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Thunder in Paradise Interactive - CD-i Review

>> Wednesday, March 14, 2007

One of the biggest key-stones for the CD-i was the Interactive Movie. What kind of graphics could top real live action? It's a game genre American Laser Games was thriving on with the gun shooters like Mad Dog McCree and Crime Patrol. The best conversions were available on CD-i which were almost on par with the Arcade versions. Also Philips was experimenting with Interactive Movies and signed deals with companies like Paramount and Buena Vista to develop interactive versions of movie licenses like Star Trek and Jurassic Park. Unfortunately, this never happened because the life of CD-i was over before these projects got off the ground. However, their first real try after the famous Voyeur was following the crew from Thunder in Paradise, an one-hour action-adventure TV series from the creators of Baywatch, which stars Terry Bollea alias Hulk Hogan, Chris Lemmon and Carol Alt. This first-run syndicated TV series originally premiered as a straight-to-video feature in September of 1993, then ran for one season in 1994 before being canceled. A huge project which could have started a change in the way we play games.

Developer: Philips Point of View / Mass Media
Publisher: Philips Media Games
Release: 1995
Genre: Interactive Movie / Rail Shooter
Review date: March 2007
Required: Digital Video cartridge
Recommended: Peacekeeper Gun / Mouse
Extra: no multiplayer, age rating: >7

Commonly, movie licensed games nowadays are of mediocre quality. Limited budgets and fast development times prevent these games from being true classics. Philips clearly had a different vision in this, Thunder in Paradise is one of the most beautiful CD-i games ever created, and the 'interactive movie' genre was put to a new level thank to Thunder.

Thunder in Paradise follows the adventures of two ex-Navy SEALS, Randolph J. "Hurricane" Spencer and Martin "Bru" Brubaker, who work as mercenaries -for-hire out of their tropical resort headquarters along Florida's Gulf Coast. Using their futuristic, high-tech boat, nicknamed "Thunder," they travel around the world fighting various and sundry criminals and villains. However, they are forced to balance their dangerous undercover work with their responsibilities of raising widower Spence's young daughter Jessica, who lives with them.

Former model Kelly LaRue, who owns and manages the "Scuttlebutt Bar N' Grill" on the beach in front of the resort, looks after Jessica whenever Spence and Bru go on their missions. Kelly also serves as a romantic foil for Bru, who consistently fails miserably in his pursuit of her. Edward Whitaker, Jessica's uncle, owns the beach resort and makes semi-regular appearances in the series, primarily for comic relief.

The Thunder in Paradise pilot movie was filmed in and around the historic Don Cesar Hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida during April of 1993. When the series was picked up for a full season, the production company then moved to Disney-MGM Studios near Orlando, where the primary filming location became the Grand Floridian Resort at the Walt Disney World Resort. Other filming locations at Walt Disney World included Disney's Old Key West Resort, and EPCOT, used heavily due to the wide variety of futuristic and architectural styles available at that theme park. The destruction of the school featured in the two-part episode "Deadly Lessons" was an actual controlled demolition of a school building in Central Florida that the production company agreed to perform in exchange for filming rights.

When Philips entered the scene, they planned on a different course with the very last episode: "The M.A.J.O.R. and the Minor". Ironically this also ended life of Thunder in Paradise as well! The two-part episode "The M.A.J.O.R. and the Minor" was used as the basis for the Thunder in Paradise CD-Interactive game. In addition to the episode itself, additional footage was filmed for use at different stages in the game. Although video game tie-ins have been created for numerous TV series such as Star Trek: The Next Generation and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, this is the only time in TV history that an actual aired episode was written and structured to serve as the basis for a video game.

The title is based around three 'encounters', which you can either play individually, one after another, or integrated together with clips from the TV show as a sort of 'interactive television'. If you play them in order, the 'Thunder Encounter' is first. 'Thunder', of course, is the high-tech speed boat that is the star of the show, presumably the bastard child of the car from 'Knight Rider'. It talks, it shoots missiles, and when the heroes are in a hurry, they hit the 'hyper-speed' and the guys in editing speed up the beauty shots of the boat so they're really fast.

In the encounter, you're trying to shoot down an assault by missiles, planes, aircraft, etc. You see out one side of the boat, with a nicely-animated moving water effect, and have a radar screen at the bottom right that shows you threats on all four sides. To switch sides, you press button-two to rotate clockwise, or hold button-two and press the joypad to pick a side. Your basic weapon works like the cannons in 'Missile Command', by creating a brief explosion that destroys anything that flies into it. Given the speed at which missiles approach you, leading your targets is essential. You also have a limited number of long-range missiles that take out threats on the outer ranges of the radar, and a smart-bomb that elminiates everything close to the ship.

That you'll take some hits is a given. What this game is about is resource allocation. Shields on all four sides will protect the ship until they're gone, and even regenerate if they're defended well, so you can compromise a healthy shield if one side of the ship is exposed. It takes a little more thought than the average shooter, but it makes things more interesting. The sprite animation is surprisingly good for a CD-i title: it makes you wonder why Chaos Control had to use MPEG for everything.

The other two segments, the 'Island Encounter' and the 'Lab Encounter' are virtually identical to each other. You walk around a terrain that looks suspiciously like a stock location at Disney World (which technically, it is), with a set of on-screen cross-hairs, blasting the baddies as the pop up from behind various objects. It's more than a little like Mad Dog McCree or Escape from CyberCity, but far more playable. Instead of dying when you get hit, you lose health. That allows the designers to stock the locations to the gills with gunners, put them in tricky locations, etc. The action is fast and furious, and the concept is executed better than the American Laser Games like Mad Dog McCree.

Remarkably, the nasties aren't actors in same-place-every-time MPEG video. They're actually objects animated by the CPU, meaning they can show up in different places, a different order, or not at all, each time you play the game. And the animation is good enough that you can hardly tell it isn't MPEG. Gunners jump into the frame, roll out from under their cover, etc. And when hit, they don't just stand there smoking (Like in Infogrames' Chaos Control and Solar Crusade!), but disintigrate in a white-blue implosion. This technical feat alone is worth the price of admission. Nice that it makes the game more playable too!

Thunder in Paradise is no Doom or Rebel Assault, but it is genuinely fun, and one of the best no-brainer twitch-and-shoot games for the CD-i. If Chaos Control and Mad Dog McCree are your kind of game, save your money on both by buying this title instead.

End comments:
One of the best shooters you can play with the Peacekeeper Gun. Calibration is available just as in the ALG games, and it works perfectly. The CPU rendered bad guys create a far more intense experience than playing MPEG games like Mad Dog.

Graphics: 10
Over the top fantastic. The real acting is perfectly matching the animated enemies. Everything is very smooth and the locations are very interesting, colourful and full of tension. Nothing can beat real television but the rail system is limiting the free place for you to explore.

Sound: 7
The official soundtrack is nice and adds to the Interactive Television feel the game wants to create. For the rest the audio is there but not outstanding. Nerve stretching tunes will keep you on the edge of your seat once you're in the middle of the lab encouter. It's more about sound rather than music.

Playability: 9
VERY good. It tops other shooters like Chaos Control and Crime Patrol easily. The game is fast, responsive and fun. You can't go wrong with Thunder in Paradise.

Value: 8
It's a perfect add the enemies are not in the MPEG layer but animated seperately by the CPU. This way every game will be different and enemies won't go the same route every time over and over again. The game itself, however, is very short, and over within an hour if you beat everything once. You'll be left wanting for so much more, but the overall game experience makes you forget how short the game really is. It's better to have a fun short game rather than a dull long one, don't you think?

Overall: 9 (not an average)
There's no rail shooter on CD-i, 3DO or Jaguar better than Thunder!

Similar games on CD-i:
Chaos Control, Mad Dog McCree, Crime Patrol

6 reacties:

Anonymous,  April 23, 2008 at 8:31 PM  

I can't seem to launch Thunder in Paradise on my CD-I 450 (with DVC). Do you have any idea why ?

Bas April 24, 2008 at 6:31 AM  

that's a pretty general question! There can be numerous reasons, like: has the disc any scratches? Does the DVC work with other titles? Does the CD-i player show an error message when you try to start? Does the player spin, or doesn't it even try to start the disc? Does the play button show up in the OS screen? Have you tried to turn off the player, and try it again? If none of these work, something strange is happening!

Anonymous,  April 28, 2008 at 7:29 PM  

has the disc any scratches?

No, it's a brand new game I bought a couple of weeks ago.

Does the DVC work with other titles?

Yes, it works with both Dragon's Lair II and Les Guignols de l'Info

Does the CD-i player show an error message when you try to start?


Does the player spin, or doesn't it even try to start the disc?

I think it does spin.

Does the play button show up in the OS screen?


Have you tried to turn off the player, and try it again?

Yes I have. Numerous times.

Bas April 29, 2008 at 6:52 AM  

The only other thing I can come up with is an incompatibility between a PAL player and a NTSC disc, or the other way around. Do you know what region your game and player is?

I'm thinking on a solution here: You might try to download Thunder in Paradise to see if that one works, so you can find out if it's about the disc.

Anonymous,  April 29, 2008 at 3:21 PM  

I have an European player. I bought the game from an American shop though. The weird thing is that Dragon's Lair II is also a NTSC game but it works. The episode on the second Thunder in Paradise CD also works.

Do you know where I could download the game ?

Deepthroat Ghoul,  May 1, 2017 at 3:07 PM  

Like the New Generation Project Podcast said while they did two episodes on it, initial ratings for Thunder in Paradise were actually pretty good, and shortly after it began airing on CBS in March 1994, it was rumoured that the show was up for renewal, and the good folks at Berk/Schwartz/Bonann Productions were looking at filming 30 more episodes in 1995.

Surprisingly, despite rumours of a second season or a series of TV movies, Thunder in Paradise only lasted 22 episodes and one season, before being cancelled in November 1994.

At the time it was circling the drain, Hogan apparently began floating the idea of either re-branding the show, or launching a new show starring himself and fellow WWE Hall of Famers Sting and Mr. T.

Perhaps Thunder in Paradise's biggest contribution to pro wrestling was entirely through its filming location, Disney's Hollywood Studios, where Eric Bischoff was then taping WCW Saturday Night, and encouraged Ric Flair to just go knock on the door and speak to Hogan on the nearby set about the possibly of maybe coming to work for WCW.

Anyways, I remember watching Thunder in Paradise on ITV in the UK around early to mid 1995 while waiting for Gladiators to come on.

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Discworld - Teeny Weeny Games
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Dragon's Lair 2- Time Warp - Superclub / INTL CDI
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Flinstones Wacky Inventions - Philips Funhouse
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CD-i Games Index G-M

Go - CapDisc
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Joker's Wild Jr., The - Accent Media
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Kingdom - The far reaches - CapDisc
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Last Bounty Hunter, The - CapDisc
Legend of the Fort - Microids
Lemmings - DMA Design / Psygnosis
Lettergreep - Wigant Interactive Media
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Mad Dog McCree II: The lost gold - CapDisc
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Mah-Jong - Japan Interactive Media
Making the Grade - 3T Productions
Man Before Man - Cryo
Marco Polo - Infogrames
Mario Takes America - CIGAM
Master Labyrinth - AVM AG/HQ
Mega Maze - CapDisc
Memory Works, The - Compact Disc Incorporated
Merlin's Apprentice - Philips Funhouse
Microcosm - Philips Freeland Studios
Micro Machines - Codemasters
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Pool - SPC Vision
Pinball - CapDisc
Plunderball - ISG Productions
Power Hitter - ABC Sports / Fathom Pictures
Power Match - Two's Company
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RAMRaid - PRL Redhill
Return To Cybercity - Fathom Pictures
Riddle of the Maze, The - Fathom Pictures
Riqa - Bits Corporation
Rise of the Robots - Mirage Technologies
Sargon Chess - Spinnaker
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Secret Name of Ra, The
Shaolin's Road - Infogrames
Skate Dude - Viridis
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Special Operations Squadron - SPC Vision
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Star Trek - Philips POV
Star Wars: Rebel Assault - LucasArts
Steel Machine - SPC Vision
Striker Pro - Rage
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Super Fighter - The Super Fighter Team / C&E
Super Mario's Wacky Worlds - NovaLogic
Surf City - Philips Sidewalk Studios
Tangram - Eaglevision Interactive Productions
Taco's Toyroom Troopers - Creative Media
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Voyeur 2 - Philips POV
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What's it worth - Marshall Cavendish Multimedia / Spice
Who shot Johnny Rock? - CapDisc
Wordplay - BEPL
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Zaak Sam, De - Toneelschool NL
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Zelda's Adventure - Viridis
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Zombie Dinos From The Planet Zeltoid - Philips POV

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