Cinemaware Part III.

Welcome to my final part of looking back at Cinemaware, one of the best game developers of the 80’s and early 90’s.
As I have covered the main and most important games in part I and part II, I thought I would cover the Cinemaware sports titles here as well as an adventure game they published, but did not develop.

Cinemaware also had a small series of sports titles using the: TV Sports prefix.

TV football cover TV baseball cover TV basketball cover TV boxing cover

Not really too much to talk about here, they are sports games. They played well enough and had nice Cinemaware touches as they were presented in a TV style allowing for that cinematic (but now small screen) feel that Cinemaware were famous for.
With TV Sports Boxing being the final game released by classic Cinemaware in 1991 before they closed their doors.

Cinemaware also published an action/adventure style game.

The Kristal Cover

The Kristal: Released in 1989 only published by Cinemaware and developed by Fissionchip Software. The Kristal was a mix of point n’ click adventure, flight/combat and fighting.
The game is based on a previously unreleased play called: The Kristal of Konos, written in 1976. The authors of the play even worked alongside the game developers.

With you playing as a pirate named Dancis Frake (get it?), on a mission to recover the “Kristal” on behalf of the King of Meltoca.

Not too much to say about this one as it was not really a Cinemaware game…and it shows. It was a below average adventure game at best with some pretty poor combat thrown in. But as it was released during the classic Cinemaware era, I thought I’d include it anyway.

That wraps up all the games released by Cinemaware 1985 – 1991.

Personally, I really miss the original Cinemaware and think gaming needs them back. They really were the pioneers of cinematic gaming melding great gameplay with cinema style stories, visuals and audio.
We have similar games today with titles like Mass Effect and even choices in games like Telltale Games: The Walking Dead…but they are still not what Cinemaware were offering us. I’d love to see what they could do now with modern technology if they made such amazing and diverse games back then. Plus I REALLY want an; It Came From The Desert remake.

Gaming keeps getting more and more cinematic as they age and I think they all owe something to Cinemaware and the standards they set in the mid 80’s.

Thanks for joining me on this memory trip to one of my all time favourite developers.

Now I’m of to download Wings Remastered for my iPad…


Cinemaware Part II.

Here we are at part II of my retrospective look at Cinemaware and we are off to a flying start.

RR cover

Rocket Ranger: This time around, Cinemaware took inspiration from 1950’s Sci-Fi serials with Rocket Ranger released in 1988. Playing on many of the clichés of that 1950’s era including a dashing, courageous hero with a beautiful, voluptuous damsel in distress. Even using the stylised futuristic predictions and visions of the time frame.

The plot is set in a future where the Nazis had won World War II and were able to enslave the entire world. From that future, artifacts are teleported to you the player in the role of a US Army scientist. The future artifacts being a rocket pack and a radium pistol were sent back to you in a hope that you could reverse the outcome of the war so the Nazi army lose.
The Nazis winning World War II is based on their use of a mineral named lunarium. Lunarium has the ability to lower the IQ of human males drastically, and effectively preventing military resistance when the Nazis invade. What is even more puzzling is that lunarium is only mineable on the Moon and mankind so far does not yet have the technology to reach it…so how did the Nazis get a hold of it?

Like in previous Cinemaware games, this title mixes up various gameplay elements from action and strategy all with that Cinemaware, cinematic style.
Using the aforementioned rocket pack and a radium pistol to become The Rocket Ranger, you would have to shoot down enemy fighters and intercept enemy shipments. Some sequences were bareknuckle fistfights with enemy Nazi guards in order to gain rocket parts, you’d even be tasked with having to disable the defenses of two available lunarium depots to get fuel for both your own rocket pack and the rocket ship you’ll need to build.
Another scene had our hero catch up with a kidnapped scientist and his voluptuous daughter in a Nazi Zeppelin. In these encounters the player must engage in dialogue with them to earn their trust.
The strategy part of the game comes from a world map display where you direct five US agents to search for hidden Nazi bases. These agents can also “organise resistance” to slow the Nazi’s advance towards the USA.

The main goal of the game is to collect five parts to a rocket ship along with 500 units of the lunarium to get to the Moon and close down the lunarium mines to stop the Nazis winning World War II.

Rocket Ranger was highly praised for it’s clever mix of action and strategy and of course for that real cinematic style and tone Cinemaware had become famous for. Rocket Ranger was a sublime return to form after the rather unimpressive The Three Stooges previously.

Next Cinemaware would take us East…far East.

LotrS cover

Lords of the Rising Sun: Released in 1989 Lords of the Rising Sun was very similar to Cinemaware’s earlier title: Defender of the Crown. With it’s mix of map based strategy and arcade style mini games. Drawing their inspiration from Japanese Samurai movies and even dipping into actual history.

Giving you the option of playing as one of the famous real life Japanese generals of the time, Yoshitsune or Yoritomo. As you fight to pacify Japan by force set against and early feudalism in Japan backdrop. The game shared a lot with Defender of the Crown with similar sequences like fortress attacks or even defending against a Ninja assassins. If the two rival troops collided on the map, a battle would ensue in which you’ll have to use all your strategical wits to guide your men to victory. You could even negotiate alliances. All while having to build your army to slowly taking over and bring peace to Japan.

Lords of the Rising Sun met with positive reviews with many admiring the game’s cinematic qualities along with the mix of action and strategy elements. But many would also highlight the fact the game was basically a re-hash of Defender of the Crown from 1986, which was not a bad thing at all.

Leaving feudal Japan behind, Cinemaware would take us to a monster/B-movie world and my own personal favourite of their games.

IcftD cover

It Came from the Desert: From 1989 with giant ants aplenty in this 1950’s, Them! inspired, B-movie extravaganza. Offering a massive open and non linear world to play in and explore at will.

With you playing as Dr. Greg Bradley who finds himself in the remote town of Lizard Breath, Nevada on June 1st, 1951. Dr. Greg Bradley is a geologist, who wants to study a recent site of a meteor crash somewhere south-west of Lizard Breath. Where you learn that the radiation from the meteor has enlarged a local ant population to an enormous, gigantic size. yet the townsfolk do not take your findings seriously. Realising that the ants will soon mate and spread, you must work against a ticking clock and devise a plan to stop the ants from terrorizing Lizard Breath and eventually the world.
In order to succeed you must visit many and varying locations in and around Lizard Breath ranging from an airfield, the local radio station, mines, farms, a newspaper publisher, the Mayor’s office and many more to find evidence of the ants and in turn convince townsfolk and authorities of impending giant ant infestation and attack.
Only by finding, understanding and using every resource available, from simple workers to the army with their tanks and fighter jets, will the player be able to take the fight to and win over the giant ants.

It Came From the Desert can be considered “real-time”. Waiting, sleeping and driving around consumes time. As you only a fixed amount of 15 in-game days to succeed find the source of the ants and destroy the queen and nest, time is of the essence.
If you fail to do so by this date the ants will mate and spread, which results in bad ending ending. To reach a good ending, the player must locate the ant colony and kill the queen ant.

The game is really split into two varying game modes. The first being more adventure based finding and collecting clues as to the giant and problem and then trying to convince as many people as possible of your findings. You’ll also find subplots including; a romantic plot and even a mysterious murder case connected to a secret society known as “Neptune”.
The second part is more action oriented with you fighting off the ants using the resources and help you have amassed over the course of the first part.

It Came From the Desert was specifically designed for multiple playthroughs with your actions and reactions changing the outcome of the game in varying ways even leading to multiple endings. The nonlinear narrative comes about as it depends which location you visit and at what time, also whether you meet certain characters at locations and whether they advance their own individual stories within the main plot.
Playing as Dr. Bradley you can defend yourself against the giant ants with grenades and a pistol. Later in the game, you’ll use other weapons (as long as you have convinced certain people), such as dynamite and even a flame thrower. Depending on the location, you can also drive vehicles like tanks, fly a planes and spray pesticides over the ants. You’ll even get to fly a jet if you can conceive the army of the giant ants.

True to the Cinemaware style not only does the game feature that 1950’s B-movie aesthetic. It also uses Cinemaware’s mini game concept to hold everything together. The mini games on offer were:
Chicken: At random times when you drive from one location to another. A local gang of greasers would challenge you to a game of chicken where your objective is to drive your car head-on into the approaching car of the gang members and hope they chicken out first. You can maneuver your own vehicle off the road if you wish, which results in a crash but then your car needs repairs and counts as a time penalty. If the greasers don’t evade, you will also crash and in addition are penalized with waking up in hospital.
Shooting: This mini game switches to a first person perspective and Dr. Bradley can shoot his sidearm at an approaching giant ant. The ant is killed by shooting off both its antennae, but failure to do so will result in you being attacked by the giant and and waking up in hospital.
Fire Extinguishing: There are scenes in which the player must wield an extinguisher to quench a fire at a building. The mechanics are fairly similar to the shooting minigame. If you fail to put out all the fire, you’ll fail, and wake up in the hospital.
Knife Fight: In some encounters, when questioning an interviewee during the adventuring part, if you hit a nerve with your questions they will pull out a switchblade. Dr. Bradley and his opponent are shown from above. Where you have to evade the strikes of your opponent’s stabs and counterattack when they are exposed. As you may have guessed…losing the knife fight will put you into the hospital.
So, about that darn hospital you keep ending up in…
Hospital: When you fail in any action sequence or mini game, you will wake up in a hospital bed (you’ll do this a lot) and you’ll have to stay there for at least a night, losing valuable and much needed time. However you can choose to escape, this is when the game switches into a top down perspective within the hospital. You are chased around the hospital by nurses and doctors. But the game allows you to hide in empty beds, under counters and others as well as commandeer a wheelchair to try to make your escape. If you successfully escape the hospital this will reduce the time penalty.

It Came from the Desert met with rave reviews and rightly so. The game was pure genius. With so much game content and replay value, It Came from the Desert was Cinemaware’s opus all wrapped up in that classic and authentic cinematic style.

It Came from the Desert was so good, it was the only Cinemaware game I really wanted a sequel for…

Antheads cover

Antheads: It Came from the Desert II: Released in 1990 came this pseudo-sequel. Though labeled: It Came from the Desert II, this was not technically a sequel but an expansion that required the original game in order to play.

The plot of this game takes place again in Lizard Breath but now set 5 years after the previous title and expands on the possible second ant queen mentioned in the first game’s ending (if you got that ending).
This time around you play as an Army officer named Brick, who has stolen a detonator for an atomic bomb as his kid brother is a tester for the weapon and fears that the Army’s ignorance of radiation will cause his brother and other testers to die. So Brick tries to find Dr. Wells from the first game who has since died but is ambushed by surviving soldier ants who steal the detonator to rouse their dormant second queen. Brick must find Dr. Wells’ notes that prove radiation is fatal as well as help the town fend off the new ant army.

As an expansion, this is really a retread of the last game with no real new features, just a slightly different story and a handful of new characters. The basics remain the same as do the mini games.
So no need to cover this one in detail, just re-read the: It Came from the Desert overview up there ^^^.

Antheads: It Came from the Desert II was just an expansion but still met with positive reviews. A smaller game than It Came from the Desert, but again it was just an expansion…and a bloody good one too.

As we leave silliness of B-movies and giant ants behind, we hit the harshness of World War I and sadly the penultimate game from classic Cinemaware.

Wings cover

Wings: If It Came from the Desert is my favorite Cinemaware game, then Wings is a very, very close second. Released in 1990 and drawing its inspiration from World War I movies, Wings was a masterful mix great action and an atmospheric story narrative.

Playing as your own named fighter pilot, or various fighter pilots if you die in game. Wings was a very narrative driven game delivering the harshness and reality of World War I. Gameplay consisted of a mixture of strafing missions, bombing missions and even 3D dogfights. While you take the war to the Hun and even go up against some of Germany’s deadly aces pilots in heart pumping dogfights. The game was much more action oriented than previous Cinemaware titles but features a much stronger and emotional story than before. Most definitely a much more serious tone and style than previous Cinemaware games but also lighter on overall gameplay elements which really gives very little to talk about. But don’t let that put you off as Wings is an amazing game, it’s just a lot more story based and playing the game delivers the emotional punch via simple journal entries of your pilot far better than I could do here…so go and play Wings.

Upon release, Wings was hailed and even today remembered as one of the very best games on the Amiga for good reason.

This ends the run of classic era Cinemaware (1985–1991) games and the end of one of my all time favorite game developers. But wait, didn’t I mention that Cinemaware also made a few sports titles and of course there is a certain adventure game published (but not developed) by Cinemaware too…

I guess I need a part III where I will do a quick overview of the Cinemaware sports games and also that Cinemaware published adventure title.


Cinemaware Part I.

Cinemaware logo

Instead of looking back over a specific gaming franchise, this time I thought I’d look back at one of my favourite gaming developers of the 80’s…Cinemaware.

Cinemaware was the brainchild of Bob and Phyllis Jacob and founded in 1985. Bob Jacob was a bit of a movie buff and wanted to bring a cinematic style to computer software, hence Cinemaware.
Being inspired by classic cinema, Cinemaware games were often based on a specific genre or style with games inspired by World War I movies, 1950’s B-movies, 1930’s mob movies and many other golden era movies.
But later in their reign, Cinemaware even delved into sports titles but still added that Cinemaware style and atmosphere.

Unfortunately, Cinemaware were declared bankrupt in 1991. Yet in 2000 the company was resurrected by Lars Fuhrken-Batista who bought the Cinemaware trademark and all associated IPs and rebranded it as Cinemaware Inc.
Cinemaware Inc. started to develop remakes of its popular past titles. Digitally remastered and updated for Microsoft Windows and the Apple Macintosh. The games feature the same gameplay as the originals, but with updated/improved graphics and audio. Cinemaware Inc. also ported some of their older games to handheld systems, such as the Game Boy Advance.

In 2005 Cinemaware Inc. was acquired by game publisher eGames, and Lars Fuhrken-Batista became Vice President of Development. Soon afterwards eGames announced the launch of Cinemaware Marquee, a publishing label to be used to bring new games to the U.S. market.
Then in 2007, eGames released an Adobe Flash version of Defender of the Crown for download via their website, entitled Defender of the Crown: Heroes Live Forever.

So technically, Cinemaware are still going today. There are even remasters and ports of classic Cinemaware games showing up on Android and IOS.

But I’m not here to talk about the “new” Cinemaware, I’m here to talk about the classic and original Cinemaware from 1985-1991.
So please sit back and join me on my retrospective look at probably the first ever gaming company that melded cinema and games…and often really well too.

DotC box

Defender of the Crown: Was the first title released by Cinemaware. Originally released for the Commodore Amiga in 1986, Defender of the Crown was a meeting of strategy, action and resource management. Being based on swashbuckling movies like Robin Hood.

You chose from one of four characters to play as: Wilfred of Ivanhoe, Cedric of Rotherwood, Geoffrey Longsword or Wolfric the Wild.

Once you have selected your character, you are tasked to take control of England by fighting off Norman hordes. The player must eventually fight for control of all territories in England. While playing you must amass armies and fight for control of your opponents castles. Along the way you will engage enemy armies via battle, looting or even lay siege to opposing castles. Territories could also be won in jousting contests. Occasionally you may get a request to rescue a damsel in distress and you can even ask for help from the legendary bandit; Robin Hood.

Defender of the Crown was a wonderfully crafted gaming experience that melded various gameplay mechanics and elements really well, all while paying homage to classic swashbuckling, Errol Flynn styled films.
What was most striking were the amazing graphics at the time and many game reviewers would often praise them endlessly. The moody castle interior when raiding/rescuing a damsel in distress, the almost “real” look to the characters portraits. The game was just simply beautiful to look at and really showcased what the Commodore Amiga could do. Everything just looked and felt so…cinematic.
This was our first taste of Cinemaware and their style, but there was much more to come.

While this was the first title from Cinemaware and was far from perfect, it certainly set a high bar for others to follow, even for Cinemaware themselves.

S.D.I box

S.D.I: S.D.I (Strategic Defense Initiative) was Cinemaware’s follow up to Defender of the Crown and released in 1986 for the Commodore Amiga. Taking inspiration from cold war styled movies and even classic James Bond movies, while using Ronald Reagan’s proposed and controversial Strategic Defense Initiative as a plot device all set in a universe when the Soviet Union did not collapse.

You play as General Sloan McCormick of the United States Air Force, commander-in-chief of the American SDI system. McCormick’s headquarters are in the American space station, which monitors a network of anti-missile satellites which are in geosynchronous orbit over the United States. The Russian revolutionary extremists, led by discontented members of the KGB have gained control of several ICBMs along with space launch facilities needed for deploying manned orbital fighters. As the revolutionary extremists have received no response to their demands for the Kremlin to surrender or for the Americans to abandon their SDI system, these revolutionaries begin using their seized assets to launch fighters against both the American and Russian space stations. They have also begun to fire waves of nuclear missiles at the United States.
The player must engage the enemy projectiles and enemy ships using a space-based fighter. You are tasked to destroy the incoming missiles otherwise they wreak destruction upon American soil. The player must also make repairs to the defense satellites that will become damaged during the battles.

During the latter part of the game, McCormick must make a desperate attempt to rescue his lover Natalia “Talia” Kazarian who is the Soviet station commander, who is placed in grave danger because her station is eventually boarded by the enemy forces. So McCormack must attempt to fight his way past them and reach Kazarian before she is tortured and killed. While your mission is to save Natalia, you do not necessarily have to succeed.

S.D.I met with mixed reviews with many commenting on the repetitive gameplay but praising it’s cinematic feel and tone along with the emotionally laden ending.

From the cold war inspired, space themed S.D.I. Cinemaware would next take us to the gritty streets of Chicago for their 3rd game.


The King of Chicago: This was Cinemware’s take on classic Hollywood mobster movies. Released in 1986, the game gave the player the chance to make your way up in the criminal underworld trying to become the next Al Capone.

Playing as “Pinky” Callahan and starting with a small mafia mob, you try to take over Chicago after Al Capone is sent to jail. The goal of the game is to increase the size of your gang in order to take over all mobster activity in the city. But you are given a set time to complete this task in order to be included in the formation of the New York syndicate.
The game features various mobster activities such as illegal gambling, bombings, drive-by shootings and even bribing of corrupt government officials. The player must out deal and even murder opponents in order to win control of each area of the city until you become King of Chicago. You’ll also have to stay one step ahead of the law and even keep your girlfriend, Lola happy by catering to her whims and desires at the risk losing her or even having her betray you.

The game was quite revolutionary as it offered a fairly open style of game and even different endings. The game would randomly load up at a start point so everytime you played, you could start it differently. Along with this feature was ability to make open decisions that would lead to differing cut scenes, scenarios and even endings depending on how you treated certain characters or how you handled situations. Leaving the game with plenty of replayability as the various decisions had multiple outcomes and depending on not only what you do, but also how you do it would lead to many varying outcomes.

An early example of interactive movies…done right. The King of Chicago pleased many reviewers at the time with it’s true cinematic style and impressive multilayered gameplay.

Cinemaware would find inspiration from a much more mythical source for the next game.


Sinbad and the Throne of the Falcon: 1987 saw the release of Sinbad and the Throne of the Falcon. Cinemaware took inspiration from the Sinbad films made throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Arabian nights movies and even classics like Jason and the Argonauts. Using a fantastical Arabian Nights-esque world as it’s backdrop.

With you playing as Sinbad the Sailor who is commissioned by The Princess to rid the land of the Dark Prince.
Gameplay used an open world map for orientation and dialogue sections where the player would engage other characters and further conversations, relationships and scenarios. Where the choices you make would alter the outcome of the game.
Utilising the world map you were free to sail to any location which would trigger a dialogue or action sequence. In cities you could hire men to add to your crew. While in the deep forests, you could talk with shamans and Gypsies about magic and potions.

The action sequences were split into four main scenarios.
Shipwrecks: Finding pieces of a broken ship in rough waters, you must steer the ship through the waves. trying to avoid rocks and picking up drowning sailors who would eventually join your crew.
A Cyclops: When in remote areas you could stumble upon a Cyclops who will raid your camp and steal away some of your crew. Armed with a slingshot you would have to blind the Cyclops by hitting his eye while avoiding the rocks thrown at you.
The Earthquake: When Sinbad falls into an opening chasm in the earth, you must escape in a platform-esque sequence climbing back to the top.
Sword Fighting: After the “Pick Up Thy Joystick!” on-screen prompt pops up. Sinbad does swordplay battle with stone idols that have come to life, Pirates, wild animals that attack your campsite and the even Black Prince himself.

The reviews of Sinbad and the Throne of the Falcon were middling to fair at the time, with most reviewers commenting on how the various game modes never really gelled as well as they did with Defender of the Crown previously. But they praised the graphics, audio and open world idea as Cinemaware once again managed to recreate classic cinema in game form.

Cinemaware have taken us to medieval England, Space, 1930’s Chicago and even on an Arabian nights adventure. But their next game would put us in the role of three of the greatest slapstick comedians ever to grace the big screen.

3stoogies cover

The Three Stooges: Released in 1987 and taking inspiration from several of The Three Stooges short films.

The game had you playing as the Stooges in various mini games based on their films in order to raise money to save an old orphanage from closing down, all set to a 30 (in game) day time frame. You would select one of the mini games by pressing the button while a hand randomly flashed over various symbols. Some symbols would offer static rewards such as adding to your money total, or hitting one of the mini games would take you to the event such as the boxing contest (based on the Punch Drunks short) or a cracker eating contest (based on the Dutiful But Dumb short) and various other mini games like pie throwing and a hospital chase.

The game was loaded with classic humor right from the start as the Defender of the Crown (Cinemaware’s first title) loading screen pops up, complete with the music. Then the game versions of the Stooges walked onto the screen as the music screeches to a halt and Curly says: “Hey fellas! We’re in the wrong game!”. Larry replies with: “This looks like a kids game!” and Moe says: “You imbeciles!”, and smacks Curly. They then walk off and into their game.

The game met with very mixed reviews. While the graphics and presentation were always praised, especially the many sound bites taken directly from the Three Stooges films, the rather basic and dull gameplay was not favoured as we had seen far better games from Cinemaware in the past. Brilliantly presented with the game looking and feeling like The Three Stooges, but sadly the gameplay was thin on the ground and very repetitive.

Well that ends part I of my look back at Cinemaware and their games. Join me in part II as the best is yet to come…