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Mario Takes America on CD-i: More details and screenshots

>> Friday, September 19, 2014

In 2006 we published some details about the unreleased CD-i game "Mario Takes America". Some while ago, a former Cigam employee (partspitmike) on the Assembler Games forum posted even more details and even some screenshots.

partspitmike: "I worked on this game from 1992 to 1994. Other than the 2 years I worked on this I was never a video game developer. I work doing TV shows and Commercials. Doing the Phillips CD-i game was great the first year when we were creating assets, but the machine could not handle what we wanted to do. At the time I was told Nintendo lost a lawsuit with Phillips and part of the penalty was for Phillips to be allowed to use Mario in a game. They picked a Toronto Company named Cigam who talked a great pitch and promised them the moon and the stars. I was hired on initially as the storyboard illustrator to develop the concepts and they liked what I did so much I was asked to help write and direct the game and run the Art Department.

At the time the brain trust thought that the best way to get realistic backgrounds was to film them. This was before the Quake 3D engine. The advantage to filming was the realism on one layer and the game art (sprites) were on the layer above, drawn to match shadows and lighting. The look was very much like Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Unlike Quake it was not a "sandbox environment" and you could not go anywhere. We compensated by filming strictly defined POV areas like the Niagara River, open channels in the Louisiana Bayou and highways in Monument Valley. That was the best part - filming the background assets all over the US in camera cars, speedboats and helicopters.

The idea was for Mario to cross the US. If I recall the sequences were.. New York Skyline from a Helicopter, Niagara Falls upper rapids to Falls, Niagara Gorge to Whirlpool, a Detroit Auto Factory (never completed) , Carlsbad Caverns, Florida Space Shuttle Ride, Fort Knox, Louisiana Bayou from Speedboat,
Vintage Steam Train fight (on top of travelling boxcar),in Texas, Monument Valley Motorcycle Race on Highway, Las Vegas Neon Race (never completed) Los Angeles Car Race on Highway at Night ... all these would end with a final battle at Graumann's Theatre where Mario had to defeat a combination of all the enemies he had met going across the USA. This final sequence was never completed.

When it came time for the programmers to do the game, the background footage took so much memory to run we were left with very little memory to do the game. The very first programmer quit right after he read the specs on the CD-I player... probably within the first 3 weeks.

I remember he said " the whole foundation is built on quicksand"

The Art Department was soon chopping out animation frames left and right the end result looked iffy -- still better than anything else in 1992 but not what I had hoped for. Eventually after two years in development, I guess Phillips got tired of waiting for delivery. The sales of the CDI player were sucking and without Mario - who was supposed to be the "Killer App" -- they were getting even worse.

Mario Takes America stopped real fast.. i didn't get paid for my final 2 weeks, but all in all I evened out as my first year Christmas Bonus basically covered that.

Mario was rendered as he was in the cartoons. It was 2D Animation but we added shading to match wherever the light source was in the background film footage. I know I have a "Making of" Video somewhere on VHS -- not sure if I have any game footage and if I do would I legally be allowed to post it.

I mentioned that I worked on a Video Game back in the early 1990s to a friend of mine. He has a friend in Vancouver, Canada who currently works in video games and that person wrote me to ask what it was like in "the old days" That reply got me to thinking about Mario Takes America and I did a google search and found you guys.

As far as the gameplay went, the style of game was driven by the footage that was shot. The New York Skyline was a 2D side scrolling game shot out the left side of a helicopter. Most of the footage was shot moving towards the action, behind Mario. This was true for the Niagara Falls scenes, The Bayou, the Monument Valley Highway and the LA Freeway scenes. There was a fight on the top of a train with the camera pointed forward on one of the passenger cars where you could see the Koopas climbing up the side of the car in front of you. They would reach your position and fight with Mario. Each enemy had a different fighting style.

I had a look and all I have from those 2 years are two VHS Tapes... One showing a Making of Promo Video of all the location shooting, full of shots of the Producer as he treated it as pretty much a promo for himself as well as a promo for the game. 

The other video I have is of his "Backup" Video Game. Near the end, things were starting to go bad and he had the art department do a version of Mario Takes America where we replaced all the Mario Sprites with another hero of his own creation called "Metal".

Metal was a Rock & Roll Star who looked like Dee Snider from Twisted Sister. He had a big Roadie Assistant named "Heavy" (I kid you not) who would help out from time to time. As I said we simply renamed all the sprites and had the programming dept plug the new sprites into the code. MRIONY04 became HEVYNY04 and so on.

We also did some sequences with Sonic subbing for Mario. At that point I started sending out resumes again as it sure looked as if the company was grasping at straws.

I believe I also saw the CD-I Zelda Game and played it. It had collision detection issues and was very boring as the CD-I player could not handle too many sprites on the screeen at once. Phillips would send beta versions of their in production games to us to show what other programmers were doing. I guess they may have sent ours out to other companies as well. I only remember a Phillips guy coming out to see us once. They really did not seem to attempt to manage the project at all from what I saw.

I am reluctant to post any of these tapes as the producer was highly litigious and even though I understand he has passed away I am fairly certain the family is as well. 

I do have some photos of the filming, which may be interesting... though they do not of course show any game play."

The screenshots with Mario in it are mock-ups made by Unseen64, to give an impression on how the game would have looked like.

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Games 0-F

3rd Degree - PF Magic
7th Guest, The - Philips Freeland Studios
Accelerator - SPC/Vision
Adventure of the Space Ship Beagle, The - Denshi Media Services
Affaire Morlov, L' - Titus
Alfapet - Adatek
Alice in Wonderland - Spinnaker
Alien Gate - SPC Vision
Alien Odyssee - Argonaut
Aliens Interactive CD-i - Dark Vision Interactive
Ange et le Demon, L' - Smart Move
Apprentice, The - SPC Vision
Apprentice 2, The - Marvin's Revenge - SPC Vision
Arcade Classics - Philips ADS / Namco
Asterix - Caesar’s Challenge - Infogrames
Atlantis - The Last Resort - PRL Redhill (Philips ADS)
Axis and Allies - CapDisc
Backgammon - CapDisc
Battle Chess - Accent Media (for Interplay)
Battleship - CapDisc
Big Bang Show - Infogrames
BMP Puzzle - Circle (for ZYX)
Brain Dead 13 - Readysoft
Burn:Cycle - Trip Media
Caesar's World of Boxing - Philips POV
Caesar's World of Gambling - CD-I Systems
Cartoon Academy - Bits Corporation
CD-i mit der Maus - SPC Vision
CD Shoot - Eaglevision Interactive Productions
Change Angels Kick-off - HMO
Chaos Control - Infogrames
Christmas Country - Creative Media
Christmas Country - The Lost Levels - Creative Media
Christmas Crisis - DIMA
Clue - 3T Productions
Clue 2 - The mysteries continue - 3T Productions
Connect Four - CapDisc
Creature Shock - Argonaut (for Virgin)
Crime Patrol - CapDisc
Crow, The - Philips POV
Cyber Soldier Sharaku - Japan Interactive media
Dame was Loaded, The - Beam Software
Dark Castle - Philips POV
Dead End - Cryo
Defender of the Crown - Philips POV
Deja Vu - Icom Simulations
Deja Vu 2: Lost in Las Vegas - Icom Simulations
Demolition Man - Virgin Interactive Entertainment
Demon Driver - Haiku Studios
Discworld - Teeny Weeny Games
Dimo's Quest - SPC Vision
Domino - Wigant Interactive Media
Down in the Dumps - Haiku Studios
Dragon's Lair - Superclub / INTL CDI
Dragon's Lair 2- Time Warp - Superclub / INTL CDI
Drug wars - Crime Patrol II - CapDisc
Dungeons & Dragons - PF Magic
Earth Command - Visionary Media
Effacer - CapDisc
Escape from Cybercity - Fathom Pictures
Evidence - Microids
Falco & Donjon & The Sword of Inoxybur - BMi / Zephyr Studio
Family Games I - DIMA
Family Games II - Junk Food Jive - DIMA
Felix the Cat - Philips Sidewalk Studio
Flashback - Delphine/Tiertex (for US Gold)
Flinstones Wacky Inventions - Philips Funhouse
Fort Boyard: The Challenge - Microids
Frog Feast - Rastersoft

CD-i Games Index G-M

Go - CapDisc
Golden Oldies - SPC Vision
Golden Oldies II - SPC Vision
Golgo 13 - Japan Interactive Media
Great day at the races, A - CD-I Racing, Dove Films, Total Vision
Guignols de l'Info, Les - Canal+ Multimedia / INTL CDI
Heart of Darkness - Amazing Studio (for Virgin)
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The - Philips Kaleidoscope
Holland Casino CD-i - HMO
Hotel Mario - Philips Fantasy Factory
Inca - Coktel Vision
Inca 2 - Coktel Vision
International Tennis Open - Infogrames
Jack Sprite vs. The Crimson Ghost - PF Magic
Jeopardy - Accent Media
Jigsaw - Novalogic
Joe Guard - DIMA
John Dark: Psychic Eye - CapDisc
Joker's Wild!, The - Accent Media
Joker's Wild Jr., The - Accent Media
Kether - Infogrames
Kingdom - The far reaches - CapDisc
Kingdom 2 - Shadoan - CapDisc
Labyrinth of Crete - Philips Funhouse
Laser Lords - Spinnaker
Last Bounty Hunter, The - CapDisc
Legend of the Fort - Microids
Lemmings - DMA Design / Psygnosis
Lettergreep - Wigant Interactive Media
Lingo - SPC Vision
Link - The faces of evil - Animation Magic
Lion King, The - Virgin Interactive Entertainment
Litil Divil - Gremlin Graphics
Litil Divil 2: Limbo Years - Gremlin Graphics
Lords of the rising sun - Philips POV
Lost Eden - Cryo (for Virgin)
Lost Ride, The - Formula (Lost Boys)
Lucky Luke - The video game - SPC Vision
Mad Dog McCree - CapDisc
Mad Dog McCree II: The lost gold - CapDisc
Magic Eraser - Circle (for ZYX)
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
Monty Python's Invasion from the Planet Skyron - Daedalus CD-i Productions
Mutant Rampage - Body Slam - Animation Magic
Myst - Sunsoft (for Cyan)
Mystic Midway - Rest in pieces - Philips POV
Mystic Midway 2 - Phantom Express - Philips POV

Compact Disc Interactive

Compact Disc Interactive

Games N-Z

Name that tune - Philips Fantasy Factory
New Day - Bits Corporation
NFL Hall of Fame Football - Philips POV
Othello - HMO
Pac Panic - Philips ADS / Namco
Palm Springs Open - ABC Sports / Fathom Pictures
Pool - SPC Vision
Pinball - CapDisc
Plunderball - ISG Productions
Power Hitter - ABC Sports / Fathom Pictures
Power Match - Two's Company
Pursue - BEPL
Pyramid Adventures - Compact Disc Incorporated
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
Scotland Yard Interactive - AVM AG/HQ
Secret Mission - Microids
Secret Name of Ra, The
Shaolin's Road - Infogrames
Skate Dude - Viridis
Smurfen, De - De Telesmurf - Infogrames
Solar Crusade - Infogrames
Solitaire - BEPL
Space Ace - Superclub / INTL CDI
Space Ranger - Studio Interactive
Special Operations Squadron - SPC Vision
Sport Freaks - SPC Vision
Star Trek - Philips POV
Star Wars: Rebel Assault - LucasArts
Steel Machine - SPC Vision
Striker Pro - Rage
Strip Poker Live - Greenpig Production
Strip Poker Pro - Interactive Pictures
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
Tankdoodle - Creative Media
Tetris - Philips POV
Tetsuo Gaiden - Creative Media
Text Tiles
Thieves' World - Electronic Arts
Tic-tac-toe - BEPL
Tox Runner - ISG Productions
Treasures of Oz - Philips Kaleidoscope
Ultra CD-i Soccer - Krisalis
Uncover featuring Tatjana - SPC Vision
Uninvited - Icom Simulations
Video Speedway - ISG Productions
Vinnie the Pinguin - Pandemonium Labs
Voyeur - Philips POV
Voyeur 2 - Philips POV
Whack-a-Bubble - Creative Media
What's it worth - Marshall Cavendish Multimedia / Spice
Who shot Johnny Rock? - CapDisc
Wordplay - BEPL
World Cup Golf - US Gold
Zaak Sam, De - Toneelschool NL
Zelda - The wand of Gamelon - Animation Magic
Zelda's Adventure - Viridis
Zenith - Radarsoft
Zombie Dinos From The Planet Zeltoid - Philips POV

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