The CD-ROM format, when it arrived in the late eighties for PCs, opened the floodgates to a torrent of ideas on how to integrate Hollywood to Silicon Valley on through the nineties. Excitement ran wild like a child high on a store full of Wonka chocolate after winning all five golden tickets. It was almost as awesome as when hard drives broke the 100MB milestone back in the day.
Few of those ideas were actually good, but they didn’t keep stars ranging from Christopher Walken to Grace Jones from being tapped to star in or lend their voice talents to digital characters cast against virtual backdrops. It was a new kind of medium that required a different method of acting and people with stars in their eyes saw it as the ultimate marriage between the bleeding technological edge and traditional film. As the nineties started up and moved on, games such as the 7th Guest were soon joined by live action titles featuring an even greater degree of “realism”.
“Interactive movies” became the hottest buzzword for more than a few of these games and Mechadeus’ The Daedalus Encounter in ’95 was no exception.
Starring Tia Carrere fresh off of a string of films such as Wayne’s World and True Lies, she joins Christian Bocher as two ex-military starfighter types who now turn battlefield salvage into a career in the 22nd century. As for you, you’re literally a “brain in a box” having suffered serious injuries in one the final battles of the interstellar war. The techs salvaged your grey matter and have stuck inside a computer that is now tied to your partners’ ship. A probe is also linked to you allowing you to fly about and interact with anything outside the ship while rifling through the dead for valuable goodies.
The good news is that you don’t need to deal with the psychological effects of losing your body in the first few minutes of the game. Everything is apparently just fine for you and manages to make the idea of an interface in the game work for the player because, as a brain in a box, that’s how you’re now seeing the world. The DOS and Macintosh versions featured a tiny video window through which you saw the world nested in a mass of pink flesh with wired options running along the left and bottom. The 3DO version had a more transparent menu system without the pink with full screen video from the start.
After spending some time with the tutorial at the start that takes you through the basic ops for your probe, you might also notice that it’s completely possible to flunk it and end the game. The Daedalus Encounter has a number of “ends” for your character often with little warning which does add to the challenge. Before long, you and your friends jump to another system only to crash into a titanic alien ship of unknown origin. Worse yet, the ship is apparently locked on course for the local sun and yours is crippled and being dragged along with it.
Spread out across 3 CDs for the DOS version, much of was due to the huge amount of recorded video that there is whether it’s flight footage in going from one hotspot to the next in your probe or the cuts where your teammates or anything else that might be encountered get screen time.
As for the acting, I didn’t think it was bad especially when you compare it to other CD-ROM titles out there like Maabus. Both Carrere and Bocher put in more than lip service for their roles which is a definite plus as most of the time, you’ll be staring at the screen watching the story in between the puzzles that range from being crazy easy to brain bustingly tough. An in-game hint system helps, although the save system only works prior to major puzzles which can tend to tie your hands and lead to more than a bit of repetition.
This was definitely one of the better “Interactive Movies” out there even with its flaws. To say that it’s also a game is kind of a stretch, however, but it was an amazing technical achievement at the time and epitomized the kind of products that more than a few developers believed could be delivered with the then-cavernous space on a CD-ROM.
It was later ported over to the 3DO in ’95 which the ad below wants you to try out and play. As exciting as the pics look, those are just snapshots of the kind of movement you’ll be seeing in the cutscenes as opposed to any action that you might be blasting through a la Cyberia. But it gets the point across. The 3DO had always kept the welcome mat out for more games since it came out in October of ’93, but against other consoles, not a lot of people knew what to make of it between Putt Putt and the other games it would occasionally wade into the fight with.
So there’s the Daedalus Encounter in a nutshell. Not such a bad interactive movie, though there were far better alternatives if you were hungrier for a solid game.