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So.. I’ve been testing out various CDi Titles in the recent MESS driver, and I can only feel sorry for anybody who spent 700$ on one of these when it came out. You can count the number of good games on one hand, and on most other systems those would merely be considered average. The bad games, you’d need more than just a desert to bury them. Almost every game on the system suffers from glaring design flaws (as does the actual system), some of them so obvious that you wonder how they were ever released. I approached the system with an open mind, thinking that all those videos on YouTube of people ripping into the games were just for show, they’re not, actually if anything they’re too kind on some of these titles.

While not all the games work well enough in MESS to make a fair assessment the majority don’t need to, overloaded with ‘multimedia’ content, poor controls, illogical menus, no gameplay value, and deeply flawed designs are obvious even through the bugs.

The only 3 games I actually enjoyed were the following

Hotel Mario
Despite some people hating this it is actually a solid arcade-style game, had it actually been released as a sequel to the original Mario Bros arcade I think it would have done rather well. The action all takes place on a non-scrolling screen, just like the original and the whole thing plays like a classic arcade title, even if the controls can feel a bit ’sticky’ at times.

The Apprentice
The graphics and animation on this one make you wonder why none of the other CDi games come even close in terms of presentation, they’re stunning. The sound / music don’t work so it’s hard to know if they match the graphics, but at least with this game you know you’re looking at something better than you’d see on the Genesis. It’s another simple platformer, this time a vertically scrolling one. You must get from one end of the level to the other, avoiding various enemies, and collecting items that will help you pass other parts of the level. It’s not a flawless game, you notice straight away that any enemy which even leaves the screen by 1 pixel becomes inactive, and the control system only allows you to fire when you’re on the ground. These problems don’t however stop it being by far the best thing to have been released on the CDi and make you wonder what could have been done with the system if more good developers had been involved.

Dimos Quest
This one is from the same team as The Apprentice, and shares a similar graphical style. It’s not as polished as the former, and the ingame sprites are tiny so it doesn’t look quite as good. The game is puzzle-based in it’s nature. Each level consists of a number of pieces of candy, you have to collect them all and reach the exit without being killed. The levels are full of hazards and obstacles, and each one must be dealt with in an appropriate way. There are a large number of special items and the later levels are of a large enough scale to present a significant challenge to even a skilled player. My only gripe is that the controls feel very laggy and you often overshoot the square you want, sometimes leading to your death; I don’t know if this is an emulation bug or a problem with the original, bad controls seem to be a theme mentioned even on the YouTube CDi videos on a frequent basis.

Thankfully these 3 are playable right now in the MESS driver. I’ve also compiled a Tiny MAME build which incorporates the MESS code, below.

A couple of other games look interesting but simply don’t work. MegaMaze looks like it could be a good puzzle game, sliding marbles around a maze.

As for the bad…

The Zelda games are an abomination, seriously, they have no redeeming features at all, neither works well enough in MESS at the moment to make any great amount of progress, but the game mechanics are so bad you simply don’t want to anyway. The video (cartoon/fmv) based games are mostly pointless, especially the Wacky Golf game, which isn’t even funny the first time you see the clips, and most games are laden with FMV where FMV doesn’t need to go.

The ‘board game remake’ titles (mostly from ‘CAPDisc’) just serve to annoy, by being slow paced, ugly and clumsy in their implementation.
As for the ‘Arcade Classics’, ‘Family Games’, and ‘Golden Oldies’ packs, each and every game feels like a poor joke; for Family Games 2 you can almost sense that the programmers knew it was awful, so simply made it into a joke with their parodies (Mortal Pong??). There is no consistency in the games aside from them being consistently bad, each one of the arcade classics is prentend in a completely different way. Galaxian has no decoration, Galaga has so much decoration it looks like the game is afraid to use more than 1/4 of the screen, and MS. Pacman has been tarted up, has had a (flawed) 2 player mode added, but the enemies have been dumbed down so much it’s not even worth playing and those are the official ports!. The unofficial ones found in ‘Golden Oldies’ are even worse, BlockBuster is Arkanoid, but done so wrong it’s not even funny. The initial jingle you get on starting a game is a direct rip-off of the official Arkanoid jingle but a bit more ’spacey’ (I’m surprised they weren’t sued) but the rest of the sound effects just sound completely out of place, and when you miss the ball they decided to add a long winded animation where your paddle turns into a skull and falls apart whilst playing a generic Aaaaargh sample. You’ve also got a Defender remake, a Centipede remake, and a Space Invaders remake, none worth your time. There were better classic ports and remakes on the 8-bit systems, these are just embarrassing. For the most part these compilations work well in the driver, althouh the official Namco one has issues, and some of the minigames in the Family Games series don’t run properly.

Micro Machines has a port, but it’s a disaster, the framerate is somewhere around 20fps, they’ve added some bad FMV sequences, and it has no in-game sound only music, those aren’t emulation issues either, it’s exactly like that on the original hardware.

Video Speedway seems like it has potential, until you reach the actual game. The menus are well presented, but the actual game is a very, very poor clone of the Genesis version of Super Monaco GP, your car sounds like it has a broken lawnmower for an engine, and your tyres screech like a screaming teenage girl, the graphics are bland and the game near unplayable.

Honestly, the CDi is terrible, most systems have their share of bad games, but the bad games on CDi make up the majority of the titles, you have to play some of them simply to understand how bad they are but once you’ve played them once, you’ll never want to go back and play them again; at least not unless you’re suffering from a severe case of memory loss and forgot how bad they were.

Good to see emulation of the system improving… Now.. to wash my eyes out..

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More @ David Haywood’s MAME(tm) WIP
 

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Great, thanks for the info.

Probably a noob question, does anyone know how to convert the game images to CHD, in order to test them?

Thanks again!
 

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I'm guessing it's the usual way, using burn at once to create a dat + toc and then using chdman -createcd foo.toc foo.chd

If the titles you want to convert is in some sort of iso/bin+cue etc format a smart thing would be to use daemon tools or something likewise to mount them since 'burn at once' is a program that reads from a cd and creates dat + toc. works fine for me anyway.

here's the info I used: The Guru's ROM Dump News

should be easy to follow.
 
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