>> Monday, February 12, 2007
Philips Sidewalk Studios were known as the main developers for "Family Entertainment", the counterpart of "Philips Media Games". While both departments were aimed at delivering home CD-i titles, Family Entertainment mainly developed titles for the younger audience. Sidewalk Studios is known for great children games like "The Crayon Factory", "Sandy's Circus Adventure" and "Richard Scarry's Best/Busiest Neighbourhood Disc Ever". However, sometimes an actual game not specifically aimed at children was written by the creative eyes of Gary Drucker and Rebecca Newman, heading one of the most productive Philips development houses at the time of CD-i.
Developer: Philips Sidewalk Studios
Publisher: Philips Media (Family Entertainment; USA)
Genre: Interactive Musical
Review date: February 2007
Recommended: Mouse/Trackball/Roller Controller
Extra: no multiplayer, age rating: >7
"It's the class of '66. To one of the coolest guys at Surf. Hi - I'll always remember that groovy beach party. Great Tunes. Love, Sandy."
So Sidewalk wasn't purely aimed at children titles. For example, take "Merlin's Apprentice", a game originally developed by Philips Sidewalk Studios, but transferred to Philips Funhouse because it was not in line with Sidewalk's other games. This transfer marked the start of Funhouse being some kind of Sidewalk spin-off creating games with the same animation techniques.
"Hey Homeroom Buddy - How will you survice without Miss Z's pop quizzes? have fun in the sun... -Willies"
But also "Wacky Worlds of Miniature Golf" is a game by Sidewalk Studios not aimed directly at children, although it does appeal to all ages. No, this time I want to talk about "Surf City". Surf City is known as Sidewalk's biggest projects, being in development for a long time. Something that crossed the oath of Sidewalk's vision: The tight structure only allowed small budget titles: It's not for nothing they were able to produce 14 (fourteen!) CD-i titles in just a few years. That marks Sidewalk without a doubt as the most productive Philips Software Unit during the life of CD-i.
"To a cool guy - See ya'Round this summer. HANGTEN, DUDE! -BUZZ"
I'm drifting away from the original subject: The Surf City review. What's this title about? According to the obscurity it has and the fact not a lot of people has played this disc, I assume Surf City is pretty rare to come by nowadays. What we have here is quite an original title: An interactive Musical. I never enjoyed Surf City for the actual games, but for the whole experience. The sound intro is by far the best of all CD-i intros I've seen. The Beach Boys tune takes over the original Philips tune to create the same effect as in a movie; a way I pictured a more clever intro for a lot of other titles. Talking about the games, you can for the most compare this with the Richard Scarry busiest neighbourhood disc. It's made by the same people, and it is obviously inspired by this title. The whole thing is the same, there is an overmap of the main city and you can click the streets. A scene follows in where the streets scrolls by, and you click on any building you want to visit. Inside, you can click on different things, talk to people and call for help. Or exit, and visit a different place. Really, that's it.
"To my good pal - Drama was a blast! See ya next year. -Chip"
Still, you can do the most with these 'games' in the whole title. Surf City is inspired by the great music of the 60s. It is the first animated interactive musical in its own right. Classic hits help tell the story of Ryan Carlson, Wendy Weaver, Rhonda Williams and their friends with favourites like California Girls, Dance Dance Dance and Wipeout. The games, I'd prefer to call them 'activities'. Read the names: Build a hot rod; Go bowling at the Beach Bowl; Design a surfboard; Play the video jukebox; Race cars at the arcade speedway; take a pizza order; learn surf lingo from Tiki; Visit the love teller; Take a pop quiz at the high school; watch fireworks on the pier; Order a burger-to-go; Play spin-the-bottle at wendy's house.
In fact it's a very interesting genre, and I compare it slightly with the "Animal Crossing" thing: Some will love it, some will hate it. It sets an atmosphere and you just want to visit it for once in a while. It's addicting, and Surf City will make you return because of the great music, the holiday feeling and nothing more. Why do kids never get bored of Richard Scarry or Sesame Street? It's the same kind of thing, only Surf City is aimed at a wider (older) public. You won't play Surf City just for the games, I think. Ofcourse, they add a feeling that the city is alive, in the end you just wander around to see what's happening in Surf City.
Surf City is a unique title, it's a genre that is lost these days just like the FMV game genre. There's not a lot of action, and it's even hard to call this a game. Really, the term "Interactive Musical" describes its ambition the most.
If you've played the other Sidewalk games, you'll recognize the style. Simple, cartoon style. It's the brand of Sidewalk, really. Nice animation, obviously they put a lot of work in this project.
Outstanding. Musical score by the Beach Boys, this is one of the best bits of Surf City. If it wasn't for the soundtrack, the title wasn't worth even half of it.
Sidewalk keeps their games simple, and it shows. None of the games are deep or difficult, but the whole system adds a living touch to Surf City.
Nice to spend some time with once in a while, but you won't play this title for many hours. It's the ultimate title to showcase CD-i base case to any Beach Boys fans and non-gamers on CD-i. I love it, but I can understand why lots of people don't get the point.
Overall: 7 (not an average)
Similar games on CD-i:
Richard Scarry's Busiest Neighbourhood Disc, Sesame Street Letters+Numbers