August 23, 2006
The Adventure Company
Genre: Puzzle Adventure
Dreams can come true again When everything old is new again. -- Peter Allen
It seems like just seven years ago when I sat down at this keyboard to write a review of a superb puzzle-adventure game called Safecracker.
Oh. That’s because it was. And I did.
However, I remember thinking, upon finishing that game, “I’d play as many sequels to this game as they cared to make!”
Well, I got my wish, sort of.
The bargain-priced Safecracker: The Ultimate Puzzle Adventure , though published in North America by the same company that published Safecracker , and features virtually the same setup and gameplay as that game, is technically and officially not a sequel to that earlier game.
To be fair, the plot is completely different. In the first game you were on a secret mission to open all the safes in a security company. In the current game you are trying to find an eccentric millionaire’s missing will, which is stashed in the last of 36 puzzle-locked safes.
My response to the similarity in the games is the same as my response to the thinness of the new game’s plot: Who cares? The game is absolute puzzle heaven, and that’s what matters!
This time around, instead of Swedish studios Daydream and clickBOOM, the developers of the game are the talented team at Kheops Studios, the folks who brought us Return to The Mysterious Island and The Egyptian Prophecy.
Presented in 360-degree scrolling first person with lovely pre-rendered graphics, the navigation and environmental interaction are pure classic point-and-click. Inventory and other game interfaces are clear and unfussy. The sound design by Todd Resnick is solid, with effective music and crisp sound effects.
The mansion you are exploring is beautiful and enticing, and more and more of it because accessible as you open more and more safes.
There’s nothing to get in your way as you sink your teeth into four floors worth of puzzle-guarded safes. The puzzles have an admirable range in variety, including variations on sliders, Sudoku, cryptography, marble mazes, math, pattern recognition, inventory and more. The puzzles range in difficulty from very easy to relatively challenging.
The resulting game is stunningly straightforward and thoroughly enjoyable.
Don’t get me wrong, I love thick, rich plots in adventure games. I admire the writing in games like the Gabriel Knight and Tex Murphy series, and I love complex stories like those found in games like Byzantine, the Broken Swords and many others.
But there’s a very specific pleasure also to be found in an adventure game in which the plot is simply a thin tissue that connects a series of delightfully attractive and fun puzzles.
In addition to its obvious similarities to the first Safecracker, this game is a throwback to those pure puzzle-focused adventure from Discis, including Jewels of the Oracle and Karma: Curse of the Seven Caves, as well as classics like Shivers and The 7th Guest. As in those games, part of each puzzle’s challenge is simply figuring out what the object of the game is.
I have only a few minor quibbles with Safecracker.
The first is its silly subtitle. “Ultimate” is one of those very abused words, like “unprecedented” and “unique.” There’s hardly anything in this world that’s truly “ultimate, unprecedented” or “unique.” Using a word like “Ultimate” in your title is simply unimaginative and cheap.
My second quibble is with the voiceover performance of the player character. He’s one of those guys who likes to think aloud. In the process he drops hints about the particular puzzle you’re working on. Not only is the vocal performance a bit cloying and precious, but it would have been nice if the game had given you the choice to turn these automatic clues off if you wanted a slightly more challenging game.
Finally, even with 36 puzzles, the game is still awfully short.
Those tiny gripes aside, I can wholeheartedly recommend Safecracker: The Ultimate Puzzle Adventure to anyone who feels like spending a few hours in graphic puzzle nirvana. Hey, and it only costs about twenty bucks! Bring on the sequel, Kheops!!