Developer(s): Philips Interactive Media
Publisher: Philips Interactive Media
Released: 1993

Name That Tune is a TV game show that’s aired sporadically since the 1950s, with the latest revival actually debuting about a month ago as of this writing (i.e. January 2021). When this video game adaptation released, there hadn’t been a TV version in more than five years, but presumably audiences were still familiar with the concept: an instrumental version of a popular song plays, and you have to identify it as quickly as possible. The CD-i game isn’t necessarily trying to mimic any particular TV version, just the concept in general, and the FMV host, Bob Goen, while someone with a notable game show pedigree, had no previous Name That Tune experience.

Bob Goen is thrilled to have a front row seat in this new multimedia age

The game is broken up into four rounds. In each of the first two rounds, you’re given four categories with four songs each to choose from. By “song”, what I mean is you’ll hear about 10 seconds of an instrumental cover version. The categories will be things like “Traffic Light”, where every song has either the word “Stop” or “Go” in the title. The songs you can choose from are worth different amounts of points, but as far as I can tell there is no way to know how many points you’re going for before you pick the song. In the first round, the point-value is fixed, and in the second round, you get more points the faster you buzz in to say you recognize the song. Unlike in Jeopardy! there is no way to type in your answer; it’s entirely based on the honor system, with the game asking you if you guessed correctly or not. Occasionally if you say you got it right, it will ask you a bonus trivia question for even more points.

Each of the first two rounds presents a grid like this, and players take turns choosing songs via the musical note squares

The third round is the real “name that tune” round, where the top two highest-scoring players from the first half of the game are given a chance to say how many notes they’ll need to name a song, based on a short clue given. You can choose from one to seven notes, with fewer notes meaning a higher possible score (though if you guess wrong, the points are deducted from your total). If you can’t guess the song immediately from the clue itself, there is no possible way you will get any of the songs in this section. Even seven notes, and it sounds like these notes are being played haltingly on a xylophone or something, will never be enough to identify these songs. The player with the most points goes on to the fourth and final round, in which you have 30 seconds to identify as many tunes as possible, but now the game can actually tell if you’re right or not, as you’re presented with a grid of eight tiny, blurry photographs of musicians, and must choose which one performed the clip you’re hearing. This is ridiculously difficult, given the obscurity of the songs/bands and the low-fidelity of the pictures. On one occasion I got two song-artist pairs right in a row, which was basically dumb luck.

Seriously, who are any of these people?

Given the age of my CD-i console and the perhaps less than reliable nature of these things in general, I don’t want to say definitively that this game is broken, but I can say I encountered more game-ending bugs while playing Name That Tune than I have on any other CD-i game I’ve played so far. Every single time I chose the question mark to get more info about a round, it crashed and needed to be restarted. The quality of the audio in the third and fourth rounds was always much worse (staticky, or being cut-off mid-song) than in the first two rounds. The end credits were always completely scrambled. Sometimes the third or fourth round would just crash randomly. This may not be your experience, but this was my experience, and it made me dread reaching the second half of the game (it doesn’t help that the second half, even when it works, is way less enjoyable).

An exercise in trust

There is some fun to be had here, believe it or not. In the first two rounds, listening to a song sample and trying to guess it is fun, especially with another person playing with you. I’d say I recognized a little more than a third of them, and sometimes not knowing them was even more fun, because they were laughably odd answers (any fans out there of the songs “Polk Salad Annie” or “Sleeping Single in a Double Bed”?). You have a choice of starting with one-to-four players, but each player only gets two tries per round no matter what, so if you pick one player, the game goes by incredibly quickly. It would’ve been nice to have some kind of extended or even endless mode where you can just listen to songs and make guesses without having to deal with the bad, broken third and fourth rounds. Name That Tune could absolutely be a fun and funny thing to break out when you have guests over (who also like music from the 60s to 80s) but no one could possibly want to play this as a serious, competitive game, and I can’t see anyone breaking it out more than two or three times.

Graphics – 5
It’s mostly serviceable, but the final round is nearly impossible due to the low-fidelity of the small images

Sound – 7
The sound samples in the first two rounds are very clear, and it’s sort of impressive they made so many of these little instrumental covers, but I had issues with audio crackle in the second half of the game

Gameplay – 5
A multiplayer game show based on the honor system, with poor single-player options, and only half of the rounds are actually fun to play

Value – 6
There are apparently over 600 songs, but you’ll never see them all, because you’ll only play this a couple times

Reviewer’s Tilt – 6
I got a lot of laughs out of playing Name That Tune, even if they weren’t necessarily laughs the game intended

Final Score – 5.7