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Video Game / Critical Path

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Critical Path is an Interactive Movie released in 1993 for Windows and macOS, developed by Mechadeus (who would later develop The Daedalus Encounter). Like many FMV games, it's infamous for its lack of interactivity, bad acting, and graphics that quickly became outdated.

The story begins with two military helicopters flying over an island. One has a mechanical problem and makes an emergency landing on the roof of a steel foundry, and the other one is shot down by a missile. The pilot of the second helicopter, Kat, attempts to bring a replacement part to the other helicopter, while the player character (who was on the first helicopter) has gotten into a control room containing several control panels and a monitor connected to cameras throughout the facility. However, the evil ruler of the island is also controlling things from behind the scenes, playing a deadly game with you.

The gameplay is similar to Dragon's Lair, except that it's controlled by the mouse (used to press on-screen buttons), and there are no on-screen prompts telling you what to do (you're supposed to figure it out, which is easier than it might sound, since there are in-game clues and (usually) a very generous timing window). The fact it features live-action video rather than cel animation was another difference to Dragon's Lair.

This game provides examples of:

  • After the End: According to the opening narration, the game's setting is after a war in which biological weapons killed 80% of the world's population.
  • Bond One-Liner: "Shocking. You really should quit smoking." (said to someone who you need to electrocute in order to prevent him from shooting Kat with her own gun)
  • Cats Have Nine Lives: Kat has nine lives. (However, the only penalty for running out of lives is that you're taken to the main menu screen rather than the "continue" screen; you can restart from the same point in either case.)
    • In the ending cutscene, she says triumphantly that "this Kat has ten lives!"
  • Chroma Key: The FMV mostly consists of live-action footage of actors superimposed on CG backgrounds.
  • Defcon 5: Kat's Apocalyptic Log does this mistake. The day the biological attack occurred, she states "We went to DEFCON 5 this morning".
  • Diegetic Interface: The things that you can click on are supposed to be buttons/switches on either the control room's control panel or the player character's communication device. Strangely enough, though, these buttons/switches are still semi-functional when you're at the "continue" screen, which doesn't make sense in-story.
  • Guide Dang It!: Not so much the gameplay, but merely getting the game to run (at least with the Windows version) can be very difficult. (It can be run on 32-bit Windows Vista at least, but a very old version of QuickTime for Windows seems to be necessary.)
  • Large Ham:The villain, complete with a ridiculously over-the-top Evil Laugh.
  • Mission Control: This is essentially the role of the player character.
  • No Name Given: The player character, who isn't quite a Featureless Protagonist, because the player character's voice (which sounds masculine) is heard once at the beginning of the game.
  • No Sidepaths, No Exploration, No Freedom: This game is absolutely linear; there is only one correct thing to do at any decision point, and failing to do that thing results in an instant Game Over. (Except for one point where failing to do the correct thing doesn't end the game, but instead changes the mood of the following scene.)
  • Pun: The "nine lives" puns mentioned above; also, at the beginning of the walkway sequence, Kat tells you that she can't see very well, and therefore "you're going to be Kat's eyes".
  • Shout-Out: The hint for one of the three-digit codes is "the temperature at which paper burns".
  • Video Game Caring Potential: Believe it or not, part of this game's marketing centered around the promise that players would come to care for Kat and become concerned for her through her emotional responses, suggesting a level of A.I. that doesn't actually exist in the game.