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Thunder in Paradise Interactive (Philips CD-i)

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Thunder in Paradise Interactive was co-developed by Mass Media Inc. and Philips P.O.V. Entertainment Group in 1995 for the Philips CD-i. It is a full motion video (FMV) game based on the TV series of the same name. In the story the game’s villain Rampike tries to reprogram and steal an android while its creator is feeding it with ideologies from a former soldier played by Terry “Hulk” Hogan. This causes a malfunction which makes the android to go for Hulk’s daughter. The android wants to take her with it to its storage room. This would in fact cause her to drawn as the android is stored in a liquid filled container. Hulk is joined by his nephew by his friend in his effort to save his daughter.

The game is composed solely of three levels. The first level is a protecting mission which can’t be succeeded. The player protects the speed boat, for which the show is famous, from drones and missiles sent by the android. The aim is to make as many points as possible. The player may use three different weapons of which two just have a limited quantity of ammunition. The attacks grow more and more fierce until the boat is damaged and the mission ends.

In the second level the player takes the role of the nephew as he fights against Rampike’s soldiers on his way to find Hulk’s daughter. The scenery is a tropical island. A full automatic laser rifle with limited ammunition is used. The ammunition is replenishing over time but just slowly. Therefore it is wise to use the rifle with single shots rather than holding the trigger down. The player’s health also slowly regenerates over time. The game features a cursor, which is showing where the gun is pointed at. Depending on the player’s performance the game progresses on branching paths. If the player manages to defeat the android, it is conquered and used in the third level. If the player looses against the android the nephew will be used in its place instead.

The last level plays in the laboratory where the android was built. After some time the scenery shifts to a holographic simulation of a street surrounding. Succeeding the simulation the player fights against Rampike. If the player is using the android the game ends here and the best possible ending is shown. If the player was using the nephew a final boss fight against the android takes place.

The good endings are rather similar and just differ by the amount of woman approaching the nephew back at the beach. The core element of all bad endings is that Rampike or his mignons gain control over the android and escape but Hulk is able to free his daughter nevertheless.

The game feature two play modes: The so called “game only mode” where the player may choose amongst the levels in any order to achieve a high score and the co called “interactive television” mode in which the levels have a certain order. There the game play is interrupted by videos and the path alters depending on the player’s performance. The interrupting videos reflect the player’s performance ranging from being insulting and being flattering. The levels in the game only mode play slightly different to the variations in the interactive television mode. The most notable example is the terrace part in level 3. In interactive television mode level 1 and 2 are interrupted by a database portion, showing information about weaponry, enemies and a video of women at the beach. This brings back to mind that the TV Series Baywatch is sharing some of its creators with Thunder in Paradise.

The Philips CD-i uses the so called Peacekeeper revolver which works really similar to the Nintendo Wii. It is also based on an infrared light transmitter placed at the display and light tracking inside the gun. I felt the gun calibration was cumbersome and bad programmed. For best results I ended up attaching the light source vertically to the side of my TV and aiming at self defined positions rather than the suggested targets. In order to aim I taped sights on to the gun made of oven curing putty, as the original gun itself lacks sights. This way I achieved a precision similar as the one which is common to a Nintendo Wii using standard equipment. I tried out all my self made Wii sensor bars and even candles but none of those seemed to work with the Peacekeeper.

Personally I didn’t like the fact that the game is played by shifting a curser rather than solely aiming with the gun itself. I think many of the games problems come from the Peacekeepers lack of sights: The programmers were not able to write suitable code for the calibration, as they were unable to aim without sights. Thus the inclusion of a cursor was necessary. The cursor made the game much too easy and therefore the hit boxes are small, shots have a latency and the enemies are often placed rather far away at the background in order to provide somewhat of a challenge. Even if the player fixes the sights and calibration situation, the hit boxes, the latency and enemy placement hinder the experience. The solution would have been a mode which hides the cursor and increases the hit boxes. I imagine the effort to do so would have been small. One could argument that everything is done intentional as the guns wielded inside the game don’t have sights eighter. But I am skeptical and assume that the responsible staff didn’t know a lot about firearms and was not willing to do some quick research.

The video quality is not very good. I understand that the MPEG-1 encoding was used because of the limitations of this 1992 console and a comparison to the Sony PlayStation is not fair. But what bugs me is that the video seems got compressed to a CVBS like format prior encoding as can be seen in artifacts such as rainbows. The videos were cut together badly as there are holes in the logic of the story of the game which were not present in the two episodes the game is based of. For example Hulk talks about saving his daughter before he even knows that she is in danger. Luckily the two episodes are included to the game as a separate VCD.

Surprisingly enough I have to admit that I like the game and that I had a good time playing it. I like its cheesiness and I found it funny being reminded of that strange TV show I never liked. I felt encouraged enough to trigger all 5 possible endings.

The cover is a badly made rushed montage of non matching, unrelated objects but nevertheless somewhat pleasing. Ironically it is therefore perfectly suited for the video game it contains.