>> Monday, January 22, 2007
Philips CD-i is not known for realtime high action games. Developers often complained about the lack of sprite support and the scrolling issues. After the launch, CD-i was promoted with 'static'games like Connect Four and Battleship. Was this everything the CD-i had to offer? Luckily Eindhoven based SPC Vision started a CD-i games division, developing exclusively for CD-i. Two years after the excellent CD-i platformer "The Apprentice", SPC returned to the 2D platform genre once again with a licensed character: Lucky Luke.
This was right on time, because the cartoon licenses were hyped soon after, and companies like Ocean and Activision paid a lot of money to be granted these licenses. This resulted soon in the next Lucky Luke game on the Playstation, by Ocean. However, SPC was known for great gameplay and graphics on CD-i, so let's see what it had to offer.
Developer: The Vision Factory (SPC Vision) & PixelHazard
Publisher: Philips Media (germany)
Genre: 2D platform adventure
Review date: January 2007
Required: Digital Video Cartridge
Extra: no multiplayer, age rating: >12 (USK), >11 (ELSPA)
At first I was a little sceptic about this game, after seeing it for the first time in a CD-i kiosk in 1996. After the award-winning "The Apprentice", the main thing that confused me was the relatively large character on screen. In fact, Luke takes up half the TV screen ;). Ofcourse, I don't want to judge a title on first sight, and after my first play I was very surprised about the quality of this game. Graphics-wise SPC did an excellent job, especially the weather effects were very cool and I never thought this was possible on CD-i. I suspect the use of the Digital Video cartridge was needed to perform this kind of animation on CD-i, still I'm not sure. This was the second time I didn't believe the CD-i was capable of a game like this. The first time was with "Litil Divil", and I'll tell you about that one in a next review.
Basically, this is a normal 2D platform game but totally different than the usual "Mario" games one may think of automatically when it's about platforming. If you've played SPC Vision's other CD-i games, you know the games are quite difficult and you won't go far by just running and jumping to the end. No, you have to know what you're doing. The first level you start with a simple pistol, allowing you to shoot one bullit at a time. When you encounter an enemy, you notice its life level on the top left. Normally 4 bullits are enought to kill him. Before that, you'll see the bullits go "matrix style": it's a nice yet tricky move to fire your gun and slowly follow the bullit to its target. This requires a little tactic to shoot everyone down, instead of wildly firing all that moves on screen. Thankfully, the levels are filled with gun-update-boxes: Up to a double-barrel shotgun (I love his voice when you find this gun) and it shoots out 3 bullits at a time, in one hand! Very cool, but not as cool as the dynamite boxes you'll find on the way. One click and an eagle flies over holding the TNT and you decide when he'll drop it. A major explosion is the result, killing anyone that's near. Very nice!
Already in the first level you get to meet your good friend Rantanplan, who is always following luke. However, he's not as stupid as he often is in the comic series. When you find a bone Rantanplan comes to get it and goes into fight with anyone you want him to get. So he is a major help when a lot of enemies are on screen. However, no more than three enemies will be on screen at the same time because the screen won't go further before all enemies are killed. This give a little "Double Dragon" feeling to the game. This also prevents you from jumping and running through the whole level.
Back to the story. Like with all Lucky Luke adventures, it's about the Dalton brothers having escaped again. It's your task to find them and put them back to jail. If you thought basic platforming is the only type of playing here: you're wrong. If you closely follow the question-mark track on every start of a level (notice the animation!), you see the question mark changing into a town building (that's a normal platform level) or a wigwam. That means you're going to ride your good pal Jolly Jumper! Horse-riding is very diverse, while the scrolling this time goes automatically, be aware to jump over obstacles like trees and rocks, picking up bonus targets and killing all the enemies. It's amazing how SPC got to create this kind of action on CD-i, really.
When the question marks goes into a train, it's the same type of level on Jolly Jumper, only you're catching up an on-going train instead of an indian village. After three levels of fun like this, you enter the mines where you have to race against one of the Daltons. He has a barrel of gold blocks which are one by one falling off due to the rough way in the mines. Be careful to pick them up because you need them to complete the level. At the end you have to fight the Dalton: SPC once again created great end levels with loads of action and always a tactical way to defeat the enemy. It's all in the same style as the end monsters in the Apprentice, and it's great to see a lot of (graphical) references to this title as well.
The use of the Digital Video Cartridge resulted in various cool graphic effects. This is the first platform game with different background layers, and one that goes higher than just the one screen. Also the weather changes from time to time, creating a cool day and night effect, not to forget rain and thunders. The save system works automatically after every three levels, and each level has a checkpoint so you won't have to start all over when you're dead. After you've beaten a Dalton, you get to enter the bonus stage, when you have to use the controller as a gun, like in Mad Dog McCree. Balloons are floating by with the letter LUCKY, you get free lives when you get them all. Loads of extras can be found here, like coins, extra time (pick the hour-glass) and extra guns to start with in the next level.
So what do others say? Gir from the CD-i Collective only rates it 2/5. To quote a few lines: "animation becomes stuttered and clunky as the screen scrolls, and the desire to fully animate the hero also makes it easy to cheap hit him." >> there's a true point in this, as the action doesn't goes as smooth as in The Apprentice, and it's up to your oqn opinion whether you think this affects gameplay. In my view, it doesn't. But you have to get used to the way of playing, that's for sure. "The best thing that can be said for this one is it's audio. Pretty darn right on there pardner. One of the CD-i titles that can be played in an audio CD player, it does have some pretty decent music for it's type." >> Another great remark. Ofcourse, SPC Vision is known for its CD-Ready format and always gives you the opportunity to play the game-music in a normal audio player: A great extra. Giving the quality of the soundtrack, it's definately a plus. "Control is what it really comes down to in this one, flashy graphics and sounds are ok... but the control is really pathetic. I honestly felt I had more control when the controler was unplugged." >> At this point he's overreacting a lot, and I don't know why this is said about Lucky Luke. OK, it;s not as fast-paced as its "prequels", but it doesn't hurt the game, as long as you're willing to, ofcourse! Gir's comment on the colission detection is right the charme I find in this game, and again this is no bad issue for a game like this.
To sum it up, I think this is a damn good platform game for CD-i. It's shorter than the Apprentice, but it does make up for that offering a very diverse gameplay and a lot of fun. The pick-up-and-play thing is a little tricky, and don't get scared off immediately by the controls. As with a lot of game classics, this is one to get used to, and once you will, you'll discover a gem of a game. At the original retail price of only 30 dollars, what else do you want?
SPC stands my memory as one of CD-i's greatest producers. The very colourful anime art is typical to every game, and mixing this with the classic Lucky Luke license makes this the most unique Lucky Luke game on any platform, period.
Again, this is a part where SPC shines. The soundtrack is heavily inspired by INXS and Sun Electric, creating a blend of electronic and disco music. Play it with a normal audio player and experience the sound: classic!
To some, a little hit and miss situation. Because of the very clever response times the Apprentice was able to achieve, any downgrade is automatically seen as a con. However, it's a mix you have to make between graphics and gameplay. Lucky Luke takes it a little more to the graphics experience. This meant I was shocked to see this quality on CD-i, but it took a little on the control side to compensate ;)
Personally, I've played this game over and over again, and for me it's no less fun every next try. Ofcourse, after you've played all the levels, you'll want to return to find the secret levels, but there's no multiplayer or extras to keep you hooked any longer. The game is relatively short, and will leave you wanting more.
Overall: 8 (not an average)
Similar games on CD-i:
The Apprentice, Christmas Country, Pyramid Adventures