Reviewed by Mark Hasley
A few weeks ago I found myself in need of a new adventure game. I had wasted the entire summer playing a few new games and replaying all of the MYST games. School had then started, and I hadnít been able to plunk myself in front of my computer to simply play a game for a while. My other problem was that I wasnít too aware of what new games were available. As a result, I was fairly ignorant as I headed to the local Best Buy store, wandered through the game section, and became a victim of Ďpackagingí. I bought SAFECRACKER: The Ultimate Puzzle Adventure simply because it came not in a box, but in an English-style metal tin that I thought was the cutest gaming package I had ever seen. It was silver metal with a covered circular opening so that it looked like a giant combination lock. I saw it, bought it, and brought it home, only to discover that it was not what I thought it was. It wasnít even really an adventure game. I felt fairly foolish, but since I had spent $20.00 on the game, I decided to at least try to play it. Iím glad I did.
SAFECRACKER is a puzzle game. My only problem at the time was that I had no clear idea what that meant. Those of you who know these things are quite correct in assuming that I am not particularly bright, because it took me a while to discern that a puzzle game is a game that consists almost exclusively of puzzles. Thinking back, I then realized that I had played another puzzle game, Jewels of the Oracle, a few years ago and I hadnít found it to be particularly entertaining. As it worked out, SAFECRACKER: The Ultimate Puzzle Adventure was simply a great deal more fun, and I am more than pleased with the return on my investment.
As it turns out, there was another game called Safecracker released a few years ago. Please be aware that this game was released this year and is fairly new at this writing. Iíve never played the older game, but this one has several of the elements that I always enjoy in a successful adventure game. First of all, it has a first person point-and-click interface. This may be old-fashioned, but that style of game is always my favorite. Secondly, there are no other characters in the game. This is probably a hangover from the MYST games, but I have always enjoyed games where I wander around by myself and have all the time that I want to study pictures, look out windows and solve puzzles. Finally, as a first person player, I didnít have to shoot anything or kill anybody. I always appreciate that characteristic in a game.
There is a slight nod to a plot in this game, but itís not of major concern. As the player, you are an expert safecracker who has been hired to go through the mansion of a Mr. Douglas W. Adams. It seems that Mr. Adams was an eccentric multi-billionaire who had retired and used his retirement to pursue his hobby and passion. He invented, renovated, and simply played with, safes. (Anyone reading this might find that rather odd, but please consider all the other odd things youíve accepted while playing adventure games. I assure you that this actually seems logical in the context of the game.) At any rate, it seems that Mr. Adams has died and that there is a will for his huge fortune somewhere in the house in one of the safes. As a player, you must break into all the safes and eventually find the will. That is really all there is for a plot. At certain times throughout the game, the gamer will find several notes and letters from members of Adamsí family. These may be read and the personalities displayed by the various relatives may well be interesting, but the letters also can all be ignored and the gamer can simply keep solving the puzzles. The only time that the letters actually come into play is at the very end, when the designers provide a rather cute, but very simple, multiple-ending process to see who actually gets the money. Itís clever, but not really impressive or important.
As I stated before, the interface is the old reliable first person, slide show, point-and-click type. Since this is my favorite type of game control, it was fine for me. There is a small inventory, since the player constantly finds an item or two that he will need for the next step in the game. There is also an extremely helpful map included as part of the inventory. With it the gamer can see where he is and which puzzles have been solved. Itís a helpful device. Items are picked up and used by right clicking. In fact, the entire game is easily controlled with the mouse.
There are the usual options available. The main menu allows the choice of volume settings, mouse speed settings (Fast, Normal, and Slow), as well as subtitles. The subtitles are helpful because the safecracker often thinks to or talks to himself. His rather clipped pseudo-British accent generally carries a clue or two as to what to do next, so the availability of subtitles is quite helpful. The menu further provides five separate key icons so that five separate players can play the game. There seemed to be space for unlimited saves, but I canít be too sure of this since I only used twelve.
The music was entirely appropriate for the game, but it really didnít add to or detract from playing. It was simply there. Since the safecracker really doesnít confront much stress or tension, the music isnít needed to add to the mood. It simply functioned as background for the puzzles. The other sounds, usually mechanical or electrical noises, were quite effective and fit the various devices perfectly.
The entire game takes place in the many rooms of a mansion. There are no outside scenes. The decor was presented as well done, even pretty, 2-D graphics. The gamer wanders through Adamsí mansion, and there are a lot of rooms. Each of these is well detailed and looks like it should. There were even several well-appointed bathrooms, which are not usually found in adventure games. (Indeed, in all five MYST games it was clear that no one ever needed to deal with bodily functions.) I was impressed with the amount and variety of detail, since all of it was strictly eye candy and virtually none of it had very much to do with the game itself. I ended the game believing that in the unlikely event that I ever get to tour the Victorian mansion of a really wealthy individual, it will look just like the scenes in SAFECRACKER: The Ultimate Puzzle Adventure.
Of course, if someone is going to review a Puzzle Game, he must eventually mention the puzzles. Believe me, this game has puzzles. While it is true that all of the puzzles are safes, donít for a minute believe that this means the game is a bunch of combination locks. The safes are opened by every kind of puzzle that can be named. There are sound puzzles, inventory puzzles, and numbers puzzles. There is one fairly miserable slider puzzle, as well as that slider-type puzzle that some people call a 'parking lot' puzzle. (Iíve never had any difficulty with slider puzzles, but that 'parking lot' puzzle reminded me of an ugly four days spent in Still Life trying to help Gus get a basement door open.) There are a couple of combination puzzles and a few fairly complex mechanical puzzles. None of the puzzles are timed. There are at least thirty-five safes for the player to solve. If someone is a puzzle lover, this game is perfect.
Since I finished the game without the use of a walkthrough (this is not typical), I must state that the safes are not extremely difficult to open. The game itself often dictates the next step, because a given safe must usually be opened to find the required clues to open the next safe. This mandates a certain linearity to the game. There were, as there always are, a few of the puzzles that were far more difficult than the average, but there was always that payoff 'Aha!' at the moment when the thing was solved. There was only one that I thought was unfair. For that one puzzle, I had to go out of the game and then do some research online in order to find a particular number. Iíve never felt that this is reasonable. If a solution must be found for an adventure game puzzle, I firmly believe that the answer should be found in the game. However, this was only one problem in the solving of three dozen or more puzzles, so the vast majority of the answers were all found somewhere in the mansion. It should also be mentioned that generally, when a safe is opened, something really clever happens. Things slide, click, blink, buzz, or creak. The doors usually donít just open. Part of the fun is waiting to see just how the safe will open when the player finally gets the proper combination.
As the player proceeds from safe to safe, he finds several slightly humorous notes from Mr. Adams. Once the last safe is opened and the will is discovered, the gameís designer has provided a cute little multiple-ending process. Itís not shocking or earth-shattering. But it is clever and rather witty.
Perhaps the most important part about the entire game is that it works well. It loaded and ran without any jumps, jerks, or other problems. I didnít discover much that I thought was special or unique, but the game provided several weeks of pleasant evenings. There was never a sense of gloom or foreboding. I enjoyed the fact that the mansion was well lit and cleanly kept. There was no real danger and the gamer could never die. I liked wandering through the mansion and figuring out the many and varied puzzles without worrying about saving the universe or staying alive. The game was well crafted, ran smoothly, provided interest and variety, and was simply fun. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and am quite thankful that my rather careless purchase of SAFECRACKER: The Ultimate Puzzle Adventure was, in fact, a wise choice for an entertaining and relaxing game.
© November 2006 Mark Hasley
Developed (2006) by KHEOPS Studio and published by The Adventure Company.
Rated: E for Everyone
Minimum System Requirements:
PC: 800 MHz PENTIUM 3 or ATHLON Processor; Windows 98 / 2000 / ME / XP; 64 MB RAM; 16X CD/DVD-ROM Drive; DirectX 9.0c, 64 MB Video Card; DirectX 9.0c Compatible Sound Card; 700 MB of Free Hard Drive Space; DirectX 9.0c (included); Mouse
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