Another Quarter in the Barrel: Let's Play FMV Light Gun Games

Live-action full motion video has had its spurts of popularity throughout video game history, with a recent resurgence in games such as Contradiction! Spot the Liar and Death Come True, as well as interactive movies like Late Shift. However, before it was a stylistic choice for developers, it was a hot commodity for companies looking to create new interactive experiences in video games.

The Action Max was a home video game console developed in 1987 by toy company Worlds of Wonder. The Action Max console connected to a VHS player and allowed you to “interact” with specific VHS tapes via a light-gun. While the tape played, targets would appear on screen and either increment or decrement a score number on the Action Max console, and at the end of the tape the player would get an evaluation of their performance. While similar in format to LaserDisc games, the medium of VHS meant that the creators were much more limited in design; it was impossible to create multiple paths through the game, so each VHS played out the exact same way every time, with high scores as the only sense of progression or achievement. The Action Max ultimately failed to pick up steam and was cancelled after just five tapes were released.

American Laser Games was a video game company founded in 1989 and best known for its line of light-gun arcade games. Its founder, Robert Grebe, originally developed a police training program called iCAT, which used live-action LaserDisc footage to simulate high-intensity situations and convert them into shooting galleries. Grebe adapted his technology for arcades and released ALG’s first game Mad Dog McCree in 1990. While the excitement around FMV had largely died out since Dragon’s Lair’s release in 1983, Mad Dog McCree became an instant success and breathed new life into the genre with its larger-than-life take on full motion video. American Laser Games would eventually go on to release nine FMV light-gun games from 1990-1994 and branch out into alternative game styles through their Her Interactive branch, but the general lack of replayability and ALG’s pivot to 3DO technology ultimately led to their demise.

With this thread, my interest is in taking a look back on these old FMV shooters, to see what the figurative and literal Wild West was like for developers looking for a way to create new forms of interactive media. Thanks to fans of these companies and their efforts, these games have been preserved through Singe, an off-shoot of the Daphne arcade LaserDisc emulator that supports fanmade games and other restorations not supported by Daphne.

I’m ChorpSaway, your live-action guide through the wonders of early FMV gaming. Green screened in with me are my co-hosts TheJayOfSpade, Taoc and FutureFriend, who all have varying histories with live-action FMV gaming. Together we’ll be shooting our way through many different worlds and immersing ourselves in the rich talent on display.

We will be looking through all accessible Action Max tapes and American Laser Games FMV releases, and showing off as much content as we can in a single playthrough of each game. Along with the normal LP videos, I will be releasing commentary-free versions of each of the playthroughs so that you can enjoy the experience on its own merits.








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Wait there’s more of these than Mad Dog McCree? :open_mouth:

Wait there’s more of these than Mad Dog McCree? :open_mouth:

We’ve got 6 years worth of games to explore from ALG! There might even be… a Mad Dog II…

Wowsers bowsers.

:siren: UPDATE TIME! :siren:

This week, we’re taking flight in Sonic Fury! Sonic Fury was the pack-in title for the Action Max, a VCR-based home console that let players “interact” with formatted VHS tapes via a light gun as they aim for high scores. Although light on interactivity and playability, these games are heavy with FMV action! This title puts up in the cockpit of a fighter jet, as a rookie training to join the Sonic Fury, a crack team of pilots who protect the skies from danger. However, on our simulation flight, the crew finds themselves in real danger, and it’s up to us to help them make it back to base alive!

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Holy shit, a video game that looks exactly like a mid-90s sitcom’s portrayal of a video game!

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Looking up the Action Max lead me to the strange world of VHS based game consoles. It’s fascinating what people were trying to do with making games out of the VHS medium.

Maybe spoilers for other VHS things?

Sad to say that I couldn’t find any information on the Takara Video Challenger emulation, though I guess the fact that those are based on licensed properties makes putting up the footage for said games more risky than the Action Max.

:siren: UPDATE TIME! :siren:


We’re on the case this week with Who Shot Johnny Rock?, the second American Laser Games release! An up-and-coming singer Johnny Rock has been murdered, and its up to our no-nonsense detective to crack the case of whodunnit before he gets silenced as well. We have a lot of clues to find, people to interrogate, and bullets to dodge as we navigate the dangerous streets and try to solve this mystery. It’s not an easy task, but someone’s gotta do it.

Looking up the Action Max lead me to the strange world of VHS based game consoles. It’s fascinating what people were trying to do with making games out of the VHS medium.

Yeah there were definitely a bunch of different groups trying to like, solve how to make games out of VHS tapes and it seems like the most successful probably ended up being as supplementary material for board games, strangely enough. Just a real wild time of development.

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(cross-posting from YouTube)

Huh, I wonder if one of the composers for Tex Murphy: Under a Killing Moon did the music at the end of Who Shot Johnny Rock?

The music at the end is a moderately different version of the chapter title music from Under a Killing Moon.

:siren: UPDATE TIME! :siren:


This week we take to the vast unknown of space in Space Pirates, the third American Laser Games release! Captain Talon and his Black Brigade are on the hunt for a weapon that could bring the galaxy to its knees, and have taken hostages to demand information on the location of this terrifying weapon. However, one brave Star Ranger, with a little help from an unknown ally, might just be enough to take on Captain Talon’s swarthy team and protect the solar system from all sorts of ne’er-do-wells!

Huh, I wonder if one of the composers for Tex Murphy: Under a Killing Moon did the music at the end of Who Shot Johnny Rock?
The music at the end is a moderately different version of the chapter title music from Under a Killing Moon.

Honestly my best guess would be that it’s like a royalty-free track and both games ended up licensing this one.

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I’m not even 2 minutes in and this game has already endeared itself to me completely. Everything about it is just adorable.

edit: Whoa dang, they plunked out for a Video Toaster AND Scanimate? These guys must have been rolling in it.

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