You might have guessed we’d pick something like Dragon’s Lair or Space Ace to fill our number one spot, but if so, you’d be wrong. Yeah, the games made by Don Bluth’s studios certainly contain more polished animation than pretty much anything on this list, but that animation doesn’t count, because it’s strictly linear. Real games make animation that you actually control. Nowadays, developers can’t get away with simply pre-constructing animations and forcing the player to press buttons to keep them going.
Above: Or so we were led to believe
The Act by Cecropia is exactly what we mean when we say we want to participate in an interactive cartoon, and is miles behind those glorified DVD menus. Designed as a coin-op arcade game, you play out a series of funny, beautifully animated scenes using a single little knob, which controls the actions of Edgar, a dopey window-washer who tries to court the sexy nurse Sylvia. It’s real-time, cinema-quality animation, and the results are stunning.
Obviously, very few people have ever heard of The Act (more on the ramifications of its commercial failure in a minute), but just watch this video. It may be simultaneously the most heartwarming and unbelievably depressing thing you see all day.
As you know, our sole pleasure in life comes from making you feel guilty about brilliant games you let die, so we have to mention that while you were in line for Halo 3 in 2007, Cecropia was slowly, painfully being driven out of business. The Act was a commercial disaster – likely because it was released far too late to succeed in the waaaaaaaay-dead arcade scene, and too early to catch on as a downloadable title. As you might have guessed, Cecropia is currently out of business – it closed its doors on Dec. 2, 2008.
But gosh, The Act looks great, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t you have paid a quarter or two to play it, given the opportunity?
…Care to guess what Cecropia was doing just before they went under?
Flash-based advergames. Like the kinds you see in pop-up windows next to the ads for phone-sex hotlines.
The official site for Cecropia was taken down a while ago, but a little searching using the Wayback Machine reveals a list of projects Cecropia was working on before going out of business, including an explanation of the intent behind the Flash game shown above.
“Chip and Veronica
In this skit – an example of using a skit as an advergame – you interact with a potato chip company’s product by (virtually) eating the chips. The woman on the park bench is tempted, enthralled, delighted, even seduced by chips! The message is: these chips are irresistible!”
Not only were The Act’s brilliant character-based game mechanics butchered and bastardized in order to illustrate the seductive capabilities of potato chips, it seems no advertisers in the potato chip industry were even willing to pay for the final product. Wow, that’s depressing.
Oh, and we almost forgot…
Above: Sad end
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