the Andrew Bailey

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

You know you've watched too much LGR when you pirate that version of "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" that you played in the late 90s. You even download a classic MacOS emulator, because the Mac version had better color depth than Windows. (This game also requires Quicktime, bleh.)

Screenshot of Carmen Sandiego, in Mexico

Back when I was about 5, I remembered watching a game show called "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" Because the environment I grew up in was sorta depressing and very boring, trivia about other places intrigued me. When I saw a PC game version, I thought it would be so cool to be on the show. I asked for it, and got it for a birthday or something. It was only within the past 10 years that I learned, that unlike almost every other licensed media, the PC game came first (originally in the 80s). I was aware of the Where in Time version of the show, but I was more interested in geography than history at the time. I was not aware of any PC version of Where in Time until recently. Someone found Carmen Sandiego in real life, or rather, the actress that played her on the Where in Time show.

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego puts you in the gumshoes of an ACME investigator. Gameplay involves chasing down a V.I.L.E. (Villain's International League of Evil) thief and arresting them. There's also a tour and exploration mode that turns this game into Encarta, but I already had Encarta. The Chief (played by Lynne Thigpen, as seen on TV) gives you a case of someone stealing something, often a country's national symbol, and you go there. Some things seemed plausible, like they'd get stolen in a thriller movie. Others seem outlandish or impossible to steal, like a river, city, or airport!

Screenshot of The Chief, played by Lynne Thigpen

Once you're on the scene, you scroll through 360 degree panoramas, and encounter locals. You stop and interview witnesses/passers-by about the thief. Through their answers you can piece together where the thief went and what they looked like. You need to know what they look like, because you need to issue a warrant. Your first cases go through about 4 other countries, lengthening to about 8 near the end. Each chase is random. I haven't noticed any repeating sequence of countries. You never go back through a country you've already been to on a single case. You need to be careful, as every action (particularly traveling) depletes your ACME Babel-Link Translator's battery.

The answers people give you are often vague. Your Babel-Link includes a geographic database and a search feature. Each location has about 4 or 5 people, but if each give you obscure references to the next country, your database might not identify the next country. I'm over 30, but I'm not getting some of these; does this mean I'm an uncultured bigot? But with today's always on internet and search engines, such obscurities aren't an issue. Other times, I'll be 3 countries in, having interviewed everyone, and I can't issue a warrant, because everyone only talks about this guy's hat or how short he is! (Is he fat? What's his hair color?) A few times, I've been at the last country (noted by the grayed out "Stop thief! You're under arrest!" prompt), and I'm still missing a piece of info, and need to deduce it from the people walking around.

As you progress, there are enough people to interview that someone will mention it. At the same time, people at the last location will start looking more and more like your warrant. Ratchet it up all the way on the last case, and at the end there will be nothing but tall, skinny women wearing trench coats and matching fedoras! Make sure you're 100% sure you click on Carmen Sandiego the first time, or you will need to capture 3 more thieves!

Carmen's henchmen all have punny names, like "Skip N. Skule", "Barb Dwyer", or "Rob M. Blind". When you arrive at a new place, if you're on the trail, you'll see the Ick brothers (VILE janitors), or Carmine (Carmen's cat). If there's no sign, you need to backtrack. I've discovered that you can't skip ahead. I had a tip that said "Altiplano", so it was either Peru or Bolivia. I had both options, so I went to Bolivia. I saw nothing, then backtraced to go to Peru. Later on in the same chase, I went to Bolivia and was on track.

Mugshot of Barb Dwyer

This release has three editions. There's the classic one, which I got. There's a deluxe edition, that I remember my friend next door had. There was also a third "school" edition, but that doesn't seem to add anything. The deluxe edition adds custom mouse cursors and multilingual features to the game. For example, if you're flying to France, the intercom will have an announcement in french saying "Bonjour a France" or something. It also adds terminals to many locations quizzing you on the translation of some words or phrases to the local language. Once you've completed about 6, you expose "RoboCrook". I'm not sure what this does or how it helps in-game.

Being mere edutainment, I don't suggest that most people play this. Although 25 years out of date, I didn't notice any inaccuracies, aside from India having only 900 million people.

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