Director's Cut.
Literally. Assembled under The Director by DOTC artist Jim Sachs, this
revised version features a new objective (raising 20,000 pounds ransom to
save the king); subtly augmented gameplay (notably a real-estate market); a
much more appropriate digitized voice; some new graphics (the huge overlaid
silhouette of a galloping horseman to reflect your army on the move), some
just revised (Sachs was never happy with the original Robin Hood scene) and
some old ones that original coder R.J. Mical couldn't fit on the
original's two disks back in 1986.
Consequently, there's a generally more grown-up, brawny feel to the game,
and winning is much harder. However, weaknesses remain - the arcade
sequences are still either too tough (jousting) or too easy (everything
else) - and I wish Sachs had elected to perform a more thorough overhaul.
But there's more here than meets the eye.
Bottom line: B. Changes: NA. Rarity: None. CD32: Works.
Emerald Mines (Almathera): They should have called this Utter Boulderdash.
Almathera snarfed up every level for this celebrated arcade/puzzle game it
could lay hands on - literally thousands of them totaling more than 40
megabytes, from Ace Mine 1 to Enemy Mine to Oh No More Yams 9 to Ykikakau
Mine 2 . It bundled them together with graphics and sound selectors and a
neat interface. It allowed you to begin play every eight levels (because
you'd never see most of them otherwise). And it fixed them to work under
AmigaDOS 3.1. The result is a genuine labor of love: an amazing
compilation of the sort that CDTV's very nature always invited, but that
never materialized (save in the PD and shareware field).
Drawbacks: Almathera didn't exert quality control over the levels, which
are often way too hard. And none of the EM editors are included.
Bottom line: B+. Changes: As above. Rarity: None. CD32: Works. Boot in
PAL and disable any fast memory.
E.S.S. Mega (Coktel Vision): It stands for European Space Simulator, and
it is probably the single most obscure CDTV title released.
And it deserves to languish in obscurity. Believe me, you don't want it.
The execution is downright trashy. Except for some 3D modeling, and around
10 CDXL sequences in the space database, the graphics in this space sim are
barely above C64 level. The game begs for extravagant sound, and the cover
promises 300 megabytes of hi-fi music. But I couldn't coax anything more
from it than the "boop" of the controller button presses and the bright
click of the countdown.
There is evidently some depth to the game. You equip the space shuttle
with cargo, crew, and energy - were you aware that the shuttle has lasers?
- and then get to launch, pilot, and land it (on a "shuttle carrier"). You
send up and maintain satellites, and you build and manage a space station.
The program gives you little help along the way. E.S.S. Mega has no
presence - the lack of sound kills it - and you never get the feeling that
you're playing it so much as playing with it. And without ever having fun.
Bottom line: D-. Changes: NA. Rarity: Very hard to find. CD32: Yes.
Falcon (Spectrum Holobyte/Mirrorsoft): A great translation of the first
serious Amiga flight sim, featuring the redoubtable F- 16. Set at the
"Commodore Fighter Base," the CDTV edition is the ultimate Falcon package,
incorporating an updated build of the basic game, both the Operation
Counterstrike and Operation Firefight data disks, loads of CDXL sequences
and speech (the latter both in the intro and the game) and a first-rate
interface - plus all the features you came to expect from the disk-based
Bottom line: A-. Changes: Many, but mostly cosmetic. Rarity: Very hard to
find. CD32: Yes, with the occasional audio glitch.
Fantastic Voyage (Centaur): That's right. The folks behind the OpalVision
board published this big, polished multi-direction shoot-em-up (based on
the now 30-year-old movie) on disk in 1991 and followed it up the next year
with a CDTV version.
And it's really not a bad game, with pleasant graphics (good use of
refraction and light, and decent modeling of the miniaturized sub) and lots
of little side-pockets along the route to explore in search of those little
necessities of arcade-game life.
However, the tuneup for CDTV was purely cosmetic. The music is now a bit
beefier, and some changes have been made in the main menu - adding a
music/effects option and dropping the NTSC/PAL and high-score table
Trivia: Centaur did one other Amiga game: King of Karate, the beat-em-up
that it bundled with its 24-bit graphics board (which, by extension, must
make it the most expensive Amiga game ever released.)
Bottom line: B-. Changes: Cosmetic. Rarity: Some. CD32: Works.
Global Chaos (Hex): Kind of a weird mish-mosh of early "multimedia" in
which a platform game - the Rainbow Islands- style Top Banana - shares the
limelight with a bunch of rave demos. Top Banana (which also has released
on disk) looks alarmingly homemade, but is equipped with an array of
charming sounds and sprites and plays quite nicely.
Bottom line: C. Changes: The rave tracks and demos are extra. Rarity: A
little. CD32: Top Banana's fine, but the demos are glitchy.
Guy Spy and the Crystals of Armageddon (Readysoft): One of CDTV's best-kept
secrets. This CDTV Version of this first entry in Readysoft's line of
second-generation Dragon's Lair-style games turned up as an unadvertised
double pack with the IBM version.
The animation's a good approximation of the Bluth games to which it was the
intended successor, and each fight scene is its own sub-game. It's
perfectly pleasant (though it exchanges one type of one- dimensionality for
another), and it's certainly nice not to have to swap disks. (The follow
up, the long-awaited Terror of the Deep, seems to have fallen into the
Bottom line: B-. Changes: None, really. Rarity: None. CD32: Works fine.
The Hound of the Baskervilles (On-Line): A Sherlock Holmes mystery based on
the great British sleuth's best known case. Watson has laid out all the
evidence for Holmes' perusal, and clicking on these documents and photos
prompts verbal descriptions and the occasional cruddy sepia-toned
It's rough-edged, but kind of enjoyable. Of course, it would be a lot more
enjoyable to collect this evidence yourself. This doesn't even hold a
magnifying glass to Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective.
Bottom line: C-. Changes: NA. Rarity: Not much. CD32: Works.
The Labyrinth of Time (Electronic Arts UK): The masterpiece. Not so much
an adventure as an experience, Labyrinth (as it was originally called) is
easily the best playing, best looking, and best sounding game released for
CDTV. The other-worldly HAM graphics, the looping cinematic score
(supremely spooky when played in a dark room), the giant-sized, fully-
rendered inventory, the distinctive, four-way views, the high level of
interactivity (flushing toilets and whatnot) and, the mystery and after a
while, the surprising depth - all combine for a first-person adventure
utterlyt unlike any other that appeared on the Amiga.
Curiosity: Designed by Terra Nova Development expressly for CDTV, Labyrinth
fell victim to EA's rapidly cooling interest in the Amiga and wound up
surfacing first on the PC and Macintosh.
Bottom line: A. Changes: NA. Rarity: It's always in demand, and, hence,
can occasionally be difficult to find. CD32: Works.
Lemmings (Psygnosis): It's just Lemmings - you do know Lemmings, right? -
and the mindless little green-haired guys don't need enhancements. (Except
a survival instinct, perhaps.)
But this strategy classic is a much better puzzle game when played with a
mouse instead of the CDTV's "are the batteries dead or were you standing in
the way?" remote. And releasing Lemmings alone on a CD is a bit like
putting a hundred drops in a glass and calling it a drink. Where is Oh No!
More Lemmings, and where are the special Christmas levels?
Then again, it wasn't entirely alone. See Planetside in the "unreleased"
Bottom line: B-. Changes: Contains the Planetside demo. Rarity: None.
CD32: Works, and was re-released virtually unchanged for the CD32.
Logical (Rainbow Arts): Another appealing puzzler from Rainbow Arts - and
another rather strange choice for a CDTV conversion. More original than
Curse of Ra, this puts me in mind of a more orderly version of a children's
game called Avalanche. Logical defies you to distribute incoming marbles
about a playing board via 99 different configurations of wheels and
troughs. Instantly accessible, and even the first level is tricky.
Again, a straight-arrow port from disk to CD that doesn't push the
Bottom line: B. Changes: None. Rarity: Hard to find. CD32: No.
Mind Run (Crealude): Often categorized as "education," it is actually a set
of tricky (and progressively trickier) brain teasers dealing with memory,
stress, sounds, and reflexes. It's sly stuff, even for adults - not simply
variations on a theme - and execution is so original and artistic that,
however poorly you do, you'll always feel more entertained than oppressed.
Curiosities: Mind Run was coded using AMOS. It's also one of a very few
multi-language games to distinguish American English from British English.
(To no point, really.)
Bottom line: B-. Changes: NA. Rarity: None. CD32: No. (You can get into
the program, but can't control it once there.)
Murder Makes Strange Deadfellows (Tiger Media): The second, and last,
Airwave Adventure. (A third Tiger Media game, Angel of the City, was
dropped midway through production.)
Unfortunately, the label went out on a rather sour note. This 1991
haunted-house mystery - based around your character's search for a new will
- is a rather poor cousin to Case of the Cautious Condor. Storytelling
dominates, and these sequences can be interminable.
Bottom line: D+. Changes: NA. Rarity: Hard to find. CD32: No.
North Polar Expedition (Virgin): Another obscure game, but an interesting
one. This multi-player RPG basically consists of a multiple-choice trivia
game, with each player assuming a role (leader, navigator, radio man,
What's unusual here is that your answers aren't necessarily right or wrong,
but influential to varying degrees in terms of team morale and availability
of supplies. Example: If you elect to extinguish a tent fire by smothering
the flames with your sleeping bag, you'll improve team morale, but reduce
Nice, too, that you don't need to be an expert at your role, and you can
play well using informed common sense. And the "morning of so-and-so"
banner that heralds each day is just enough like "The Shining" to be a bit
Bottom line: B+. Changes: NA. Rarity: Next to impossible to find. CD32:
Works, but some graphics are scrambled.
Power Pinball (KarmaSoft): Sort of an interesting story, this. I'd never
seen this game listed for sale anywhere and had figured it for dead (like
so many other CDTV games) ... until it turned up in 1995 in a mail-order
ad. The mail order company (the late Better Concepts Inc.) indicated it
bought its stock from KarmaSoft (which didn't respond to an inquiry).
A guess: Power Pinball was manufactured back in the CDTV's heyday - were
CDTV allowed to have such a thing as a heyday - but not distributed.
Wonder if there are others like it yet to surface?
Unfortunately, even that little story's better than the game itself. In a
world of Pinball Illusions and Slamtilt, 1990's Power Pinball is nothing
special. It looks the way EA's Pinball Construction Set for the Amiga
might have looked (had EA ever gotten around to finishing it), and the play
isn't very involving when the ball's the size of a large pea.
On the other hand, it is what you'd expect in a CD version, incorporating
the updated program and all 13 pinball tables (five from the original game
and eight from the expansion disk).
Bottom line: D. Changes: As above. Rarity: None. CD32: No.
Prehistorik (Titus): Not quite Chuck Rock, but a fair amount of fun all the
same. In this light arcader, you send a little caveman running about,
collecting food, jumping over fires and chasms, and bashing angry dinos
(and bears, who evidently were contemporaries of dinosaurs) on the head
with an array of clubs. The action will seem a bit dated and primitive
(heh) now, but it's playable. Nice rotating Titus logo, too.
Bottom line: C+. Changes: More music, sound, and polish. Rarity: Some.
CD32: Works like a charm.
Prey: An Alien Encounter (Almathera): One of the last games aimed
specifically at the CDTV. And compared to most other CDTV releases, this
3D action-adventure (from the developers of Chaos in Andromeda) doesn't
seem like a bad game ... at first. You roam a large, alien- infested
ship, freeing crew members, making toast of your uninvited guests and
collecting the necessities of life. The graphics are OK, and movement
consists of the square-to-square scrolling used in Space Hulk, Psygnosis'
unreleased G2 and Angst.
But the ship's not that large, and however crowded it may be with aliens
and crew, you always feel alone. There's no character interaction, and
this isn't so much an open game system as a scripted story. Follow the
script and get neat radio and video transmissions and an early end to the
game. Depart from it and get an early end to your character.
Bottom line: D+. Changes: NA. Rarity: None. CD32: Nope. However,
there's a CD32-specific version.
Psycho Killer (On-Line): Psycho Killer, qu'est que c'est? C'est crapola.
This most successful of On-Line's CDTV games opens with your discovery of
an abandoned car. (In fact, if you don't jam on the brakes pronto, you're
going to become one with it.) Its operator has just been abducted by - wait
for it - the psycho killer. And you, being an honorable so-and-so, make
off across the English countryside (represented by blurry color
photographs) after them. You interact with the program by clicking on
directional arrows and onscreen "hot spots." Do the right thing, and live
to see another blurry photograph.
And after about 10 minutes, you turn it off forever. Psycho Killer is a
decidedly amateurish effort, with its corny acting, ghastly tutorial,
pseudo-poetic death scene, one-track story, and wobbly, silent movie-like
version of video. The best parts about it, quite seriously, are the
dramatic appearance of the On-Line logo at the start and the sax that plays
behind the end credits. The stuff in between is negligible.
Bottom line: F. Changes: NA. Rarity: Easy to find. CD32: Works, but with
a lot of sound problems. There's a CD32 version as well.
Raffles (The Edge Interactive): A straight port of the disk version, this
is an isometric arcade-adventure in the style of Treasure Trap (though not
nearly so nice graphically).
You're the burglar, Raffles, who's been trapped his mark's home and forced
to collect diamonds hidden by her late husband. Naturally, they're in
inconvenient spots. To reach them, Raffles can drag, jump on, and walk
atop furniture in the manner of a misbehaving child. And they're
protected: The house is populated, rather absurdly, by oversized mice and
birds, and contact with them weakens you.
Nothing to phone England about, but you may have some fun with it.
Bottom Line: C-. Changes: None. Rarity: A little. CD32: Works, but
requires a keyboard to play fully. (Keypad keys correspond to the number
keys on the CDTV remote.)
Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective (Icom Simulations; now Viacom New
Media): If there is a CDTV game that still warrants translation to the
CD32, it's this superb triple-threat mystery.
And not because it makes extensive use of tidy CDXL film sequences or
digitized speech - though those elements are delightful - but because it
entertains while making you think, and doesn't do the thinking for you.
Sherlock Holmes is really just an engine for telling the story and sending
you cruising about Holmes' London, setting off little acted-out stage plays
as you go. And it does so with consummate style, intelligence, and
characterization that are present in no other CDTV product (save
Labyrinth). The video and sound quality are good, the acting isn't bad,
the interface is idiot-prooof and the whole thing just oozes class.
But the crux of the game is your own creative thinking -- using what you've
learned to bring a suspect to justice -- and that makes it memorable.
Unhappily, it's only a memory. Icom went on to make two additional SH
games and Dracula Unleashed in this same general style, but never returned
to the Amiga.
Bottom line: A. Changes: NA. Rarity: Hard to find. CD32: No. Gets as
far as the beginning of the first video segment, then crashes.
Sim City (Infogrames): Another of the CDTV's few real hits. A very nice
conversion of the Maxis' city-building classic that also includes both sets
of add-on graphics (future and ancient cities), a "zoom" function, and a
large, easily accessed info window. The "zoom" is especially nice, as it
gives you an opportunity to peek at all the little animations the game
tosses up -- bringing out the ant farm in the sim.
Devotees of the original may find the controls somewhat difficult to
master, but it's worth the effort.
Bottom line: A-. Changes: Many. Rarity: Some. CD32: Works OK on an NTSC
CD32 booted in PAL, but you'll need to disable fast RAM. Won't save
Snoopy: The Case of the Missing Blanket (The Edge Interactive): An amiable
Peanuts game more or less keeping with the spirit of the classic strip that
seemed to shrivel in the 1970s. All the main characters are here, and one
or another is bound to stroll through any given scene, uttering some
Peanutsy non sequitur in a voice straight out of the TV specials. The
backgrounds are just right - nothing too complicated - and so's the
The key players are Linus, who has lost his beloved security blanket, and
Snoopy, who, in yet another flight of doggy fantasy, is playing detective.
You send him through this extensive neighborhood, identifying, picking up,
putting down, and using objects (each of which has a purpose) and doing a
bit of platform hopping.
Don't think it's just for kids. The puzzles are basic, but you'll need to
be thorough to solve them, and the blanket can be found in a couple of
T'aint perfect, though. Slowdowns occur if there are three animations
onscreen at the same time, and some disparities of size crop up. (Sally is
as big as all the other kids, but Snoopy's perfect.)
Bottom line: C+. Changes: Better music and more speech. Rarity: A bit
hard to find on CDTV, but did surface on disk. CD32: Works, but you'll
need a keyboard in order for Snoopy to walk into the screen. Seems to
crash if left unattended for more than five minutes.
Space Wars (Odyssey): Odyssey's second CDTV release and not too shabby.
Imagine the combat bits from Star Control as a stand-alone game, and you
pretty much have Space Wars. You pick ships, a scenario (empty space,
asteroids, black hole, or sun), and then have at it. A particularly nice
touch is that the ships look progressively more beaten-down as they take
damage. It's accompanied by a long-ish "movie," mingling hand- built
models and animation, that divides its time between looking really cheesy
and really polished.
Bottom Line: B-. Changes: As above. Rarity: A little. CD32: Yes.
Spirit of Excalibur (Virgin): Perhaps you've seen Simon the Sorcerer, Dark
Seed, or Beneath a Steel Sky on the CD32. Well, those "talkie" graphic
adventures have an older brother on the CDTV. This translation, developed
as "Excalibur," was the Amiga's first venture into this genre, and, if you
are patient with its cumbersome nature, you'll find it rather good.
Set in England after the death of Arthur, Spirit focuses on the efforts of
Arthur's rightful successor, Constantine, to win his kingdom. The upside:
There's an enormous amount to do. Spirit has lots of little side quests to
complete as in the fashion of The Lord of the Rings, and it's one of the
few games to successfully balance a war game with adventure. It looks
great. (Brad Schenk, co-creator of The Labyrinth of Time, was responsible
for the CD-ROM version's artwork.) The music is an almost physical
presence. And the speech takes this feeling to an even higher level. This
is that rarest of commodities: the true CDTV game.
The downside: Spirit of Excalibur is burdened by a sometimes awkward
interface. Hey, anything involving the stupid remote can be awkward, and
there's a lot of trudging around for no good reason. The combat routine
seems be an offshoot from Defender of the Crown instead of Lords of the
Curiosities: This Synergistic Software game uses a variation of the engine
originally developed for War in Middle Earth. They stuck with it for the
disk-based sequel, Vengeance of Excalibur, and the excellent Conan the
Bottom line: B+. Changes: Digitized voices for the characters. Rarity:
Moderate. CD32: No way, no how. (Believe me, I tried.)
Super Games Pak (Odyssey): A trio of updated arcade classics: Byteman
(PacMan), Jailbreak (Breakout), and Deathbots (Bezerk). The sounds and
music (beefed up from the disk edition) are quite pleasant, but there's
still not much going on here in terms of gameplay.
The basic Byteman and Jailbreak don't display any really new ideas, though
Byteman makes the attempt, with walls that open and close. Deathbots is
the most elaborate, but also the most conspicuously flawed, as it uses a
different perspective (side view) for your character and the robots than it
does for the backdrop (angled-down). Weird, eh?
Bottom line: D. Changes: More sounds and graphics. Rarity: A little.
CD32: Works OK.
Team Yankee (Empire): On disk this is a pretty neat tank game with great
vehicle graphics and decent enemy artificial intelligence, but oddly short
on sound. On CD, this is a pretty neat disk-based tank game with the same
good graphics and AI ... and even more oddly short on sound.
Bottom line: C+. Changes: None. Rarity: Some. CD32: Works fine.
Tiebreak (Starbyte): A tennis game, and a good one. It starts out neat,
with a long CDXL sequence shot courtside, and it stays neat right on
through the gussied-up courts and into the photo album and record book.
The only fault (heh) I can find is that the perspective is always centered
on the server, which places an unfair burden on the other player. Also, be
warned: The only manuals I've seen are in German.
Bottom line: B. Changes: Tons. Rarity: Some. CD32: Runs ... sorta.
You'll need to knock down any fast RAM first, and you can use a standard
controller to get all the way through the setup menus. The bad news: The
game proper recognizes only trackball or the CDTV remote.
The Town with No Name (On-Line): An interesting oddity, this menu-driven
adventure is set in a polygonal western town with the most poorly drawn
inhabitants this side of the Pecos. The game does have a range of places
to explore and can occasionally be "so bad it's good" funny (the John Wayne
and Clint Eastwood parodies are way off the mark), but simply ends up lame.
You can't move around freely, and the sub-games are insipid. Why does this
Bottom line: D-. Changes: NA. Rarity: None. CD32: Works OK. Also
resurrected from Boot Hill for CD32.
Trivial Pursuit (Domark): A genuine production number, this masterful board
game conversion is the only game the publisher completed for CDTV.
The presentation is just wonderful: a great tumbling dice sequence; a
jolly, but bad-tempered bird named Russell as quizmaster (a vaguely John
Cleese-like character who can be told to stuff it when you start finding
him finicky and repetitive); delightful guest questioners (who have a
certain Rocky & Bullwinkle quality about them); and animation, speech,
music, sound effects, and crisp photos all over the place. When you pick
your circular piece at the outset, a gloved hand descends and places a
"chosen" sign on it. When you take too long to roll the dice, Russell
starts pecking at his seed (among other things).
Plus the game proper, of course. The board and pieces are just right. The
interface is very to-the-point. And it has 2,000 questions -- 1,000 on
each of the CDs. (This is also the only 2-D CDTV game - for reasons that
are not quite clear, as the data takes up a total of 447 megs.)
Two potential problems: The question files aren't encrypted, so someone
determined to "rehearse" could do so - much as Trivial Pursuit owners have
been known to do with the board game. And certain categories, especially
entertainment and sports, have an understandable European slant.
But pouncing on Trivial Pursuit for that would be like blaming an
Englishman for being English. This is just about perfect.
Bottom line: A-. Changes: It's a total rewrite. Rarity: Some. CD32:
Works OK on an NTSC CD32 booted in PAL. A one-disk CD32 version also
Turrican 2 (Rainbow Arts): Turrican was the seminal Amiga platform game: a
sort of high-tech Super Mario World, with loads of secret areas and
interesting gameplay challenges. Turrican 2 is pretty much like its older
sibling, with a wider, deeper palette and equally fiendish level layouts
... and perhaps better music in the CDTV version.
Bottom line: B. Changes: Maestro? Rarity: High. CD32: No.
Ultimate Basketball (Context Systems): A graphically dolled-up, but
pared-down, version of Sport Time's superb Omni-Play Basketball.
To my thinking, that's still the great Amiga roundball game. It captures
perfectly the sport's running-water flow, and the disk version is
definitely worth seeking out.
The water stills flows in Ultimate Basketball. Unfortunately, it's less of
a game, and the additions are only around the periphery. Context didn't
use this opportunity to include the add-on modules that Omni-Play
Basketball quietly accumulated over the years (though it does use the
sideview module that surfaced in the second edition of Magic Johnson MVP
Basketball), and in fact, ditched the whole league structure as well,
leaving just the playoffs. (Probably a saved-game issue.)
Bottom line: C. Changes: Some additional graphics, which give the score
screens a more television-like look. Rarity: Some. CD32: Works OK.
The Will-Bridge Practice Collection (Will-Bridge): Another obscure one.
This series of playable bridge games was to consist of as many as five
volumes: Introduction to Bidding, Intermediate, Advanced, Competition, and
At least the first three surfaced, and I've played two of those. If you're
bridge fiend and can't find a second, third or fourth, this may do. The
games are slow, rather broad graphically and spotted with odd interludes.
But they're also cleanly designed, detailed, and instructive.
Bottom line: C. Changes: NA. Rarity: Considerable. CD32: They run, but
won't play beyond a certain point.
Wrath of the Demon (Readysoft): Remember the days when publishers put game
specs in the back of the manual ("28 megabytes of graphics on one disk,
more animation than "The Lion King," 1,500 man years in the making") as if
they really meant something?
Well, Wrath of the Demon will return you to that era, and, in this case, it
really does mean something. Released on disk in the age of great
sideways-scrolling action games kicked off by Shadow of the Beast, this
major league arcade adventure features 15 levels of parallax scrolling, 3
megabytes of 100-plus color graphics and 600 screens. IBM coders still
have trouble doing this sort of game well.
I won't trouble you with the story. Suffice it to say that monsters are
attacking - monsters never just stay home and watch TV - and off you go to
save the kingdom, with a man-ish princess in a very tight gown as an
obvious (though unstated) enticement.
This straight conversion surpasses Beast on many levels. It's held back
only by a graphical cartooniness. (I mean, the hero waves to you after he
gets thrown from his horse.)
Curiosity: The disk-based followup promised (for years) from the same
Quebec development team seems to have fallen into the fire.
Bottom line: B-. Changes: None of note. Rarity: Little. CD32: Caveat
emptor. Runs, but, to my thinking. the controls aren't reliable enough
for the game to be playable. You won't even make it through the opening
horseback sequence (which is hard enough as it is). Experimenting with
the settings on a Competition Pro joypad, I was able to get the game
working, but with keypad controls reversed and some disabled.
Xenon II: Megablast (Mirrorsoft): The game that established the Bitmap
Brothers. This rich and difficult vertically scrolling shoot 'em-up
coupled an impression of great into-the-screen depth and a perfect
difficulty curve with the same graphical sheen that marks the developer's
subsequent games up to and including The Chaos Engine. And it still holds
Much was made at the time of the bopping, professionally composed score.
Feh. (How come no one just puts realistic sounds in arcade adventures?) If
this sort of thing matters to you, you'll enjoy the improvements here.
Even if they don't, you'll still enjoy the game. But the CDTV version is
otherwise pretty much the equal of the disk-based release.
Bottom line: B. Changes: Vibed-up music. Rarity: Very hard to find.