Out of the 21 CD-i games we have reviewed so far on Defunct Games, there haven't been a lot of titles to get lyrical about; just Burn: Cycle and Flashback received top notch ratings. But there was something about those games as well. Burn: Cycle was ground breaking in its days, but didn't particularly age well. Also, no-one needs to buy a CD-i player to play Flashback, since that classic is available on almost every other (more enjoyable) console around. When you put it this way, it feels quite certain nobody should ever bother with Philips' failure ever again.
But when reviewing games, sometimes an unexpected gem will be lying on your pad. I never thought one of those gems would be happening on my deplorable CD-i system, but it did. From the moment I plugged The Apprentice into the system I was sold. This game is in no way sluggish and has excellent production values, especially when you compare it with a lot of other CD-i titles.
The Apprentice is a standard platform game, but full of humor and little in-game jokes. I even found the introduction story (which can be clicked through - almost unique for a CD-i title) very funny. You control "the lowest of the low" - Marvin, the apprentice of the "great wizard Gandorf Wandburner III", who gives Marvin some assignments, like fetching a book out of the library for him. In six stages (consisting of three levels and one boss battle), Marvin has to complete this tasks. Marvin actually is a naughty little fellow - much more interested in the statues of scarcely clothed Japanese ladies (which are for no reason scattered across the levels) than actually becoming a fulltime wizard.
The graphics are quite amazing if you remember the CD-i player is just a 16-bit console. The characters are large and just as the backdrops they're very colorful and bright. It somehow even reminded of a game that would be loved much later on - Rayman. The Apprentice has the same funny cuteness, though this game has a bit more a mature feeling to it due to the (only suggestive) naughty bits.
The Apprentice is not a groundbreaking or original game, but it is classic platforming fun and will probably appeal to anyone who grew up with 2D platformers. The only critical remark I can make is that it's just too tough at times. If you don't have any power-ups, Marvin will die from one hit. Some parts of levels are nearly impossible to survive, and I literary had to try some of the stages hundreds of times before I beat them. But I guess it's a good thing I kept trying. Luckily the game saves automatically once you've completed a level. A little letdown is that the boss stages aren't saved separately, so once you die there you've got the finish a whole third stage of a level all over again.
Overall, The Apprentice gave me the feeling my CD-i console was actually a gaming console instead of just a player of Infotainment CD's and premature released, poorly produced games. The Apprentice certainly is a positive note on the CD-i spectrum. Unfortunately, the very small collection of good CD-i games is easily overshadowed by the overwhelming amount of crap titles on the system (like Micro Machines, Chaos Control, Dark Castle, Cartoon Carnival, all the Zelda-games and International Tennis Open ... just to name a few). But if you're really looking for a fun game for your CD-I that hasn't aged too badly, The Apprentic is worth checking out. I even think this game has still enough quality to deserve a re-release as shareware. If that ever will happen, a CD-i console really will lose almost all the rights to be in any housekeeping. But for now I have at least one good reason to still hold on to Philip's doomed console.