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Electronic Gaming Monthly vs. Full Motion Video
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on May 04, 2017   |   Episode 101 (Show Archive)  

This is Night Trap. It's a cheesy full-motion video game released all the way back in 1992 that stars Dano Plato as an undercover agent trying to take down a family of vampires. Despite the terrible acting and silly production values, this game managed to cause quite a stir with parent groups and eventually led to the ESRB ratings we see today. The reason I bring this up is because a 25th anniversary version has recently been announced for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. No, really; there's even going to be a limited edition physical version.

To help celebrate this upcoming release, I wanted to take a look back at what critics said about not just Night Trap, but every game Digital Pictures released in the 1990s. To do this, I've been pouring through old issues of Electronic Gaming Monthly to come up with the definitive ranking of the best and worst full-motion video games released by Digital Pictures. Join me as we count down EGM's top ten FMV games of the 1990s.

Power Factory Featuring C+C Music Factory
When Sega went to sell people on the Sega CD, they used the promise of brand new video game experiences to lure people in. One of those new experiences was the invention of the "Make My Video" lineup of games, which saw players editing together their own MTV-style music videos with some of the era's biggest names. Unfortunately, Electronic Gaming Monthly didn't review the versions based on INXS, Kriss Kross and Marky Mark, but they did review Power Factory Featuring C+C Music Factory, one of the system's earliest full-motion video games and the starting point for our countdown.

EGM gave the game a range of scores that went from a terrible 3 out of 10 all the way up to 6. Nobody liked the game, though some were more receptive to the experiment than others. "I suppose I would recommend this CD if you like C+C Music Factory and you don't mind not ever winning a game," explained Sushi-X in his tepid endorsement. Steve Harris was less generous, noting that "I really despise these so-called games." He explained that "you watch a bunch of footage while the song plays" and "then you hear the song again and see the video." He's not wrong, that's pretty much everything you do. The average for Power Factory is a miserable 4.75 out of 10.
Corpse Killer
It's probably worth mentioning that Digital Pictures didn't just make games for the Sega CD, but also had a string of Sega 32X (and even Sega Saturn) games that we'll talk about on this list. One of those is a light gun game called Corpse Killer, which had players moving a cursor around the screen and shooting and full-motion zombies. While that sounds exciting, Electronic Gaming Monthly wasn't convinced.

Giving it a 5 out of 10, Al Manuel stated at the top that he "can't be too excited about a full-motion video game." He complained that the controls are sluggish with the control pad and the use of the Menacer light gun "isn't much of an improvement." He would have preferred mouse controls. Ed Semrad liked the game a little more, noting that he can tolerate "B-movies" as a rule of thumb, "but there should be more to this game." He gave it a 6 while everybody else went with a 5, averaging out to a 5.25 out of 10.
Supreme Warrior
Although they didn't always get it right, I admire that Digital Pictures was trying to tackles a wide variety of genres. Supreme Warrior was nothing like the Make My Video lineup or Corpse Killer, and instead tried to create a full-motion video fighting game. Sadly, it didn't work out for them. In their 71st issue, Electronic Gaming Monthly gave Supreme Warrior mostly 5s. That said, the editors weren't as negative as the score suggests.

"I know I've ragged on full-motion video games before," starts Al Manuel. "But for some reason, I have developed a liking for this game." He praised the story, though thought the controls were unresponsive. Sushi-X agreed, noting that he really likes the look of the game. "From the first time I saw it on 3DO, it reminded me of badly dubbed kung fu movies." He had a bunch of the usual complaints, but concluded that "it's not great but it is a novelty fighting game." That it is. Supreme Warrior averages out to a middling 5.36 out of 10.
Slam City with Scottie Pippen
Digital Pictures didn't just try their hand at fighting games, but also a lineup of sports titles. Slam City with Scottie Pippen is yet another Sega CD game that managed to find its way to the 32X with mixed results. Electronic Gaming Monthly pushed this into their sports section, which meant that it had limited coverage and only two critics weighing in. The result was far from a slam dunk.

Iceman mentions that this is an upgrade from the Genesis version, "but there are hardly any changes except the quality of the full-motion video." He complained that the game "doesn't really change" and that you "you must memorize the video and press the right key at the right time." Video Cowboy agreed, giving it a 6 out of 10 and concluding that he is going to "reject this one at the buzzer." Between the two scores, Slam City picked up a paltry 5.5 out of 10.
Double Switch
When Sega released Double Switch in 1994, they hoped to lure people in by directly connecting it to the popularity of Night Trap. It's easy to see why, as this game features another washed-up actor and gameplay that revolved around watching surveillance footage while trapping bad guys. Whether right or wrong, critics were quick to tie Double Switch to Night Trap, and this spiritual successor garnered pretty much the same reviews.

"More like Night Trap, but only you get to work for Corey Haim (ugh, yuck!)," begins Electronic Gaming Monthly. This should tell you pretty much how the rest of this review is going to go. ":Check a series of rooms and catch all the bad guys with the main objective being to free Eddie. This game is a little more involving than Night Trap." While it picked up a couple 7s, it ultimately averaged an above-average 6 out of 10. Perhaps the most disappointing thing about EGM's review is that it doesn't once mention Blondie singer Deborah Harry. She's really the main reason to play this game.
Night Trap
Now here's a fun fact: Although it came out in 1992, Night Trap was originally filmed over a three week period in 1987. It was initially going to be part of the Hasbro Control-Vision, a canceled game system that was set to use VHS tapes instead of CDs. After that system was axed, Digital Pictures decided to bring Night Trap to the Sega CD, making it one of the console's earliest full-motion video games. It may have been revolutionary at the time, but does that mean it was good? The answer depends on who you ask.

Like most of the games we've talked about, Night Trap picked up 5s and 6s from EGM. "Night Trap is the type of title that makes me ask WHY? several times throughout the game," questions Sushi-X. "The digitized pictures are decent, but the plot needs some work." Martin Alessi agreed, noting that "if there were ever a game targeted at the preteen male audience, this is the one." But it was Ed Semrad who was completely won over by Dana Plato's charm, giving Night Trap an impressive 8 out of 10 and calling it "a spectacular use of video." Even when the critics weren't blown away by the gameplay, they were all impressed with the technology. Night Trap managed to earn an average of 6 out of 10.
Prize Fighter
While it's clear that many Digital Pictures games were influenced by movies and TV, few are as blatant as Prize Fighter. Between the old timey acting and black and white footage, this full-motion boxing game often feels like a carbon copy of Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull. And while that could have gone terribly wrong in a number of ways, critics seemed to agree that it mostly works for Prize Fighter.

"For a first-person perspective fighting game, Prize Fighter fares very well with the black and white footage being incredibly effective," notes Electronic Gaming Monthly. Of course, they couldn't go the entire review without mentioning Raging Bull, but that's to be expected. Perhaps the biggest compliment is the ending, where they conclude that "the Sega CD is getting better." I agree that the footage is effective, but this game really does suffer from all the problems associated with full-motion video. That said, the game averages out to a 6.2, making it one of the better reviewed games in the genre.
Sewer Shark
It may be dark, grimy and a little hard to look at from time to time, but Sewer Shark is the first game on this list the critics have genuinely loved. Actually, did I say critics? I meant to say critic, singular. When Ed Semrad went to review this full-motion shooter, he ended up giving it a 9 out of 10, making it the single best score of any game we've talked about today. He called it "spectacular" and complimented the action that "literally flies by and really keeps the player on his toes." It's a challenging game that "must be seen."

Of course, Ed was the only one who was genuinely won over by this game from Sony Imagesoft. "At first glance this disc looks like the coolest thing since shoes that pump," begins Martin Alessi. "After you get over the cool effect of having a full motion video backdrop of high speed tunnel racing, the game is rather boring." Sushi-X agreed, giving it a 6 out of 10 and saying that this is "another full motion video CD game with no plot or real game play." He complained that guiding a crosshair around the screen is not exciting and suggested people wait until 1993 to see what the Sega CD could really do. Even with Ed's high score, Sewer Shark was only able to average a 7 out of 10.
Quarterback Attack with Mike Ditka
While all of the games we've talked about so far have either been for the Sega CD or 32X, the same cannot be said about Quarterback Attack with Mike Ditka. This full-motion sports game completely skipped the 16-bit era and went straight to the 3DO and Sega Saturn. While this certainly helped the video look nice and crisp, it didn't exactly make the critics fall in love with the football game.

Much like Slam City, this another example of a Digital Pictures game being pushed to the sidelines and covered in the sports section. Video Cowboy called this a "unique game that will have you coming back for more" and complimented the solid gameplay and novel approach. Dindo Perez also liked the game, noting that "the inside the QB helmet cam is a nice touch as well as other unique perspectives." "For once in your life, you can be the quarterback and see how it really works in the big game with a real football environment." With scores ranging from a 7 to 7.5, the EGM average ends up at a solid 7.25, making it the second best reviewed game on the list.
Ground Zero, Texas
1994 was a pretty great year for gaming. Between Super Metroid, Final Fantasy VI, Earthworm Jim and even Earthbound, the industry saw some genuine classics show hit retail shelves. Ground Zero, Texas may not be able to compete with the likes of Samurai Shodown II and Donkey Kong Country, but as full-motion video games from Digital Pictures go, it's tops. And the critics at Electronic Gaming Monthly took notice. As Al Manuel succinctly puts it, "out of all the Sega CD games with live-action, I would have to say that this is the best of them all."

The truth is, Ground Zero, Texas is different. Sure, it has all the hallmarks that come with the typical Digital Pictures game, including a B-rate story and over-the-top acting. But the reason this works is because it knows exactly what it is and the talented cast and director manages to actually make it work. Let's not forget, this is from the director of Marked For Death, Halloween 4 and Murder at 1600, movies that transcend their schlocky themes. It also stars prolific character actor Steve Eastin, Scott Lawrence and even Robert Zemeckis' wife. This is a team that knows what they are doing, and it shows.

"Ground Zero, Texas is much better laid out in the sense of the footage of the game and the actions you have to do," explains Sushi-X. "This has got to be the best Sega CD game I've ever played," gushes Ed. With 7s and 8s, everybody seemed to like this attempt, giving hope that Digital Pictures may have turned a corner. Granted, even the more positive reviews still griped that the controls are a little stiff and the dialog is corny at times, but that didn't get in the way of the enjoyment. With an average score of 7.5, this may not be the best game to ever hit the Sega CD, but it is certainly the best full-motion video game the system has to offer.


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