Scourge of Worlds (Special Collector's Edition)

Starring: Dan Krech
Number of discs:
Encoding: Region 1 (Canada and US)
Format: Animated, Color




We've had a number of movies based on video games - Resident Evil, Alone in the Dark and Wing Commander come to mind. Why not an interactive movie that's a cross between a game and a movie? After all, turnaround is fair play . . .

Released on DVD, Scourge of Worlds: A Dungeons and Dragons Adventure is such a hybrid ? an animated movie with over 20 decision points, six different endings and over 1,100 possible story combinations. Loosely based on characters from the granddaddy of role-playing games - Dungeons and Dragons - this interactive movie makes use of your DVD remote to let the audience decide which way the characters go. Turn left or right? Go East or West? Fight or flee? It's up to you but you live (or die) by the consequences.

The CG animation quality is equal to the current level of game animation. But though the characters are vividly rendered, there's sparseness to the settings - it's like watching a re-run of Re-boot where the characters have cool clothes and weapons but they're running around a less detailed forest or castle or village.

If this is the future of interactive entertainment, then call Scourge version 1. It's an innovative use of DVD technology and its chapter-structure to offer up a non-linear story. You probably do this today - jump to your favorite chapters. But the main problem with a ?movie? like Scourge is that the story comes to a complete stop whenever you're asked to participate. It also gets quite talky as the characters decide what to do. Their conversation sets up the next decision. Run or hide? Take a prisoner or let him go? At these decision points, a menu pops up with your options and you use your DVD remote as if you were choosing a different chapter. Click play, and the story continues.

Unfortunately, you get the worst of both worlds. For gamers, Scourge is not particularly interactive. Slow paced, the movie is also disappointingly gore-free. At least in a couple of scenarios I tried, getting eaten by wolves or stabbed by a sword yielded no blood or viscera. Action scenes are short and when the decision point menu pops up, it's like an unwelcome commercial break just when you're getting into the stop and start action. Playing a first-person game is infinitely more entertaining and involving than this "interactive movie" ? so why not play a game with a strong storyline?

For movie-lovers, the concept of interactivity is cool but Scourge's approach isn't involving enough to keep an audience's attention. Scourge is like the most basic of games for people who don't play games.

We've all screamed at the big screen when someone chooses the wrong door or when Jason or Freddy Krueger lunge from the shadows. Imagine an interactive movie where the characters react to voice commands? Until then, we've got Scourge of Worlds ? an interactive experience that isn't movie or game enough to be entertaining but is still an interesting peek at things to come.

- Harrison Cheung



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