The Independence Day PC game you’ve never heard of
The 1990s was wild for toy merchandising. Every big summer film which came out, had a raft of merch to go along with it. This is all largely due to Kenner’s Star Wars toy. After their success with Star Wars, Kenner monopolised film toys. Every good film which came out, Kenner bought the toy license. Even if the license wasn’t suitable for kids. You could still get Terminator, Predator and Jurassic Park action figures.
But in the mid-1990s, Kenner had a little bit of a change in direction. They re-launched Star Wars and sculpted Transformers: Beast Wars for their parent company, Hasbro. Their focus for film licensed toylines was taken up by extending their existing Jurassic Park and Batman lines. Basically, 1996 was a busy year for Kenner. This meant that the Independence Day ID4 toyline was picked up by a much smaller company called Trendmasters.
Trendmasters were probably most famous for Godzilla toys at this point. This was before the Roland Emmerich film (they also did the toys for that), so Godzilla was a niche property. ID4 was the toyline which would put Trendmasters on the map. Not content with releasing run-of-the-mill action figures, Trendmasters went out to make a name for themselves and so the ID4 figures came bundled with something very special. The ID4 toys all came packed with 3.5” floppy disks. In total eleven separate Mission Disks were released. Each with a unique game, each telling a separate part of the ID4 story. The games aren’t good by any stretch, but this has to be one of the weirdest PC game tie-ins ever to have been made.
The ID4 toys were really cool
If you follow me on Twitter you might know I’m a big toy fan. Since spotting a few of these toys at a toy fair back in 2018, I’ve wanted to cover this fascinating bit of 90s pop culture. You can find these figures loose on places like eBay, but it’s extremely hard to find them complete with the floppy disk. I have honestly spent four years collecting these figures, just to talk about these floppy disks.
The Independence Day toys are not up to the same quality standard as the toys you would see from Playmates or Mattel or Toybiz from the time. The sculps are really good, but the engineering lets these down. The plastic is very rigid on the aliens, but they do have very cool bendy tentacles. and there’s not a lot in the way of articulation. This isn’t out of place for a mid-90s toyline, but it does mean you don’t have many options for posability. There’s a few minor quality issues which stops this toyline being truly great, but this represents a company coming out of the doldrums. Trendmasters were pulling out all the stops here, and it’s certainly not a boring toyline.
The ID4 Mission Disks
In total, eleven unique disks were packaged across the ID4 toyline. Each disk has a little minigame on it, sort of related to the toy and depicting a different bit of the film’s story. The hardware requirements for the ID4 games are modest, even for 1996. You’ll need Windows 3.1, a 386 processor, 4MB of RAM, 1.5MB of hard drive space, a graphics card supporting 640×480 @256 colours and a sound card for full impact audio.
There is almost nothing online about the Independence Day Mission Disks, so I had no idea what to expect. Much like with my coverage of the Japanese Spawn CD-ROM, this will probably be the internet’s premier source for information about these for the time being.
Independence Day Mission Disk 1
Disk 1 came bundled with the Supreme Commander, US Exclusive Ultimate Commander and the Zero Gravity figure. It’s kind of a prequel to the film as you’re playing the Alien Commander, searching the galaxy for a suitable planet to invade (I should say now that none of these games come with any instructions, so most of the playtime is figuring out what you’re supposed to do and how). The key to the puzzle is working out how to use the ship’s nav computer. You’ve got two tentacles and three places to stick ‘em. That’s gives you nine possible combinations, which means nine potential coordinates to find the planet Earth. Most of the coordinates result in nothing but empty space, but sometimes you can be unlucky enough to enter the coordinates for a sun going supernova. Once you find Earth, it’s a case of sending in the spaceships. Sometimes Earth mounts a resistance and fights back, but honestly I couldn’t see if there was logic to this. Sending in the ships faster or slower doesn’t seem to have much effect. But the coordinates for Earth never change, so it doesn’t take long to have another go.
Independence Day Mission Disk 2
Disk 2 came with the Science Officer figure. I think this game is supposed to be based on the idea that alien scientists are abducting animals to experiment on, with the aim to upgrade their exosuit bodies before the events of the Independence Day film. Maybe trying to adapt to Earth’s atmosphere? In the game, you’ve can load in one of three Earth species. After solving a small puzzle, you can then access a compartment of alien embryos. Extracting DNA from the Earth animals and combining the DNA with the alien embryos then apparently makes the alien exosuit suitable for colonising Earth. Fair one.
Independence Day Mission Disk 3
Disk 3 came with the glittery Shocktrooper. The game is called Warrior Alien and asks us to assemble a new alien weapon. At first all you can do is play a stylised game of Simon. It was only a matter of time before we found a game of Simon! Once you’ve passed the memory game, you open up a locker full of alien items, which need to be combined into weapon parts. This time there’s six items and two places to put them, so that’s fifteen combinations.
Simon is actually different each time you play, so that’s pretty cool. The weapon combinations are the same each time though. Once you solve the first combination, those items are removed from play. So the possible remaining combinations drop, and the weapon comes together quite quickly easily. I don’t think you see this weapon in the film, perhaps there’s some sequel opportunity here?!
Independence Day Mission Disk 4
Mission 4 is another navigation game. We’re still the aliens, but now we’re infiltrating Earth’s satellite network. There is a scene in the film where communications blackouts happen, so clearly this is the in-universe explanation as to why. The aliens are hacking the planet! Once you’ve figured out how to bring up the hologram, the game then presents a puzzle of sorts. Each of the alien characters onscreen corresponds to a number. You’ll need to write the code down on paper to proceed here. This is classic 90s PC game stuff! The game gives you a three-digit sequence which you have to match before the time runs out. After getting a right answers, the amount of time you have to solve the next gets shorter and shorter. Honestly I couldn’t tell you if you match the numbers from top to bottom or bottom to top. I just kept plugging away at it until I got the win screen.
Independence Day Mission Disk 5
Disk 5 came with the Will Smith figure and I really hoped this game would be me flying a plane. It’s not that at all, it’s a puzzle recreating the scene from the film where the Area 51 staff rewire the alien spaceship. The little post-it notes give you clues as to what you’re supposed to do. First, connect the wires in the right order (or you fry the whole damn thing and aliens kill everyone). Once you’ve got the ship correctly wired, it’s a copy of the same puzzle from the previous navigation game. Get the symbols right and you crack the code. Apparently hacking an alien spaceship is easy! This was the shortest game to figure out and complete. But this felt the most like an old point and click adventure game, so it was the most fun one for me so far.
Independence Day Mission Disk 6
Disk 6 came with my favourite toy in the whole toyline. David Levinson AKA Jeff Goldblum. The game is called David’s Computer, which is a bit insulting as the other two human characters get games named after them. What’s great about the game is the effort to visually recreate the actual Macbook from the film. It even looks a bit like MacOS! This game follows David Levinson’s plan from the film, to upload a computer virus to the alien mothership. In this game David has to align a communications satellite, adjust the carrier wave signal to transmit the virus, upload the virus and then help Steve Miller take off in his plane. It’s kind of like four minigames in one. Adjusting the carrier wave took ages, but the other puzzles were all pretty straightforward. I should say that this was more fun that Disk 5, so each disk is getting more fun than the last!
Independence Day Mission Disk 7
President Whitmore’s disk was the easiest Mission Disk yet. I beat the entire game from front to back on my first attempt in under three minutes. I’m pretty sure there’s a scene in about a hundred different films where the president has nuclear launch codes, and he has to turn a little key in a silver briefcase in order to validate the launch. This game is that scene. Except you don’t get to yell GET OFF MY PLANE! This is a really simple “click on the right things in the right order” type of game. I like how the actual Mission Disk makes an appearance in its own game. And it’s pretty cool that this game is the first one which actually lets me make explosions. It’s a bit ironic that explosions is pretty much what ID4 is known for, but it’s taken this long to get it into one of these games. Still, this one was fun.
Independence Day Mission Disk 8
If the game which came with the Steve Hiller figure wasn’t a shooting game, I was certain the alien attacker would be the one. But Disk 8 was not what I was expecting at all. It’s an interactive presentations of screenshots and technical specs of the alien fighter craft. There’s no game here to speak of, it’s more of an interactive encyclopaedia. The 3D hologram thing is pretty sick, but I would say this game is most at odds with the toy it came packaged with. The spaceship toy has lights and sounds and launching missiles, I would have thought the game would reflect that. Don’t get me wrong, I love a 1990s CD-ROM and it’s neat to have a scaled down version on a 1mb floppy disk. I just really wanted one of these games to let me fly a spaceship.
Independence Day Mission Disk 9
Dare I hope that the F-18 disk gives me that chance? Well, it’s literally the same encyclopaedia as the Attack Fighter disk, but reskinned with information on F-18 fighter jets. Trendmasters probably had a hell of a task to create eleven unique PC games to bundle onto the Independence Day toys. I’m happy to give them a pass to reskin one of them. After all, what were the chances some idiot would collect all eleven Mission Disks, right?
Independence Day Mission Disk 10
OMG. OMG. YES! I genuinely didn’t think I would get to fly a spaceship. After ten disks I had given up hope and here we are! The Alien Bomber game on disk 10 sees you flying a spaceship, albeit in a simulation. The conceit is that you’re playing an alien, who is training for the big invasion. You fly your little spaceship around with the mouse, shooting down jets and bombing a simulated cityscape. You have to manually switch between lasers and bombs by clicking on the bar at the bottom of the screen, which makes the game a lot harder than it needs to be. The planes also appear at random and on the later levels they spawn in so quickly you’ll just get smashed by them before you get a chance to react. The game is super hard, and is the only game on this list where I didn’t achieve a win state. I don’t even know if there is one .I’m pretty sure this just keeps getting harder until you die. Either way, I’m absolutely gassed that I actually got a proper game where you fly a spaceship and kill those measly humons! Of all the games, this is the one I played the most.
Independence Day Mission Disk 11
The final disk came with the Area 51 playset. The game is actually kind of cute. You’ve got this little fella working at Area 51, and you’ve got to get him to get the alien ship ready for launch. This sets up the finale of the film where Steve and David fly up to the mothership. It’s very cute getting the little fella chipping about loading ordnance and launching the ship. There’s probably a logical order to the tasks, but I got everything right the first time I tried. My entire playthrough for this game lasted one minute fifteen seconds. Disk 11 very short end to the run of Mission Disks, but the President was so happy with my performance he put three exclamation marks on his fax. I mean, we did prevent the extermination of the human race, so he’s allowed to be excited.
Final thoughts on the ID4 floppy disks
For free pack-in games with toys from 1996, these floppy disks were never designed to be world-ending pieces of digital entertainment. But they are just as worthy of remembering, and documenting as anything else from this era. Personally, I think this is a sick coming together of two pieces of late 90s popular culture. Although the games leave a bit to be desired, you’d be hard pressed to find a stranger or more obscure piece of digital entertainment from the pre-mass-internet era.
If you are interested in playing these games, I have ripped my personal collection of floppies and added them to Archive.org. You can find them here: https://archive.org/details/id4-mission-disks
I suppose the only thing left to say is “Does anybody want to buy a complete set of Independence Day action figures?”