Genesis Reviews

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

Genre: Edutainment Developer: Electronic Arts Canada Publisher: Electronic Arts Players: 1 Released: 1992

In 1992, I was a seven year-old elementary school student who was greeted every morning before class by a man in an oversized bear costume known as the Beeler Bear (true story). Monday was always the same, after receiving our hugs from the bear we would line up in alphabetical order march down the hallway towards our “special activity of the day.” As we walked down the hall, I remember talking about what Urkel did on TGIF and how much I missed Balke from Perfect Strangers. Although we were still full of energy and chatting about what we did the past weekend, we quickly silenced ourselves as soon as we reached our destination: the computer lab.

We were each assigned a computer, given a login name, and allowed to pick any of the games available to us. Most of my fellow students delighted in playing Oregon Trail, although I personally found it to be rather frustrating due to my knack at flipping over the wagon whenever I attempted to float across the river. Other students preferred Midnight Rescue, a game which involved taking pictures of robots and solving math problems to defeat the evil Master of Mischief. While Midnight Rescue was a great game, I always knew what to expect, and quickly grew bored. There was one game, however, which I was always eager to play, which greeted me with respect every time I sat down, even though I never won a single game. My fellow gumshoes and detectives, that game was Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

I’ll be completely honest; I had no idea whatsoever that this game was available for Sega Genesis. I happened to be looking for one more game to finish off my Amazon gift certificate when I came across this blast from the past. Quickly I looked at the master list to ensure that it was indeed for the Genesis and not the Sega Master System (which it is available for as well). When I confirmed that my selection was indeed a Genesis version, a sly grin wrapped itself around my lips. Fifteen years later I would finally have a chance to capture Carmen Sandiego who had managed to elude me throughout my entire elementary school career. When it finally arrived in the mail, I popped it into my CDX and prepared myself a trip down memory lane.

Greeted by the sound of crashing glass, an alarm, a police whistle, as well as the sight of the perpetrator running from the police, you can’t help but smile as soon as you power up your system. Once you press start you are presented with a language select screen, which I cannot recall ever seeing in another Genesis game. In total, there are five languages to choose from: English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. I was floored by the idea of being able to play this game in five different languages. This opens up the title to a huge audience and provides the opportunity for children (as well as adults) to practice some of their foreign language skills, especially considering how early foreign languages are being taught in schools nowadays.

Once you language has been selected, the all too familiar music starts to play and the game begins. Your first task at hand is to log in to the HQ computer system in order to get your mission briefing. This works exactly like it did in the PC version of the game. Simply input your name, sex, and pass-code (if you are returning). A major let down in this process is the constant changing of YOUR security code. After each successful completion of a mission, you will be presented with a new security code in order to continue your career. So, grab a pen and a notebook if you plan on progressing through the ranks.

The gameplay of the game is exactly the same as the PC version. You are presented with a mission, typically a stolen item to recover, presented with some minor background information, the sex of the suspect, and finally the deadline for apprehension. As you explore each city you will visit various buildings and speak to numerous people gathering clues regarding your suspects whereabouts, personal appearance, hobbies, and even mode of transportation, all of which are important pieces to solving the crime. It is up to you to then use this information to both track down the suspect as well as attain a warrant for their arrest. If you fail to do so before the deadline or attempt to capture the suspect without attaining a warrant, then the suspect goes free!

The Genesis version is a near perfect recreation of the PC classic, most likely due to the fact that it was developed by the same studio. As you play through the game, you will find many of the same sound effects (such as the footsteps from building to building, and the plane’s engines), familiar faces (in the people who provide you with clues), and all around presentation (identical maps, city buildings, and warrant computer). If you are looking for improved graphics on the Genesis version you will most likely be disappointed. By no means are the graphics bad, but they are in no way an improvement as they look almost identical to 1985 version. There is not much music to be found, but when it is present it is generally enjoyable (sorry, no Rio theme).

The one problem I ran into this game while playing was both easily solved yet has the potential to be quite annoying. As I am sure you are aware of the entirety of the gameplay revolves around using clues to determine both who your suspect is and where to go next. Using the warrant computer to discover your suspects identity is easy, however finding out where to locate them can be tough, especially without the world almanac. Now, if you happen to have a world almanac handy then you’re in the clear. Otherwise, I hope your computer is close to your Sega, because you are about to become very good friends with Google (which is how I played the game, quite successfully I might add, although I would have preferred the almanac). Although remember kids, the Internet is no substitute for an almanac or a dictionary!

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed each and every minute I spent playing Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?; it was a blast. Either way you play this game, whether it be through using the Internet or an almanac, you’re in for a good time. I can see how some gamers may be upset over having to buy an almanac in order to play it, but it was required for the original version, and it’s really no surprise that it is required here (this is a learning game after all, and you can write your pass-codes in the cover). This game has excellent replay value, a progressively increasing difficulty level, the ability to be played in five different languages, and is easily enjoyed by gamers of all ages… not to mention YOU WILL LEARN! Don’t think that these are all kiddie level questions here, sure there are some easy ones, but more often than not you will find yourself stumped. So, pull up a chair, an almanac, a buddy, and try your hand at answering one of the most legendary questions in gaming history.

SCORE: 8 out of 10


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