Vid Grid

The Jaguar CD originally came with two CD games packed in the box along with the system. The first of these was Blue Lightning, a fairly playable and enjoyable After Burner clone which had it's roots on the Atari Lynx. The second game was Vid Grid...and I use the term 'game' in the loosest possible sense, but that isn't to say that it isn't a fun and highly impressive showcase for the Jaguar CD's technical abilities.

As you may expect from the title, Vid Grid's main play mode presents the player with a music video that has been scrambled and it's up to you to unscramble the video in the fastest possible time (or before the video ends) in order to accrue points. Sounds stupidly simple - and it is - but I was also surprised at just how much fun it actually is. It helps that all of the music videos featured in the game are from genuine artists and bands (Ozzy Osborne, Guns 'N' Roses, Peter Gabriel and Aerosmith amongst others) and are some of their most well-known songs so you'll find yourself humming (or - God forbid in my case - singing) along with the tracks as you battle to unscramble them before they end.

There's a practice mode where you can get familiar with the videos if you've never seen them before, but the main meat of Vid Grid is the 'Standard' game where you are presented with a selection screen of videos and the stipulations are given - this includes the size of the grid (eg 3x3, 4x4, 5x5 etc) and whether the game has decided to flip or mirror any of the tiles. Sometimes, a stage will have multiple challenges, so that once you've unscrambled a 3x3 grid, it will instantly re-scramble into a 5x5 grid with some tiles that have the video on them mirrored. It's a bastard when that happens, I can tell you. There's little else to Vid Grid in all honesty, and it's probably a good thing that Atari chose to bundle the game with the system for free as I doubt many people who could potentially have paid £40 for it would have been impressed with that. What they most certainly would have been impressed with however, is the Jaguar CD's ability to handle all this video footage, at a fairly respectable resolution (OK, it's hardly HD but come on - this was 1995!) and then scramble it all up and still have it running at full speed with zero glitching or freezing. Ever since I first saw the quality of the Jaguar CD's FMV I've been impressed with how stable and clear it is - without exception - and Vid Grid only strengthens my stance that the Jag CD has the best video output (as in 'full motion video') of all the CD-based systems of the era. The 3DO's video is nowhere near as clear and the Mega CD's video playback looks atrocious due to the limited colour palette of the hardware. It's hardly something to shout from the rooftops, but at a time when other CD-based systems were awash with FMV games, the Jaguar CD was bereft of them even though it clearly matched a Video Cartridge-enhanced Philips CD-i for clarity and quality.

As a technical demo of the abilities of the Jag CD then, Vid Grid cannot be faulted...and as a tool for entertainment it also holds up fairly well. It has some great videos from some brilliant musicians and there are enough variations in the challenges to make you want to play on for longer than you probably thought you would. And I really wasn't expecting that at all.

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