How did I not know about this until now?
Many, many years ago when I was still in primary school (gasp!), when we did especially well we would be awarded time on the computer. Now that didn’t mean time to sit and watch YouTube or catch up on Facebook – this was 1986, these things weren’t invented then!
What we could do was ‘play a game’. Most of us know educational games tend to be bad at both being education and being a game, but one rose quickly among the ranks.
That game? Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
Chasing down a suspect that had stolen some national treasure, you had to piece together a description of the suspect and follow general knowledge clues to find them.
All controls were via a button press – click to search the library for example, and a little animation would appear. If you were correct, a little trenchcoat-wearing figure may look around suspiciously. But if you were wrong, precious time was wasted and you had to backtrack quickly!
Today, it was simplistic and the graphics were awful. But back then all of the graphics were awful – you had to make a fun game to compensate, not the other way around like today!
And of course, the series only started here. Where on Earth, the USA, in Europe, and my personal favourite Where in Time were also additions to the series.
After watching the new Netflix series, nostalgia set in for the old games and I thought I would see what was around.
And I can play the old style game on my phone 😀
Enter Sandiego Inc
I tried what any person driven to find answers would do on the spur of the moment – I typed Googled Carmen Sandiego Game on my phone.
And there it was – on the Play Store, Sandiego Inc. The tone of the letter from The Boss was right from my memories, but didn’t you get missions from The Chief?
The last line solved that little mystery – a tribute to the Classic Carmen Sandiego. It’s important to make that distinction because Think Tesla has not made a Carmen Sandiego game. But what a fun tribute they did make!
The old school Carmen is in full force here, with missions received via old school terminal PC and fax print out. The case structure is identical, but the locations images are replaced with slightly easier to recognise hi res versions.
The simple layout of tapping one of a limited number of choices means that the system holds up well on a mobile screen. Animations and particularly sounds have been updated a bit, but still have that retro charm very much intact.
The controls are very intuitive, and the tutorial does a great job of walking you through what needs to be done.
All of the original core mechanics are in play in Sandiego Inc. Get the gender of the suspect from the briefing. Start investigating for clues as to the next destination and about the suspect. Get a warrant when you can, and catch the crook.
If you catch up to the suspect without a warrant, they go free. Solve certain numbers of cases to get a promotion, which makes investigations more difficult as you progress.
What you really want to see is the suspect in cuffs. Here I remember scuffles slapstick style between the trenchcoat wearer and English Bobbies. In Sandiego Inc, you are rewarded with a pair of hands in cuffs. Satisfying that you solved the case – but not as fun to watch.
I do find it a little confusing because the classic trenchcoat suspect and footprints are here – maybe it was easier and less infringement worthy? Still, as this is the biggest gripe I have, it’s at least a small one!
Uh Oh, it’s free with ‘Ad Support’
Yes, there are full-page ads that pay for the game. So far I have solved three cases, and I have only seen 2 ads. Both were for about 5 seconds?
There have been plenty of free quick diversion games I thought I would like (and generally did), but any ‘screen change’ meant another ad to sit through. This was a concern with Sandiego Inc, but I am happy to report on my Android phone at least ads have been minimal and unobtrusive.
The bigger concern if you are looking for a challenge is that Carmen Sandiego has always been aimed at kids.
Geography is a massive gap in my knowledge, but even my minimal knowledge of locations and flags has served me well so far. I remember having to look up things like different currencies to find what country a suspect had travelled to, but I haven’t had any questions like that yet.
While I am treating Sandiego Inc. as a fun diversion with nostalgia leanings, if you want a more difficult deduction challenge this is not the game for you.
Apart from 2 ads popping up, the biggest intrusion I have found is when requesting a warrant. If you need more clues, you can watch a video. Now on my last case, I got the same clue every time, but that would happen in the old game as well. At least I get to start the ad if this has been rigged, rather than have it forced on me.
It may not be officially Carmen Sandiego, but Think Tesla Studios has definitely caught the elements of the original and shined them for mobile play.
It’s a quick bit of fun that I would have gladly paid $5 or so for, and I will look for more of Think Tesla Studios games in the future.
If you were never a fan, Sandiego Inc. won’t change your mind. But if you think back on those games with a smile, do yourself a favour and grab it – you can’t beat the price!
Until next time,
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