I have a distinct memory dating back to the mid noughties, in which me and my family sit down for a nice game of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. This was the DVD game adaption of the popular television quiz show – to be more specific, this was the 4th edition, also known as the ‘Family Edition’.
For a few years DVD games seemed to be rather popular, sold to punters as an affordable alternative to buying a console. Why fork out hundreds of pounds on a console plus games, when you could buy something such as The Price is Right as a DVD game for just a tenner?
It turns out there are many reasons why. First of all, the vast majority of these games simply take quiz show formats and transplant them like for like onto your DVD player. Unfortunately for so many of them, at some point someone forgot to include the heart of the show in the switch. Simply put, DVD games lack soul.
The Price is Right is the worst culprit in this case. I wonder if Joe Pasquale (the show’s presenter way back in those heady days of 2006-07) was contractually obliged to appear in the game, as he certainly doesn’t seem to be there of his own choice. Pasted awkwardly onto a computer generated version of the set, Pasquale has the dead stare of a man waiting for his paycheque. On top of this, the graphics are pretty much as basic as it gets – the prizes you ‘win’ for guessing the correct prices of items are blocky, and lack any detail whatsoever.
Classic Bullseye takes things a step in the right direction. Footage from the original darts-based quiz show is used for the prizes, and it’s clear that the makers were keen to be as faithful to the original TV series as possible. TV legend Jim Bowen guides the player through the game, while Tony Green commentates on the darts side of things. Apart from making the odd mild-mannered joke, Bowen spends a lot of time reminding the player that the prizes up for grabs are not in fact real, as if those unfamiliar with gaming will feel disappointed when the nifty scooter they’ve just won doesn’t materialise right then and there in front of the telly.
One of the key selling points for Bullseye is that there is more to do than simple quizzing – the back of the box makes sure to warn players of “the highly interactive nature of this product”. While other DVD games simply have you answering questions, this one has you chucking darts at a board as well. This is done by pressing the ‘ok’ button on your remote when the part of the board you want to aim for is highlighted. It might not be that difficult, but it helps Bullseye to stand out in what would otherwise be a very bland line-up.
The only DVD game that I have heard of that breaks the quiz show trend is Tomb Raider: The Action Adventure. While I haven’t played it myself, the idea of playing as Lara Croft on my DVD player appeals to me for some perverted reason. Like playing a whole symphony on a tin whistle, it seems somewhat sinful to take something as complex as the Tomb Raider series and force it to fit to the confines of a DVD game. Rather than performing actions such as shooting, climbing or running yourself, the game does it for you, and the player is merely there to select which action to perform. To be fair, the graphics are decent, but I won’t rushing out to buy it anytime soon.
Nevertheless, Tomb Raider is far more interesting than most DVD games. This is probably one of the reasons why DVD games fell out of fashion so quickly. They aren’t the most exciting or interesting games around, and the novelty factor wears off quickly. The target audience of casual gamers were soon won over by the Nintendo Wii, which used motion controls and titles such as Wii Sports to sell games to those who had no prior experience of video games.
If you ever find yourself wandering around the charity shops of York, and happen to stumble upon one of these strange games, have a go – if only to remind yourself of how much things can change in the space of ten years. No doubt, in decades to come, DVD games will be valued items once again, providing future generations with a rare glimpse at the popular culture of 2005-07.