In recent years, there have been many retellings of the Titanic’s maiden voyage. Yet, none have ever felt as haunting as Cyberflix’s 1996 masterpiece, Titanic: Adventure Out of Time. The 1996 classic transports you into a bygone era, making you feel like you are fighting against time itself.
The Titanic was the largest ship to date when it set off from Southampton on April 10, 1912, bound for New York City. The Titanic carried people from all walks of life. The passenger list included aristocracy, immigrants looking for a new start, and everyone in between. Unfortunately, the ensuing disaster that followed took many lives. As a result, the Titanic disaster is one of history’s worst maritime disasters. Approximately 1500 men, women, and children lost their lives that tragic night.
Despite her brief existence, the public’s interest in the Titanic has outlasted everything else. It has survived several world wars, economic crashes, and technological advances. So even though the tragedy of the Titanic is now more than 110 years old, it still holds a special place in people’s hearts.
One of the most memorable pieces of media surrounding the tragedy was Titanic: Adventure Out of Time. Created by the now-defunct Cyberflix Inc in Knoxville, Tennessee, it is one of the greatest video games I’ve ever played.
Cyberflix was a Knoxville, Tennessee-based entertainment firm known for its “interactive movies.” It was established in 1993 by Bill Appleton. The company launched several titles – Titanic: Adventure Out of Time, Dust: A Tale of the Wired West, Skull Cracker, Redjack: Revenge of the Brethren, Power Rangers Zeo vs. The Machine Empire, Lunicus, and Jump Raven.
Bill Appleton believed that video games could be adapted into interactive movies. So he worked toward that goal by creating the DreamFactory game development software.
By animating still photographs of real people at high speed, Cyberflix broke away from the traditionally awful CGI characters of the time. The team utilized the DreamFactory platform to bring humans into pre-rendered settings. As a result, Bill was confident that Cyberflix would be one of the world’s largest software firms by 2000. In his eyes, he created what he felt was a revolution in gaming technology.
Unfortunately, despite Bill’s optimism, the technology never caught on. As a result, the firm ceased video game development operations in 1998. They would completely go out of business in 2006.
Titanic: Adventure Out of Time was released on Halloween in 1996, and the game is still as playable today. The game featured an engaging story with intriguing well-acted characters that ranged from humorous and endearing to downright creepy (I’m talking about you, Reverend Trout!). Also, the game was incredibly detailed for a late 90s video game. It featured the most accurate 3D recreation of the Titanic of its time.
A Touch of The Mal De Mer, Was It?
In this timeless classic from the early days of computer gaming, you take on the role of Frank Carlson. Frank is a broke and out-of-work British ex-secret agent. After finding himself on the receiving end of a London Blitz bomb blast (that poor bastard), Frank is thrown back in time to finish a mission. If successful, he will have prevented World War I, the Russian Revolution, World War II, and the rise of Hitler. He failed it the first time, but now he has a chance to reverse the course of history. No pressure, right? By “using the brains God gave him” and with some help from his fellow passengers, Carlson might be able to pull it off.
When Frank first awakens from the explosion, he finds himself in his original cabin on the doomed 1912 voyage. There is a knock at the door. Smethells, the Titanic’s steward, has come to check on Frank’s well-being since our hero appears to have fallen ill with a case of the “mal de mer.” (“Seasickness can be quite unpleasant”). Smethells informs Frank that his belongings are on his bed. In addition, Penny Pringle, a “most persistent young lady,” has left him a message.
The player is then left to their own devices. Do they go straight to the gymnasium to look for Penny, or do they fool around and explore the ship? I immediately proceeded with the game’s goal in mind my first time through. Yet, much to my surprise, the game is jam-packed with hidden remarks from the game’s main characters. These can only be discovered if you explore before meeting Penny.
But, once the meeting with Penny takes place (“Glory be! You’re late!”), the game’s events are set in motion, and it’s up to you to succeed in the mission that you failed the first time around, destroying your career in the process.
You’ll journey to everything from Scotland Road, the First Class Smoking Lounge, the Turkish Bath, the Turbine and Boiler rooms, and more in those next few hours. Each area boasts an excellent soundtrack (written by Erik Holt) that adds to the already immersive game’s chilling atmosphere.
Along with the game’s detailed story were several collectible items. These items determined what ending the player would receive. With an incredible eight different endings available, the player never knew what ending they would get. Maybe you helped Hitler with a well-needed career change as a painter. Perhaps your hard work prevented Stalin from ever coming into power. The possibilities were endless.
With so many different endings available, character interaction options with various non-playable characters throughout your adventure onboard the ship itself, and all kinds of collectible items used for side quests along the way; there was never a shortage of things to do onboard the vessel or to distract the player from their primary goal. Perhaps this is why Frank failed his mission in the first place! He was too busy canoodling with Georgia!
While lesser known then other big games from that year, Titanic: Adventure Out of Time, aided by the release of James Cameron‘s “Titanic” film, sold over 400,000 copies. It became one of the best-selling video games of the late 1990s. Also, the game’s footage is still used in documentaries about the boat because of its accurate portrayal of the ship. Although certain areas are now inaccurate (example: the hallways of A-Deck, B-Deck, etc.), Cyberflix’s recreation still holds up in many spots, even 25 years after its release. According to at least one Cyberflix employee, James Cameron may have used the game’s sinking sequences as inspiration. It’s not hard to see why when you look at them side-by-side.
Today, Titanic Adventure Out of Time is an essential source of inspiration for the long-awaited game Titanic: Honor & Glory. A Facebook group with over 3,000 members (Titanic: Adventure Out of Time Forever) dedicated to discussing the game’s vanished content, plotline, and even amusing memes is still active today.
If you have not played this outstanding game yet, I recommend doing so. Will you be able to change history as we know it?
Bonus: Want to learn more? In 2021, I helped co-produce a documentary with a good friend, David Beaver, which goes into even further detail than this article. Watch it here.