Remember these so-called games? Many people thought they didn't even deserve to be called games, and liked to call them Interactive Movies instead. While they were somewhat different, they all shared some notable similarities, they were all developed in the 90's, at the height and start of the CD-Rom based Media, they always included more or less Full-Motion Video cutscenes and actual gameplay either filmed, or imposed upon green/bluescreens and combined with 2D/3D objects. Most of them played like normal Adventure games and many most of them also aimed towards a Mature audience, offering gamers far more realistic effects allowing for some gruesome and effective deaths, and some even added nudity to spice things up. Yes, they were for the most part cheezy, often disliked by media, reviewers and especially censorship-groups, politicians and various other uptight people in the community, but that didn't prevent them from becoming a very notable and popular part of gaming history.

These games are all but dead now, CGI has taken completely over and there's barely any game using live-action anymore. Some of us do grieve this, as we grew up with good memories of these games. Here's my personal list of notable Interactive Movie games. There are many other FMV-Based games that deserves a mention, but I choose these because they either represent the beginning or the end of an era, the absolute highlight, the complete trash or they just pushed computer gaming further, but they were all very notable for one reason or another.

Okay. So the game itself was bad. That isn't the reason why it's on this list. It's the rather gruesome content that this game was filled with. Content most movies won't be showing you either. It's not that the effects are well done or the graphics are that good either, in fact most of the game plain sucks in all the technical aspects, but the game seemed to be just made for one purpose, to push the limits of acceptable content. It's on this list because one has to adore the way it deliberately tries to write the most brutal, perverted and sick type of story and characters in any game that I can recall. Still, one has to take it with a sense of humor, if only so one can appreciate that a bunch of guys actually sat down to make this game. Not well known, but if you ever come across it, be sure to give it a try (If you can even get it to work these days..)

I'd tell you to stay far away from this game for many reasons, but there is a certain amount of mystery to the story during most of the game, and the gore, violence and sexuality was very dramatic. It was also one of the first FMV games...or even games from what I know, to openly show gay relations, along with S&M fetishes and various other things. It never stepped over the line and presented those things in a relatively tasteful manner, the gay character was in fact the most likable of the characters. The gore was absolutely hilarious and over the top, and for some time the game was exciting enough until it took a wrong turn and crashed into a wall, turning into one of the biggest wrecks in gaming. I don't know what went wrong with this game, but it managed to ruin the experience. The only puzzle here is figuring what Sierra was thinking, because they had something decent here but chose to completely trash the game. Still...I recommend checking it out for some of the reasons, even the terrible direction the game took, just to experience it. You might have some fun.

Night Trap was a famous game, but not for the right reasons. It was the subject of alot of controversy regarding violence towards women, nudity, sexuality and all sorts of unfair complaints that had nothing to do with the game, because it turned out that the game was very tame in all aspects and this controversy was far more overdone than the actual game. Night Trap was a full-motion video game, where you observed girls in a house through cameras. During the night they could be attacked by vampires, which you had to defeat by placing traps in the rooms so you could save the girls. It was ultimately a shallow and unsatisfactory experience, not at all as fun or nasty as the controversy had promised. It was also one of those games were the cover was far more exciting than the actual game.

Released near the end of the FMV-Period, the concept of the Tex Murphy games had started to wear a little thin, especially in the light of the oncoming 3D FPS Revolution. The story wasn't exactly up to par compared to the two first games either, but fans of the franchise found enough to love in Overseer. Despite some issues with a slightly changed control system, the game was fun and Chris Jones put up yet another hilarious performance as the likable Tex Murphy. But it was still all in all pretty much the same as the two last games, and the gaming world had moved forward with large steps by the time of release. However, Overseer was important because it was one of the first games to be released on DVD as well as on CDs. This would have been a saving grace for the Interactive Movie genre as it eliminated the annoying disc-swapping the genre was infamous for, but unfortunately Overseer was one of the last, big Interactive Movie games and the genre died out quite fast afterwards. It wasn't Overseer's fault however, which was all in all a good game.

The sequel to the revolutionary 7th Guest had an exceptional amount of hype behind it. Carried on the reputation of the first game, this was destined to be year of the game. Unfortunately, the game turned out to be a disappointment in many ways, even if I personally found it to be both memorable, nostalgic and entertaining. It wasn't really scary anymore, many scenes were filmed in broad daylight with actors portraying real, living characters, and it turned out to be a completely identical game as the previous. You still ran around in the same mansion solving puzzles. Not that there was anything wrong with that actually, some loved the concept and wanted more of it, and in that sense 11th Hour delivered. It was technically a superior game with much better video quality, which made the many Full Motion Videos much more enjoyable. Stauf himself returned, for no real reason, and the story itself was a weird mess that didn't really make much sense, not even self contained, but overall the game was still enjoyable if you liked The 7th Guest. But the magic was gone, the game didn't perform as it should and the planned sequel never got off the ground. Pity, as I still loved The 11th Hour despite it's flaws.

The Beast Within was a very similar game to Phantasmagoria 1 and 2, considering it was made by Sierra and followed the very same type mix of Point and Click gameplay and Full Motion Video. A part of a series that began with "Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers" which was a much more traditional adventure game, and ended with "Gabriel Knight 3" which changed the gameplay to 3D. Anyway, Beast Within was an atmospheric mystery of a game focusing on Werewolves in Germany. It was entertaining, but far from the memorable and haunting experience of Phantasmagoria which also was released in 1995. Unfortunately, the game never became as popular as Phantasmagoria, but it still remains a hidden and true gem of the era. Also, the cover was fantastic, but unfortunately more scary than the actual game. Don't let that scare you from getting your hands on it though, the trilogy is well worth experiencing for any adventure fan that likes a dash of the supernatural mixed into their stories.

The Pandora Directive was the sequel to the game number two on this list, Under a Killing Moon. It once again starred Chris Jones as the good-hearted but ever sarcastic Tex Murphy as he uncovered more dark secrets, this time relating to Roswell and Aliens. It was a surprisingly good sequel, far better than both Phantasmagoria 2 and The 11th Hour. It simply took everything that was good about the first game, stuck with it and remained faithful to everything the fans loved about the original. That the plot seemed to be inspired by The X-Files in many places did not hurt it's reputation in a time when X-Files was the talk of the town. It was followed up by another sequel, Overseer which unfortunately didn't quite make the same impact, and the era of the Interactive Movie Games were close to an end. Pandora Directive however, remains a true gem and evidence that it was possible to make a great sequel to a great game even in this genre.

The top three, and for a reason. Phantasmagoria is famous for more than one reason, and it's well worthy of its reputation. A good old fashioned ghost story, combined with some extremely gruesome (but effective) gore and deaths, a rape thrown in for good measure, a brief instance of nudity, fantastic music, D-Grade acting, some geniune scary situations and some really terrible mixing between FMV Capturing, greenscreening and rendering. The result is one of the best and most popular FMV games in history. Phantasmagoria tells a story similar to The Shining, in which a couple moves into a large mansion with a dark history, filled with evil spirits. Gradually the husband Don becomes possessed by this evil spirit, and it's up to his wife Adrienne to solve the mystery of the mansion and save her husband..and herself. Phantasmagoria remains one of the best ghost-stories in a game to this date, with some scenes that are quite scary and disgusting. One chapter of the game is an extremely tense chase-sequence that is still unrivaled to this date. Sure, some of the environments looked completely terrible (A store looks absolutely abysmal), but if you can swallow the weaker parts of the graphics, you'll find a game with a story that remains one of the best executed to this date. And Adrienne isn't bad looking either even if her orange sweater is..less than pretty.

Under a Killing Moon was the first of three Interactive Movie Games in the seres of Tex Murphy, the Private Investigator living in a future San Francisco. While not necessarily a better game than Pandora Directive as they are very similar in tone and gameplay, it still comes up higher simply because of its innovative gameplay combination. It combined the freedom of moving in 3D with lots of Full Motion Video cutscenes, morphing into a strange but fantastic hybrid that would reward puzzlesolving and dialoguepicking typical of any adventuregames, but with the freedom to move around as you wished, while being rewarded with entertaining and very cheezy FMVs. The main character, Tex Murphy was a tribute to typical Noir Private Investigators, and he quickly became a classic gaming icon, just as the game will be remembered fondly by fans of these types of games.

This is it. Even if you Ignor the extremely big impact this game had on the transition from distributing games on Floppy to CD, The 7th Guest by itself is a memorable, unique experience that is both charming, cheezy, creepy but always haunting. These days it may not look like much, but back in 93 The 7th Guest was a revolution in Computer Gaming. Sure enough, the actual game wasn't much more than fancy rendered puzzles connected by walking through a 3D location through point and click, but that's overlooking the unbeatable atmosphere that few days to this day can hope to match. A cast of D-Class Actors hammed in some very terrible but fun performances, captured in extremely low resolution video on a bluescreen and injected into 3D scenes. It doesn't look good now, but it did then. And don't you dare make fun of The 7th Guest, because it is one of the most important pioneers within computer gaming for moving us from Floppy Disks to CDs, and it did so with a captivating story, an odd bunch of characters, a haunting location and a superb soundtrack. Oh by the way, the soundtrack was actually available on the second CD, you could listen to it in a normal CD Player, so for those of you who still got the disks...give it a spin. It was a technological milestone for PC gaming and a classic that had to be experienced in it's own time.

There are other Interactive Movie games out there, released both earlier and later, but when discussing these types of games, you're far more likely to encounter someone talking about the gruesome scenes of Phantasmagoria, or the puzzles in 7th Guest, than ever mentioning a game like Ripper which had a famous cast, but failed to make any lasting impact. In one way or another, these games are on this list for a reason. They either introduced new technology, helped push the evolution of media, contributed to improved video quality or even helped cause massive amounts of hysteria between concerned parents, politicians and other protective parties. But they are all worth experiencing, even to this date.


List by Lsnake (06/04/2010)

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